• Kyodo

Naoto Kan, the former president of the Democratic Party of Japan, embarked Thursday on a traditional pilgrimage of 88 temples on Shikoku Island, saying he was making the journey to reflect on himself.

Kan appeared at Ryozen Temple, the first of the 88 temples, located in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, wearing a white gown and sedge hat in the traditional style for pilgrims, and with his hair cut short. He plans to tour the temples in 10 days.

Some of the other visitors to the temple who noticed him voiced surprise at his new look.

“Major developments have occurred in the past three months, including the revelation of my failure to pay into the national pension scheme and my resignation as DPJ president,” Kan said in a message posted Thursday on his Web site. “I must pause to reflect on myself before doing anything.”

Kan quit as president of the nation’s largest opposition party in May, saying he was resigning to take the blame for contributing to the people’s loss of confidence in the pension system due to his premium nonpayment.

Under the leadership of his successor, Katsuya Okada, the DPJ recorded great gains in Sunday’s House of Councilors election, winning 50 of the 121 seats that were contested.

It is believed that each visit along the 88-stop pilgrimage, which makes the rounds of holy places said to have connections to Kobo Daishi, a famed Buddhist priest of the early Heian Period (794-1185), erases one earthly desire.

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