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Pilgrimage in Shikoku

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Pilgrimage in Shikoku

Visit Shikoku not only to discover the uniqueness of regional culture, the beauty of nature and people but also to achieve the spiritual values of Buddhahood.

Waku Waku

Waku Waku

Published on 01 Feb, 12:00

According to JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization), four prefectures of Shikoku including Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, Tokushima account for only 1.9% of the visit rate to Japan in 2019. For that reason, we may think that Shikoku seems to be overlooked by foreign travellers whenever they plan a trip to Japan.

The screenshot of JNTO about the visit rate of foreign travelers by Prefecture in 2019
The screenshot of JNTO about the visit rate of foreign travelers by Prefecture in 2019

But wait, don't you know that Shikoku was awarded 2nd place in "Best in Pacific Asia" in 2019 by Lonely Planet – the world-famous travel guide book publisher?

If we learn about Shikoku, we'll find that there are endless things to write about this region from nature, historical buildings to museums, cuisines but today, let’s explore one cultural experience that you can find nowhere in Japan, except Shikoku!

Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage – one of the world's oldest pilgrimage

The full pilgrimage route with a total distance of approximately 1400 kilometres consists of the visit to 88 sacred temples scattered around Shikoku. Established over 1200 years ago, the 88 temple pilgrimage is associated with the story of Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism in Japan.

The statue of Kobo Daishi in Temple 37 - Iwamotoji in Kochi
The statue of Kobo Daishi in Temple 37 - Iwamotoji in Kochi

4 stages of attaining Buddahood

Legend has it that these places are where Kobo Daishi studied and trained. In other words, every sacred temple here has a story partly or fully related to Kobo Daishi.

For example, Ryozen-ji in Tokushima, known as Temple 01, is where he came and prayed for the farmers who were suffering from natural disaster and diseases. Or Shiromine-ji in Kagawa, Temple 81, is where he buried a gem on the top of Mt. Shiromine, dug a holy water well and prayed for the salvation for all creatures in the world.

Temple 01 - Ryozenji in Tokushima
Temple 01 - Ryozenji in Tokushima

The full route is divided into 4 sections representing 4 stages of attaining Buddhahood: Awakening (temple 1 – 23 in Tokushima), Ascetic training (temple 24 – 39 in Kochi), Enlightenment (temple 40 – 65 in Ehime), Nirvana (temple 66 – 88 in Kawaga)

One of a few circuit pilgrimages in the world

In Buddhism, when you reach Nirvana you are free of earthy desires and worries to achieve inner peace.

Due to the form of the pilgrim road, after you complete your route from temple 1 to 88, you'll return to where you started with a brand new self.

What motivates people to Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage?

Some come here to self-discover, heal the soul, pray for health and safely of beloved ones, deepen the understanding of their beliefs while others come to immerse in the beauty of nature, escape from the daily life or just find a place to put oneself in a contemplative state.

This is the
This is the "uniform" of pilgrims. If you notice, you'll see 同行二人 printed on the hat, which means two people (you and the monk Kobo Daishi) on the same journey

No matter what the reasons are, you will definitely obtain "something" from your best endeavours after you complete the route.

The starting point must always be temple 1?

You don't need to start from temple 1 or visit all 88 temples at once. There are no official rules on how to do that.

Most people choose to start from temple 1 in the clockwise order while some travel in the anti-clockwise starting from temple 88. It is also totally fine to begin your journey from any of 88 temples.

How long does it take to complete the route?

Walking is the most traditional way but if you want to conquer the full pilgrimage on foot, it can take you up to 60 days.

But don't worry, nowadays, you can use sorts of transportation as bus or car to shorten up your time.

Come to Shikoku - the region with the least-noticed destinations in Japan and share with Waku Waku your amazing experiences there! We can't wait any longer to get your articles!

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