TAKAMATSU, KAGAWA PREF. – A xenophobic notice calling for the exclusion of foreigners was discovered Wednesday on the route of a popular 88-temple walking course known as “Shikoku Henro” on Shikoku.
The sign, found glued at a rest station in the city of Yoshinogawa, Tokushima Prefecture, read, “Let us protect the pilgrimage course from the Koreans.”
“Recently, rude Koreans are sticking unpleasant stickers around Shikoku. To protect Japan’s henro routes, we shall peel them off once we find them,” it said under the name of “Nihon no henro-michi o mamorou kai,” or the Society to Protect Pilgrimage Routes in Japan.
The message is believed to be referring to a campaign initiated by Choi Sang-hee, a 38-year-old South Korean who qualified as a registered Shikoku Henro guide last December. As the first non-Japanese woman to take on the role, she has been involved in a campaign to mark the route with illustrated stickers, ostensibly to keep foreign pilgrims from getting lost.
Choi is also promoting the pilgrimage in South Korea through her website, believing that the experience may lead South Koreans to change their impressions of Japan and transform relations between the two countries.
“I have been doing this for pilgrims and did not expect to be blamed,” Choi said, adding that she had been saddened by the incident.
An official for an organization formed by temples along the pilgrimage route said: “We never accept discrimination. If such signage is found elsewhere, we will stop it.”