Memory, Memento, and Sacred Bond

Yoshino Pilgrim's Jacket

  • 92
  • Japan
  • Meiji–Taisho periods, late 19th–early 20th century
  • Ink on bast fiber
  • H. 38 1/2 x W. 48 1/2 in. (97.8 x 123.2 cm)
  • Julia Meech Collection
  • Yoshino Mountains
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This pilgrim's jacket, woven of strong bast fiber from the inner bark of various plants, is covered with calligraphy and temple stamps. It once belonged to a resident of Kyoto, who wore it during pilgrimages in the Yoshino Mountains. The stamped figures on the back of the coat represent the deities worshipped by the followers of Shugendo, a syncretic Japanese religious cult. On the left sleeve is the wrathful deity Zao Gongen, the god of Mount Kinpu, the central peak of the Yoshino range. Right of center is Fudo Myoo, the immovable Wisdom King and patron deity of mountain ascetics. He stands on a rocky outcropping, surrounded by a mandorla of flame, and holds a knotted lasso (kensaku) in his left hand and a sword of wisdom (e-ken) in his right. The text written across the lower section of the jacket is the Prajnaparamita Hrdaya Sutra, or Heart Sutra, regarded in Japan as the most powerful of Buddhist spells.

PHOTO CREDIT: John Deane © Julia Meech Collection

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