Kannon Bosatsu Statues at Sendai Dai-Kannon Temple
Kannon is a popular form of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) in Japanese Buddhism. Kannon Bosatsu can be either a woman or a man. Kannon is known as the "God (Goddess) of Mercy" and the Bodhisattva who helps the suffering in this world. Please read my section of Deities of Japanese Buddhism
for more information about Kannon Bosatsu. This Kannon is also known as Avalokiteshwara in Sanskrit and as Guanyin in Chinese. Kannon is also written as Kwannon or Kanzeon.
It is popularly believed that Kannon Bosatsu is constantly listening for the sounds of suffering on this earth. Once Kannon notices these sounds he will reincarnate in an appropriate form to help the suffering. According to the writings in Kannon-gyo (Lotus Sutra) Kannon Bosatsu can reincarnate in thirty three different forms to alleviate the sufferings of the earthly beings. The thirty three forms are vividly described in many books and in the Sendai Dai Kannon Temple
in Sendai city, Miyagi prefecture, you can see all the thirty three forms of Kannons in one place.
The number thirty three is the most popular form of reincarnation for Kannon Bosatsu but he/she can take many more reincarnations. Based on the thirty three forms of Kannon Bosatsu, there were many temples built throughout Japan, since the sixth century AD. In addition to these temples over the years many temple pilgrimages were devised, specifically covering the thirty three forms of Kannon. These Kannon pilgrimages can be restricted to one city, one prefecture or one region (encompassing multiple prefectures). It is believed that there are over two hundred such pilgrimage routes are devised over the centuries.
Out of these pilgrimages, three Kannon pilgrimages are the most popular in Japan. They are 1) Saikoku Pilgrimage
covering the Kansai region of western Japan 2) Bando Pilgrimage
covering the Kanto region of the eastern Japan 3) Chichibu Pilgrimage
in Saitama prefecture in Kanto region.
Combining these three pilgrimages there are a total of 100 Kannon Bosatsus (33 in Saikoku, 33 in Bando and 34 in Chichibu). Originally there were 33 Kannons also in Chichibu but one additional Kannon temple was added later. These three Kannon pilgrimages are popularly known as the 100 Kannon pilgrimages.
Please visit my Pilgrimages
page also to find more information about some travel tips and other information about the origin of Pilgrimages themselves.
As I mentioned above, there are over two hundred kannon pilgrimage circuits in Japan and it will be impossible to provide information about all of them here. But I have decided to get you started with the three most popular Kannon pilgrimages; namely Saikoku, Bandou and Chichibu. As I gather more information about other pilgrimages, I will make an effort to add them here.
Please click below to find out more about the three most popular Kannon pilgrimages in Japan.
Saikoku Kannon Pilgrimage >>>