Pilgrim: In Search of Home


Bokusui Wakayama (1885-1928) made lots of songs about and on traveling. Many of his waka reflect the underlying notion about traveling: “あくがる (akugaru)”. This verb originally refers to letting your soul leaving your body, your feeling attracted to something, and your leaving a place you are supposed to be at and starting to roam. Let’s see what he says.

けふもまた こころの鉦をうち鳴らし うち鳴らしつつ あくがれていく

Another mile to go today
Let this pilgrim’s handbell ring
Resonant in my mind
Yearning, roaming

今日も 巡礼者のごとく 鉦(かね)を心に響かせ 道を求めて行こう

What is striking here is a pilgrimage metaphor. Let’s examine here pilgrimage and then its link to the concept of “Home”. Pilgrimage entails the notion of leaving and touring. Many of the people go on a pilgrimage by leaving their normal lives to find new meanings because everyday circumstances and social contexts seem to some people so restrictive that they feel propelled to break away from what is familiar to them.


Pilgrimage in Japan is usually called junrei, which combines “touring (jun)” and “worshipping (rei)”. Pilgrimage routes are not always designed to visiting a single sacred site but contain several spots religiously linked together in a wider area. More importantly, pilgrimage is not necessarily centered on visiting sacred sites or performing the rituals but on journeying on the pilgrimage path. It is viewed as a journey on a spiritual path towards enlightenment.


The items along with pilgrim’s handbell mentioned in the song are useful to think about pilgrimage as a spiritual journey from one point to the other. To mark them out as pilgrims, people travel in particular clothing. They wear white pilgrimage shroud that indicates purity and death. The handbell to pilgrims in Japan is what the scallop shell to those to Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrimage shroud and its death symbolism are accompanied by the notion of spiritual rebirth and renewal into this world.


Going on a pilgrimage reflects human condition of restlessness at the root. Pilgrims leave their normal lives and tour around but they are never aimless. They have somewhere specific to get. It will be a physical place or spiritual destination.


The concept of pilgrimage as a life journey helps us understand the concept of “Home”. At some point of your life you might have to leave your home, not knowing if there is any other place like home. You might move out, move abroad. You might not be able to continue to live where you have lived for years. You might leave your family behind. Oftentimes you feel that your body has moved out of your familiar circle but your heart won’t leave and stays there. Practically, however, you need to construct your life at a new location physically and psychologically. You need to move on dragging your anchor.


When you go on a travel, you leave your home, leaving behind what you feel secure, comfortable and attached with. Anticipations of being in a foreign land will cause a contradiction. You are probably excited about new experiences, but at the same time, you expect a dash of familiarity. You often see people stopping at Starbucks or McDonald’s during their trip or Japanese people searching for an authentic Japanese restaurant. You are pulled into two different directions of leaving and staying home all the time.


These inner conflicts are reflected in Bokusui’s works. Despite his love of his homeland, he always wants to see new places. In warmth and comfort you are savoring, you are in throes of seeking new horizons. “Akugaru (leaving and yearning)” can be viewed as shuttling between these two different dimensions, and then being in the attempt.


We have looked into the concept of “Home” so far by several different perspectives and reached the point of seeing another concept “In The Attempt”, which is going to be the topic we discuss in the next series.

ここまで「Home」という概念について様々な視点から考えてきました。そして今、「In The Attempt」という別の概念に辿り着きました。それを次に考えていきましょう。


Series: In Search of Home

Pilgrim: In Search of Home

Prepared: In Search of Home

Away: In Search of Home

Coco: In Search of Home

Moon Palace: In Search of Home

Rappelle-moi: In Search of Home

Fear: In Search of Home

Who Knows: In Search of Home

Anchor: In Search of Home

Home: In Search of Home

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