Home DestinationsAsia The Shikoku Pilgrimage Guide : 88 Temple Maps, Route & Planning

The Shikoku Pilgrimage Guide : 88 Temple Maps, Route & Planning

by Naoi Rei

The Shikoku Pilgrimage, also known as the Shikoku Henro, is a famous pilgrimage route in Japan that attracts thousands of pilgrims each year. Spanning approximately 1,200 kilometers, the pilgrimage takes participants on a spiritual journey to 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi. In this article, we will explore the importance of maps and guides in navigating the Shikoku Pilgrimage, as well as provide valuable insights for those planning to embark on this sacred journey.

Read More : Best Things to Do in Shikoku : Top Attractions and Activities

What is the Shikoku Pilgrimage?

The Shikoku Pilgrimage, known as the “Shikoku henro (四国遍路)” or the “88 pilgrimage,” is an ancient Buddhist path that was established more than 1,200 years ago. It was inspired by a monk named Kūkai, who was the founder of Shingon Buddhism. The pilgrimage and its traditions have become deeply rooted in the people of Shikoku, Japan, and are considered an integral part of their way of life. Visitors are often deeply touched by the legendary hospitality and osettai culture of the locals. Many consider the Shikoku Pilgrimage to be a transformative journey that can change their lives.

During the pilgrimage, travelers have the opportunity to savor delicious local specialties, stay in traditional Japanese accommodations, visit breathtaking temples and shrines, immerse themselves in Shikoku’s diverse natural beauty, meet fellow pilgrims from all over the world, and deeply contemplate their own lives. Traditionally, the Shikoku Pilgrimage is undertaken on foot, and there are still many who choose to walk the entire route. On average, it takes about 45 days to complete the entire circuit by foot. However, some opt to travel by bicycle, motorcycle, car, or bus. There are also pilgrims who choose to complete the journey in stages over the course of several years. The main route takes pilgrims in a circular path around the island, with stops at all 88 temples along the way.

Explore Map on Henro.org

The Shikoku Pilgrimage Route : Tokushima

Temples 1-23
Located on the eastern side of the island of Shikoku in Japan, Tokushima serves as a prefecture. This region is where the renowned Shikoku Pilgrimage usually commences, starting at Temple 1, also known as Ryozenji. Tokushima boasts a landscape adorned with mountains and valleys, housing numerous humble villages. One of its notable events is the annual Awa Odori dance festival, held during the “Obon” season in mid-August. Awa Odori captivates audiences with its lively music and vibrant dances, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all corners of Japan each year.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage Route : Kochi

Temples 24-39
Kochi, located in the southernmost part of Shikoku, stands out as the preferred destination for pilgrims due to its extensive temple network. This prefecture boasts picturesque shorelines that seem to stretch on forever, offering excellent opportunities for surfing enthusiasts. Additionally, Kochi is renowned for its delectable produce, particularly the flavorsome yuzu citrus fruits, which are utilized in beverages and local culinary delights. The skipjack tuna found in Kochi is another celebrated delicacy in Japan, served in various forms such as sashimi, grilled, and even canned, enjoyed throughout the country.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage Route : Ehime

Temples 40-65
Located on the western side of Shikoku, Ehime Prefecture boasts an array of stunning attractions. One such gem is the picturesque old town of Uchiko, exuding a unique charm. Moreover, the Kuma Highlands showcase the beauty of ancient sugi and hinoki cypress forests. Pilgrims journeying through Ehime will inevitably traverse Matsuyama City, renowned for housing one of Japan’s oldest hot springs, or onsen. Additionally, the city boasts a famous castle and lively shopping streets, adding to its allure.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage Route : Kagawa

Temples 66-88
Situated on the northeastern coast of Shikoku, Kagawa is the tiniest prefecture in Japan. It has earned the nickname “Udon Prefecture” thanks to its world-famous sanuki udon noodles, a beloved culinary tradition with a rich history spanning over a century. The vibrant capital city of Kagawa, Takamatsu, boasts a bustling port and is adorned with lively shopping streets. Moreover, it is home to the enchanting Ritsurin Garden, recognized as one of Japan’s most exquisite and renowned gardens.

Planning Your Shikoku Pilgrimage

Embarking on the Shikoku Pilgrimage requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Research the pilgrimage route and familiarize yourself with the 88 temples.
  • Decide on the duration of your pilgrimage. The average time to complete the entire route is around 40 to 60 days, but it can be customized based on your preferences.
  • Choose the best time to embark on your pilgrimage. Spring and autumn are popular seasons due to the pleasant weather and beautiful scenery.
  • Consider your physical fitness level and prepare accordingly. The pilgrimage involves long walks and challenging terrains, so it’s essential to be in good health.
  • Pack light but ensure you have essential items such as comfortable walking shoes, rain gear, and a pilgrim’s staff.
  • Make accommodation arrangements in advance, especially during peak seasons. Guesthouses and temples that offer lodging for pilgrims can fill up quickly.
  • Stay hydrated and carry snacks for energy during long stretches between temples.
  • Immerse yourself in the spiritual experience by participating in temple rituals and engaging with local communities along the route.

Summary

The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a transformative journey that offers a unique blend of spirituality, history, and natural beauty. Maps and guides play a crucial role in ensuring a successful and enriching pilgrimage experience. Whether you choose traditional paper maps or opt for digital alternatives, having access to accurate and up-to-date information is essential. By planning your pilgrimage carefully and immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the temples, you can embark on a truly unforgettable journey of self-discovery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How long does it take to complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage?

The average time to complete the entire Shikoku Pilgrimage is around 40 to 60 days. However, the duration can be customized based on your preferences and physical fitness level.

2. Are there any age restrictions for participating in the Shikoku Pilgrimage?

There are no specific age restrictions for participating in the Shikoku Pilgrimage. However, it is important to consider your physical fitness level and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions.

3. Can I join the Shikoku Pilgrimage at any time of the year?

Yes, you can join the Shikoku Pilgrimage at any time of the year. However, spring and autumn are popular seasons due to the pleasant weather and beautiful scenery.

4. Do I need to be a Buddhist to participate in the Shikoku Pilgrimage?

No, you do not need to be a Buddhist to participate in the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is open to people of all faiths and backgrounds who are seeking a spiritual experience.

5. Can I complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage in sections?

Yes, you can complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage in sections. Many pilgrims choose to divide the route into multiple trips, completing a few temples at a time. This allows for flexibility and can be tailored to individual schedules and preferences.

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