Bike Pilgrimage Becomes Book Basis

An illustration by Elayna Snyder

An illustration by Elayna Snyder ’09 from her upcoming book, Temple by Temple, which is based on her experience doing Japan’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

Elayna Snyder ’09 is gearing up to again bicycle an ancient pilgrimage route to 88 temples in Shikoku, Japan. The 900-mile route takes a circular path around Shikoku. Snyder is one-half of a writer-illustrator team that is working on Temple by Temple, an illustrated book about a girl’s journey to the temples with her cat.

Snyder does the art. Chelsea Reidy does the words. They both lived in Shikoku, Japan, for three years near the pilgrimage route where ohenro (pilgrims) are seen against the landscape of green mountains and blue seas. Before returning to the United States last November, Snyder and Reidy (along with Snyder’s sister, Alyse) completed the pilgrimage route on bicycles. The illustrations in the book are all based on photographs taken while they were traveling the 88 temple path.

Now they are planning to embark on the 88 temple journey a second time. Along with translating the book into Japanese, they will collect the materials needed to make 88 hand-bound copies of their book. Snyder is seeking to gain funds through Kickstarter, a web-based crowd-sourcing platform where creative entrepreneurs pitch their ideas.

The pilgrimage in Japan commemorates a Buddhist saint, Kobo Daishi. Many believe that his spirit still roams Shikoku, traveling with all pilgrims who do the journey. Although the route is Buddhist in nature, people of all faiths set off on the path for various reasons—to explore rural Japan, to pray for good fortune or for ill loved ones, and to seek adventure. Temple by Temple explores all the different aspects of the pilgrimage and pays homage to Daishi by including him in all the illustrations. He is hidden in the illustration above