Reading A Pilgrimage in Japan: The 33 Temples of Kannon, by Joan D. Stamm, was an experience different from what I had expected; much better than I expected! The book initially gave me the feeling of being an explanation of a travel, that the author would only tell her experiences while visiting the temples, but there is more than meets the eye.
A Pilgrimage in Japan is more than just a diary, it is an experience made book. The author has a style that makes the reader feel as if they were accompanying the author and her sister as they visit the 33 Japanese temples dedicated to Kannon or Kuan-yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, in order to experience her and learn from her divine wisdom.
Joan D. Stamm includes not only her experiences, but also the route, the description of the temple, the myths associated with each one and the ideas and/or thoughts that arose in that moment. I do not doubt she kept a diary of her travels, but I think this book is an enhanced version of the original text with even more content and substance.
The author has a calming style with ups and downs, with different sides of the same style, but always keeping her own voice. A Pilgrimage in Japan has a solid structure because of it, but the author also experiments a little with different ideas and proposals on how to handle a subject that could, otherwise, be heavy and hard to follow.
I won’t deny that there were pages that bored me, some more than others, mostly because of personal perceptions and difference I have with the author, but the overall book left me with a good feeling and this happened so few times that it didn’t ruin the book.
Although I don’t feel the need to do such a travel, it certainly is an experience of significance and learn a lot from, but I don’t think it is for me; maybe in the future, maybe when I’m older and know more about Kannon. However, for those who are interested in Japanese spirituality and Buddhism this will prove to be a valuable reading.
Readers will be prepared to the different challenges for each temple, what to expect, maybe what to experience and, most importantly, how to find them with not so many problems as the author and her sister had now and then. I even remember smiling a couple of times because of her sense of humor when she explained these incidentals.
I would have liked a longer explanation on the myth of Kannon, the indirect subject of the book. It left me a bit of a bittersweet taste when I finished it, but at least it sparked an interest to know more about it. The topic seems to be very interesting and worth a good reading session, and would be great to have another book from the author on myths surrounding Kannon.
It will be of interest to the readers that there are several photos on the author’s website from the temples she visited. As far as I have seen, there are not the 33 temples, and certainly not the entry or the actual structure, sometimes only a brief detail of it, but it serves to have a clearer idea of what it is like to be in there. I’m curious about the fact that the pictures were not included in A Pilgrimage in Japan, maybe due to budget matters, but it’s not such a big deal.
A Pilgrimage in Japan: The 33 Temples of Kannon
Print Length: 248 pages
Publisher: Mantra Books (May 25, 2018)
Publication Date: May 25, 2018
About the Author
Joan D. Stamm is an award-winning author and essayist, currently residing on Orcas Island, Washington where she co-founded Cold Mountain Hermitage, a Buddhist study and practice group. She holds an MFA in writing and multi-cultural literature from Bennington College. Her first book, Heaven and Earth Are Flowers: Reflections on Ikebana and Buddhism, was published in 2010. Her website is http://www.joandstamm.com/
About the Reviewer
Bader Saab is a digital journalist and self-published writer; a solitary, eclectic Wiccan interested in the darker side of magic and divination; a gothic guy who tries to educate whenever he can. He hopes some day to succeed in one of them.