Off the Menu:
Asian America


Discover the wealth of stories, traditions and unexpected characters that nourish this nation of immigrants, and go into the kitchens, factories, temples and farms of Asian Pacific America to explore how the bond with food reflects community. Included is a visit to MAʻO Organic Farms in Waianae, Oahu.




The Island of Shikoku in Japan is the birthplace of the most revered figure in Japanese Buddhism, the monk and teacher Kobo Daishi, who brought a populist form of Buddhism to Japan from China in the 9th Century.  For hundreds of years, a 750-mile pilgrimage route has circled this mountainous island, connecting 88 separate temples and shrines that claim connection to the Great Master Kobo Daishi.


Host Bruce Feiler circles the island, following a pilgrim trail that’s taken by hundreds of thousands of Japanese and international pilgrims every year – a Buddhist pilgrimage that welcomes pilgrims of all faiths.  While the majority now drive or travel by train or bus (a two-week journey), many still set aside 60 or more days to walk the entire route, especially in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and pilgrimage season is at its height. 


Temple priests introduce Bruce to sacred ceremonies that date back thousands of years, revealing how the presence of Kobo Daishi is believed to accompany all who follow in his footsteps.  Out on the pilgrim trail, Bruce meets with different American walkers – a hiking group from the Pacific Northwest, a retired soldier from California, and two recently-married doctors from Indiana – to learn why they’ve come to Shikoku and what they are hoping to find.