The Shikoku pilgrimage

Today let me introduce you to the unknown part of Japanese culture. And go with me on the road of the mystical shikoku pilgrimage.

Shikoku pilgrimage is one of the most difficult for the Japanese. Full of symbolism, spirituality, this pilgrimage will transport you through a part of Japan that no one knows.

Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s major islands. It’s encircled by a 1,200km, 88-temple Buddhist pilgrimage route (henro) honoring the 9th-century monk Kukai. Shikoku’s major cities include Matsuyama, home to 8 of the pilgrimage temples, plus feudal Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen, one of Japan’s earliest known hot-spring spas. The island’s mountainous interior has hiking trails and rivers with whitewater rapids.

The Shikoku pilgrimage route (or Shikoku Henro) is one of the few circular-shaped pilgrimages in the world. It includes 88 ‘official’ temples and numerous other sacred sites where the Buddhist priest Kukai (Kobo Daishi) is believed to have trained or have spent time during the 9th Century.
People’s motives for making this pilgrimage are varied. For example, some come for religious reasons, some to pray for healing or safety in the home, or some in memory of those who have passed away. As well, some come just to get away from regular life, some for recreation, or some to spend time alone in reflection and to find oneself. To people today, it is being re-discovered as a healing journey.
Recently in japan on the 11th of March Japan commemorated the 2011 victims of disaster after the earthquake and the tsunami that devastated Japan at that time. For many Japanese people who have been injured or lost family or friends in the disaster, the shikoku pilgrimage is a way to heal and to advance by getting mentally more strong.

If you walk, the entire route is about 1,200 kilometers long which allows one to experience the abundant natural surroundings of Shikoku and presents one with numerous opportunities to mix with the local people. This pilgrimage provides the an opportunity to reflect on one’s life and to change for the better.
The full pilgrimage can take up to 60 days to complete on foot.
Another method is called Kugiri-uchi, which means completing a part of the pilgrimage at one time. This is quite common because most people cannot easily leave their everyday lives for a couple of weeks or longer. Thus some visit the temples in one prefecture or some complete miniature pilgrimages, ie between temples 13 and 17, or temples 71-77. It is important to start and proceed at your own speed and in your own way.

By chartered bus this will take 9-12 days. There is a variety of bus plans provided by travel and bus companies and in each case an official guide (sendatsu) will accompany the group. At present, there are no bus tours for non-Japanese. If a non-Japanese would like to participate in a bus tour then sufficient Japanese ability is required.

By car this will take about 10 days. You can rent a car from the closest train station or airport, but make sure that you are familiar with the rules of the road. It might be possible to request a car with a navigational system that has audio guidance in English or another foreign language.

I haven’t experienced with this pilgrimage yet but looking forward to organizing it soon and present it to you when I will make it..

Please find here some photos.

Thank you for reading me and I really hope I will be able soon to write about my new adventure.