|“Shikoku O-Henro”, or the Shikoku Pilgrimage, is a religious journey to 88 temples in Shikoku. The total distance of the journey to these sacred places (temples) associated with Kobo Daishi Kukai is approximately 1,200 km. Historically, it is said that 1,200 years ago Kobo Daishi Kukai went on this pilgrimage for his own training. After the passing of the Heian and Muromachi periods, this pilgrimage spread among the general public in the early Edo period and became a central region of religious worship. Nowadays, as many as 500 thousand people make this pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims are tourists from all over the world, making their pilgrimage for various reasons.
Originally, it had been a “journey of worship or training” as well as a “journey to re-examine oneself”. However, to the general public in the Edo period, this journey was also taken as a leisure trip to enjoy the out-of-the-ordinary, similar to the “Konpira Pilgrimage” of Kotohira or the “Okage Pilgrimage” of Ise. (It also enabled the oppressed common people to enjoy themselves, and it seems that those in power were also a little lenient and tolerated this pastime.)
Of course, to the Japanese people during this time, walking to or taking a boat to Shikoku from Edo (current-day Tokyo), was an once-in-a-lifetime trip.
There is much freedom in the style of travel and people of any age, of either gender, of any religion or nationality can make this pilgrimage. As a matter of fact, you will encounter all types of people including elderly people who have retired, people who are still actively working, students, parents and children, as well as husbands and wives. The route starting from the first sacred place, Ryozen-ji, in Tokushima Prefecture and travelling clockwise to end at the 88th sacred place, Okubo-ji, in Kagawa Prefecture is the most famous. However, you can start wherever you like and you can stop wherever you like as well. In addition, you don’t necessarily have to walk. Many visitors use other forms of transportation, travelling by bicycle, motorcycle, or car, or by using some form of public transportation to make the pilgrimage.
There are a number of pilgrimage routes in the world including those to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, and Mecca. However, the Shikoku Henro enables one to see the nature and scenery from a “good old Japan”, which seems to be vanishing; the dynamic waters of the Yoshinogawa River and the quiet, clear waters of the Shimantogawa River; the Pacific Ocean with its wild waves that pound again the cliffs as well as the tranquil and beautiful Seto Inland Sea with its numerous beautiful islands. Furthermore, the old townscape still remains along with fields on which rice, wheat, and other various vegetables and fruits are produced. Although you must remember to meet the local people, take a step into their everyday life, and enjoy the local foods, you must not forget to take a look at the important cultural properties offered at the various temples. It is the perfect journey that can be enjoyed in your own way and style.
|Around each temple, there are different places to stay including minshuku, ryokan, business hotels, hotels, a youth hostel, and shukubo.
There are only a few minshuku that will accept credit cards, so you will need to use cash to pay for your lodging at ones that do not. Most of the other lodging facilities do accept payment by credit card; however, it is recommended that you check with shukubo in advance to confirm that they do.
At most places, dinner and breakfast are provided, but you should try to book a room as far in advance as possible. Plan to arrive no later than 5 p.m. If it appears that you may be late, be sure to call the lodging facility to let them know.
Spring (March–May) and autumn (September–November) are busy times when there are more people making pilgrimages on foot and by bus, so rooms may be full during these times of year.
Most lodging facilities have a washing machine which can be used. At Laundromats, there are various sizes of washers and dryers; however, the instructions are in Japanese (Use 100 yen coins. Change machine available. NOTE: For some washers, you do not have to insert soap.)
Temple Accomodation at temple No.58, Senyu-ji
|These are lodging facilities run by temples and are mainly geared for groups, however, if a room is available, single travelers are welcome. Here one can participate in the nightly or morning service (otsutome) and hear the priest give a talk (howa). As well, one can observe up-close the Buddhist statues and other religious artifacts on display at each temple. (Includes breakfast and dinner. Shared bath.)|
Costs incurred to do the pilgrimage can involve expenses for lodging, food, equipment, clothing, and pilgrim goods. The amount for embarking on the “walking pilgrimage” to complete a walking journey around Shikoku (taking about 40 days) alone is estimated to be approximately 400,000 yen, not including the cost of transportation to get to and from Shikoku. Not including camp outs, costs for lodging start at around ¥6,500 per night with two meals at shukubo, henro-yado (pilgrim's inns), and others. Adding in other costs, such as for lunch and drinks as well as for the commemorative stamps stamped into stamp books by each temple as proof of visit, monetary offerings, etc., brings the total to around ¥10,000 per day.
WARNING: There are reports of thefts, so do not leave your valuables unattended.
There are many places where they can be used; however, it is not possible at family-run minshukus or stores.
It is advisable to limit the amount of cash carried and to use either 1) the JP Bank International ATM Service (which allows for withdrawals using bankcards and credit cards from outside Japan) or 2) banks or JP Bank/post offices where one can change traveler’s checks. Locations that offer same-day service for traveler’s checks are mainly located in the larger cities. For more details about service charges, etc, consult with the institution that issued your card. There are approximately 900 JP Bank/post offices in all of Shikoku. Consult the map to find locations near the pilgrimage route. While many convenience stores in Japan contain machines that allow customers to withdraw cash using a debit or credit card, some do not, so please exercise caution.
Use of JAPAN POST BANK'S ATM (International ATM Service) [JAPAN POST BANK website]
This is the sign for the JP Bank.
|Most ATMs are available at the following times. However, individual ATM operating hours, days, and available services may differ.
Monday – Friday
9:00 – 17:30
9:00 – 12:30
Sunday and Holiday
9:00 – 17:00
Shows which kind of international cards can be used (ie, Visa, Plus, MasterCard, Diners)
By following the directions on the screen, it is easy to withdraw Japanese yen.
• JP Bank/post office banking services are generally closed from December 31 to January 3rd, as well as on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays.
• Depending on the day and installed location, ATMs may also not be operational.
• One can also use the regular postal services to send postcards, letters and packages within or outside Japan.
Ceiling paintings (Gosho-ji)
• Pilgrimage Sweets
Take a break along the trail to sample some local sweets.
• Pilgrimage Food
Tour the 88 temples while enjoying local specialty food.
• Stop off at a hot spring while on the pilgrimage
Relax at a hot spring, take it easy on the trail.
• Gorgeous Pilgrimmage Landscapes
Take photos of beautiful scenery and wonderful art works while on the pilgrimage.