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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 April 9 - 15  > Racial discrimination goes against the spirit of Buddhist pilgrimage
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2014 April 9 - 15 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Racial discrimination goes against the spirit of Buddhist pilgrimage

April 13, 2014
Akahata ‘current’ column

Making a pilgrimage to the 88 Buddhist temples on Shikoku Island (called Henro) in western Japan is also a trip to reflect on oneself calmly. Recently, handbills stuck on the walls of rest stations for pilgrims have become a problem.

The bills read, “Let’s protect our holy places from Koreans.” They are placed by a group calling themselves “the society to protect Japan’s pilgrimage routes”. The notices go on to say, “Koreans with no manners are putting unpleasant seals around Shikoku,” and “If you find such seals, remove them right away.”

The “seals” refer to arrow signposts with Japanese and Hangul characters on them. A Korean woman posted those signs on the walls of houses along the pilgrimage routes after getting permission from the house owners. The woman is Choi Sang Hee, 38, the first female foreigner who was officially recognized as a Henro guide last year.

Four years ago, Choi learned about the Henro on the Internet and went on a pilgrimage to the island for the repose of her late father. She was so impressed by local residents’ help and kindness to her and thought, “Entirely thanks to others’ help, I can live in peace.” After the trip, she launched activities to introduce the Henro pilgrimage to South Koreans.

Such deeds as repaying the Korean’s goodwill with malice are unacceptable as well as disappointing. Superintendents of the resting places and local governments already took off those stickers because of their racist remarks.

In the early ninth century, Priest Kukai (Kobo Daishi), who is closely connected with the temples, went over to the Tang (China), learned esoteric Buddhism there, and brought it into Japan. Japan’s culture has been formed through deep interchanges with neighboring countries. Kukai said, “All things are founded on consideration for others and acts to benefit them.” It is time to think deeply about what the priest said.

Past related article:
> Court recognizes hate speech as racism [October 8, 2013]
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