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Frederick Starr

Frederick Starr was an American academic, anthropologist, and educator who undertook the Shikoku Pilgrimage in 1921, becoming the first recorded foreign pilgrim.

Frederick Starr

Name In Japanese : フレデリック・スタール 
Pronunciation : furederikku sutaaru 
Period : 1858 to 1933

Frederick Starr was an American academic, anthropologist, and educator who undertook the Shikoku Pilgrimage in 1921, becoming the first recorded foreign pilgrim.

As an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, Starr conducted anthropologic studies in Mexico, Central Africa, and the Philippines, before visiting Japan in 1909, where became enamoured of the country and its people. He made long visits every year, always dressing in Japanese clothing for the duration of his stays, although he never learned Japanese and relied on an interpreter.

Starr travelled extensively in Japan, becoming a national celebrity. He climbed Mt. Fuji three times and made two visits to Mt. Koya, before undertaking the pilgrimage in 1921. Although he wanted to walk, his schedule and celebrity made it impossible, so he travelled by train, as well as in cars provided by newspaper companies. As the first foreign henro, he attracted a great deal of attention.

Like many foreign visitors to Shikoku, Starr was particularly taken with Kochi Prefecture, and he gave a lecture in Kochi city about Japan’s place in the world at that time. At Zenraku-ji, temple No. 30, he left the message;

Welcome the Coming, Speed the Parting, Guest
Frederick Starr
Taisho 10.3.4

At Temple No. 34, Tanema-ji, Starr wrote;

Peace and International Friendship,
Frederick Starr
Taisho 10.3.5

As a collector of the pilgrim’s name papers (ofuda) and votive slips (senjafuda or nōsatsu) left by pilgrims at temples, he was given the nickname Dr. Ofuda. Much of his collection can now be found at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon and the University of Oregon Knight Library Special Collections & University Archives.

Starr was in Tokyo in September 1923 when a devastating earthquake occurred. He survived. In 1933, he died on his fiftieth visit to Japan.

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