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Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011

Kan resumes Shikoku pilgrimage

Staff writer

Naoto Kan, who stepped down as prime minister last month, has resumed his pilgrimage to Shikoku's 88 famed temples, arriving at the 54th, Enmeiji, in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, on Monday.

News photo
The beaten path: Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan wears traditional "ohenro" pilgrimage garb Monday in Imabari, Aichi Prefecture, during his trek to visit 88 temples in Shikoku. KYODO

Kan first started the traditional pilgrimage in 2004, after resigning as president of the Democratic Party of Japan to take responsibility for losing public trust for failing to pay into the pension system. Later, the social insurance agency confirmed Kan's enrollment in the pension system had been canceled by mistake, and was not due to negligence on Kan's part.

Still, Kan's soul-purging pilgrimage has drawn the attention of the media. Resuming the tour Sunday, Kan again wore the traditional pilgrim's white gown and sedge hat, and carried a wooden walking stick.

Kan reportedly told the press he is making the tour to "pray for the souls of the victims of the disaster (in Tohoku) and restoration from the crisis of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant."

This is the sixth time Kan has taken up the pilgrimage.

According to a centuries-old tradition, each visit to one of the 88 temples — said to be associated with Kukai, a famed monk of the early Heian Period — erases one earthly desire.

The name of the 54th temple, Enmeiji, may sound ironic in connection with Kan. It literally means "Life-extending Temple."

Before quitting, Kan was criticized for trying to prolong his tenure after hinting in June his intention to step down — if certain conditions were met. He stayed at the post until early September.

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The Japan Times

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