East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage

East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage is an abridged diary, an account of a mystical journey, and a photographic poem in the form of a book.  The images are studies in luminous detail, reflecting the loneliness, quiet intensity, and grace that all true spiritual seekers come to know.

In September 2010 (a few days before her thirty-third birthday), the photographer Alexandra Huddleston set out on an 800-mile walk around the island of Shikoku, Japan. To complete the Shikoku Ohenro trail pilgrims worship at 88 temples on the island, following a route that loosely traces the life and legends of the Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi.  In the course of her journey, from time to time, the material world unexpectedly gave way to a voyage of mystical transformation.  This is the story of East or West.


The publication of East or West was made possible by a crowd-funding campaign.

You can learn more about the campaign on the East or West Kickstarter webpage.

Status: Published, October 2014

Author: Alexandra Huddleston

Imprint: Kyoudai Press

Photographs: 18

Other text: quotes, foreword, journal entries

Language: English

Medium: Softcover, offset press

Size: 7.75” by 8.25” / 48 pages

Edition Size: 500

1st Edition: 2014

View more photographs from the book on Alexandra Huddleston’s PORTFOLIO WEBSITE.


Excerpt from the book's foreword:

By Alexandra Huddleston

“...The Shikoku Ohenro trail was not my first walking pilgrimage. One year earlier I walked 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Finisterre in Spain. On both journeys I set out to experience and to document why each year tens of thousands of people, from many of the most developed and secular countries in the world, leave their daily lives and abandon their usual amenities and comforts for weeks at a time. What I discovered was the joy in becoming part of a community that transcends both religion and nationality: one that forms its identity around something as simple—and as human—as walking.

On my first pilgrimage I was overwhelmed by the experience and exhausted by my own weakness. It was a phenomenal journey of personal discovery, but one rooted in the physical. During the Shikoku pilgrimage, I was much stronger, and by the third week of walking, from time to time, the material world unexpectedly gave way to a voyage of mystical transformation. It is this passage between a physical and a spiritual state of mind that I have worked to express in this book.

Did this re-enchantment happen because the first pilgrimage had prepared my spirit, because I was stronger, because I was more alone, because I was in Japan, or because Kōbō Daishi blessed my journey? It is hard to know for certain. However, having now walked hundreds of miles on a Catholic and a Buddhist pilgrimage, I know that the way to the doors of the spiritual world follows the same path in the human being, east or west.”