Osettai: A centuries-old tradition of generosity

Who knew a white tunic could have magical powers to transform you from a mere tourist into a member of the local community? It doesn’t matter where you are from, what you look like or why you are participating in the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage. Once you’ve suited up in the distinctive traditional clothing, you become the latest in a long line of greatly-respected ohenro (pilgrim). Of course, you don’t HAVE to wear any special clothing, but it does give others the opportunity to immediately recognize you as a pilgrim, and consequently, offer osettai

Osettai is the practice of supporting pilgrims along the way with small gifts. Light snacks, local fruits and drinks are common osettai gifts. If you get to experience it yourself, you might be surprised by just how much these small acts of kindness can make such a big difference in terms of boosting your motivation to keep going! I certainly had that experience when I was sitting on the roadside and feeling a bit overwhelmed by how many kilometers I had left, when a kind gentleman pulled up his car to hand me a warm can of coffee. I immediately felt ready to brave the rest of my journey because I knew I was never really alone

While osettai certainly benefits the receiver, it means a lot to givers too. In fact, through these acts of kindness, it is traditionally believed that givers can vicariously take part in the pilgrimage and share in its spiritual depth

However, with limited space to carry things, you might feel hesitant to keep receiving osettai (especially if it’s your fifth orange of the day), but it is advisable to accept them graciously. You can always pass them on to another pilgrim you meet, paying forward the act of osettai and maybe receive a little karmic boost yourself

Thank you to @hiroog08132000 (Instagram linked below) for letting us share your wholesome photo of osettai fruits received during your pilgrimage! I particularly love how you placed the fruits on the inside of your sedge hat (one of the most recognizable and iconic items of pilgrim clothing!) 

Learn more about the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage: https://visitkochijapan.com/en/highlights/henro
Photo credit to @hiroog08132000: https://www.instagram.com/hiroog08132000/
  • Osettai: A centuries-old tradition of generosity

  • Osettai: A centuries-old tradition of generosity

  • Osettai: A centuries-old tradition of generosity