Kyoto Shimbun 2003.9.18 News

Marathon Monk completes "1,000-day running ritual" around mountains in Hiei
Genshin Fujinami of Hoshu-in Temple became the twelfth priest to complete the pilgrimage after the World War II

Genshin Fujinami, the priest of Enryaku-ji Hoshu-in Temple in Otsu City, Shiga, completed his marathon pilgrimage called "Sennichi-Kaiho-Gyo" which has been passed down from Hieizan Enryaku-ji temple, the head temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism.

"Sennichi-kaiho-gyo" is said to have been started by So-o-kasho in the Heian Period (794-1192). Some Tendai sect priests have challenged the hardship, but only a few have been successful. A trainee priest must walk around the mountains of Hiei for 1,000 consecutive days to feel the spirit of Buddha in every tree or even in the blades of grass. The total distance of the pilgrimage amounts to more than 40,000 kilometers. The religious austerity also includes ordeals such as "Do-iri", entering a temple and chanting sutras for nine days without food, water, sleep or even lying down, and "Kyoto-o-mawari", an 84-kilometer-per-day walk in Kyoto.

When Fujinami finished his first 100-day pilgrimage in 1984, he temporarily interrupted his pilgrimage to perform "Rozan-gyo", another discipline in which one retreats into the mountains for twelve years to gain spiritual enlightenment. After completing this discipline, he resumed his pilgrimage in 1998. The 44-year-old priest is the twelfth after the World War II to achieve this great feat and the first in nine years since Gyosho Uehara (48) of Zenju-in Temple in 1994. The honorific title "Dai-ajari" (Great Master) will be conferred on Fujinami.

At one in the morning on September 18, Fujinami left Myo-o-do Temple in Mudojidani in a special white robe and a lotus-leaf-shaped cap. After trekking up and down 30 kilometers of wild mountain trails and offering prayers to small shrines and stone Buddhist images along the course, he safely returned to Myo-o-do Temple at around seven in the morning.

Fujinami, with light, steady steps, politely bowed to Uehara and the worshipers who welcomed him at the temple. He said: "I started it all by myself, but many people have gathered to encourage and support me. I am really grateful for this. I would like to continue both improving myself and serving sincerely as a priest of Enryaku-ji Temple.”

Photo = Genshin Fujinami of Hoshu-in Temple performing rituals for worshipers at the completion of the 1,000-day running ritual (At Mudo-ji Myo-o-do Temple in Otsu City, Shiga, on Sep. 18)