The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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The kongō-zue is said to represent the body of Kōbō Daishi and to support the henro along the way; as such it is treated with respect, having its "feet" washed and being brought inside at the end of each day's journey.
There is an occasional funerary practice in Shikoku and other parts of Japan whereby the decedent is dressed as a pilgrim and placed in the casket along with a staff and nōkyō-chō for their final journey.