Backpack around Shikoku, Japan, to all 88 sacred temples taking century-old routes
Crossing the Great Seto Bridge over the inland sea from Okayama Prefecture, you see crystal-clear water below and wispy clouds floating above as you draw closer to Shikoku. Having lived there over 4 years, I’ve made the journey countless times and still get excited as I approach the island. Shikoku is known for its rustic beauty and greenery as well as temperate climate, but perhaps it is most famous for its 88 temple pilgrimage.
Shodoshima Island overlooking Kankakei Gorge via cable car.
A modern-day adventure steeped in hundreds of years of tradition, the 88 temple pilgrimage was originally done on foot by 遍路 (henro) which translates to pilgrims. Henro are easily recognized by their broad hats and in the past would take a set pilgrimage route which is still used to this very day. The path can be steep and narrow at certain points, so please proceed with caution. However, now-a-days, many prefer to travel to each temple via train, bus, or car. It is alright to visit the temples in any order.
It is possible to get a temple stamp book from any pilgrimage site. When you visit a temple, there is a counter where you can have a monk inscribe a one-of-a-kind insignia unique to that temple into your book for a couple yen. This is a great item to take back home with you to remember your journey to each of the temples.
Tanuki statues found on the way up to Yashima, Takamatsu.
I personally participated in a day-long temple excursion in Kagawa Prefecture where I visited two of the 88 pilgrimage sites. I went to yamashima and climbed to the summit of a mountain overlooking the city of Takamatsu. The region is quite dry, so the weather was sunny and perfect for the trip. Even though the journey up and down the mountain is non-intensive, I recommend this excursion to those who are capable of hiking. If you have weak knees or ankles, please wear a brace before attempting the trip. That being said, the view overlooking Takamatsu and the Seto Inland Sea from the summit was breathtaking.
I enjoyed the serenity of the spot.
Me personally in all the proper pilgrim gear!
I recommend participating in the 88 temple pilgrimage even if you can only visit a few sites. I believe everyone who visits Japan should escape the concrete jungle of Tokyo just for a minute and experience rural Japan. There you will find traditional Japanese architecture, stunning views, and friendly locals eager to share their culture with you.
Published: December 10, 2019
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