|Shingon pilgrimage of 88 temples on Japan’s rural Shikoku Island|
Julie Pütgen Yale Class of 1994
Driven by interests in pilgrimage and in Japanese calligraphic art, I undertook a single round of the Shingon Buddhist pilgrimage of 88 temples on Japan’s rural Shikoku Island. I traveled alone, with almost no Japanese language skills, relying on pilgrims and local people for directions, companionship, and a sense of what the Shikoku pilgrimage means in this day and age. Attendants at each temple enscribed my pilgrim’s log in beautiful calligraphy, and I photographed the journey and the shrines. Amazing hospitality accompanied every step of my trip- from the initial generosity of the Chase Coggins grant, to simple gifts of milk tea along the way, to the party thrown for me by the mayor of a small town.
When I returned to the US, I exhibited the Shikoku 88 photographs at Maya’s Room in Silliman College, and members of the Coggins family attended the opening reception.
The Fellowship facilitated several important first steps for me: a first independent journey in Asia (I would go on to travel the region extensively during my two years as a Yale-China Association Fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong); a first encounter with Buddhism (I would go on to train as a Buddhist nun in England for three years); and a first solo exhibition outside the confines of a class (I am currently a practicing artist and college art professor). The encouragement to “wander the wilderness with artistic, scientific, or philosophical intent” came at a crucial time in my life, and allowed me the freedom to pursue my artistic and contemplative goals while for the first time confronting a completely different culture on my own.