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Japan’s Shikoku 88

Japan’s Shikoku 88

Shikoku island is home to an ancient walking trail connecting 88 Buddhist temples. Explore spectacular scenery, atmospheric temples and traditional rural inns, enjoy local flavours, soak in hot springs & experience genuinely warm hospitality and kindness.

Overview

Shikoku Island

Shikoku is Japan's fourth-largest island, home to an ancient walking trail, the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage. The trail connects 88 Buddhist temples and the full route covers more than a thousand kilometres. Pilgrims, known as o-henro-san, traditionally undertook the journey on foot over many weeks, staying overnight at Shukubo temple lodgings. In modern times much of the trail has been lost or built over. 21st-century Japanese travellers usually prefer to travel between temples by tour bus. However, there are sections of the original route which can still be enjoyed on foot and you will see many o-henro, clad in the traditional white pilgrim's garb, sedge hat and walking stave. You need to be up for some strenuous walking, although there is a balanced mix of easy, moderate and challenging days that can be shortened. We join the existing paths by using local transport to get you around the island and reach the best paths. You certainly will receive the warmest hospitality from all the islanders who practice an age-old custom of kindness to all visitors. You'll find yourself in some incredibly beautiful wild places, atmospheric forest trails, traditional rural hamlets and modern cities and as many of the 88 temples as we can pack in, with a few hot springs to help you relax before a traditional Japanese dinner.

Matayama CastleMatayama Castle

Kobe Daishi - the monk Kukai (774-835)

Kobo Daishi, as he became known after his death, founded the Shingon School of Buddhism in Japan. He was one of the great men of the Heian period. A priest, scholar, artist and engineer, he was a man of many talents, founding hundreds of temples throughout Japan, and establishing the Shikoku pilgrimage. Shingon means "True Word".

There are major links with Mount Koya on the mainland which you might wish to visit. The mountain of Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture was traditionally considered sacred and is still a major pilgrimage site for followers of the Shingon school. Mt Koya is also a Unesco World Heritage site as one of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.

Koyasan is on the beautiful forested Kii Peninsula, with long avenues of tall Japanese cedar trees, and hundreds of temples and temple gardens. Koyasan is easily accessible, just 50 km from Osaka. You could easily add a trip here before or after Shikoku, and stay overnight in temple accommodation, known as shukubo.

Kobo Daishi Bronze, ShikokuKobo Daishi Bronze, Shikoku

Itinerary

  • Rail Travel from Kyoto or Osaka included. We can book your city hotels by request.
  • Where you have some challenging ascents, we can provide a drop-off / pick-up to make the day more manageable.
  • Where there are shorter days, you have the option to extend your walk on certain sections
  • Some local taxis are used to get you to and from the trail, to maximise access to the best paths.
  • We also offer 4-day, 5-day, 6-day and 10-day versions of the Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail.

Day 1 - 3.6 miles / 5.8 km / pretty flat

Travel from Osaka or Kyoto by train. Arrive in Tokushima and enjoy a gentle walk through the quiet neighbourhoods of Tokushima to visit Temple 1, Temple 2 and Temple 3.

Overnight - Shukubo pilgrims lodge. There is also the option of staying at a traditional Ryokan.

Day 2 - 1.9 miles / 19.2 km / 1300m ascent / 1200m descent

Transfer to Temple 11. From here start a challenging hike to Temple 12. The full walk is one of the longest and most strenuous on the tour, at 12 miles with 1,330m ascent and 1,210m descent around 7-8 hours. But, you can reduce the walk to 4-5 hours / 6.5 miles by starting halfway up Mt. Shosan-ji. You can decide what you feel like doing on the day or evening before.

Travel by bus to Tokushima for your overnight stay in a city-centre. Choice of Ryokan (traditional travellers inn) or western-style hotel.

Day 3 - 5.1 miles / 8.2 km / 460m ascent / 470m descent

Transfer to one of the most beautiful hikes on the entire 88 Pilgrimage route. Start at Temple 20, this much shorter trail today crosses the Nakagawa River and climbs again to Temple 21. End the day with a cable car ride with wonderful views over a cedar forest.

Accommodation is a Ryokan (traditional travellers inn) or Hotel

Day 4 - 8.4 miles / 13.5 km / 335m ascent / 655m descent

Transfer to northern Kagawa Prefecture. Visit Temple 82, Temple 81 and finally Temple 80. Travel on by train to the hot-spring town of Kotohira Spa - this can be shortened by skipping Temple 81.

Travel onwards by train for an overnight stay in the old hot-spring town of Kotohira Spa.

Day 5 - 2.7 miles / 4.4 km / 250 m ascent / no descent

Transfer to Imabari and hike to Temple 57. The walk gradually passes from urban townscape to rural farming communities before entering a forest with a steady climb to Temple 58. Overnight in the Shukubo pilgrims lodgings at the temple, or a western-style hotel in Imabari City.

Overnight at the Shukubo pilgrim lodgings at the temple, or alternatively stay in a western-style hotel in Imabari City.

Day 6 - 3 miles / 4.4 km / no ascent / 250m descent

A gentle downhill hike from Senyū-ji, exploring small settlements on the way back to Imabari. Town hike to Temple 59 then on to Matsuyama by train and overnight in Dogo Onsen. This walk can be extended by 2.5 miles / 4.1 km.

Overnight at an Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)

Day 7 - 7.3 miles / 11.3 km / 650m ascent / 580m descent

Transfer from Matsuyama to Temple 45, a temple closely linked to Kōbō Daishi - the priest who founded Shingon Buddhism. Climb the iconic ladder to his meditation spot, with spectacular views over the surrounding region. Then a forest hike to Temple 44 and a bus to Matsuyama in the evening.

Overnight at an Onsen Ryokan (Hot-spring Travellers Inn)

Day 8 - 13.7km / 8.5 miles / 620m ascent / 870m descent

Transfer to the trail and enjoy a rural walk to Temple 60, Temple 61and onwards to Temple 62. On by train to the Kansai area, arriving mid-evening. The hike can be reduced by 1.5 miles skipping the first uphill section and starting to walk from Temple 60.

Transfer by train to Osaka or Kyoto.

We can arrange your hotel accommodation in Kyoto or Osaka.

Highlights

  • The loveliest parts of the Shikoku 88 Temple Trail
  • Atmospheric Temples
  • Bathe in natural thermal waters at historic Dogo Onsen
  • Climb the iconic ladder to the meditation spot used by Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism

Food & Drink

Japanese Cuisine

Enjoy the delicious traditional cuisine of the Japanese countryside, both from the sea and from the mountains.

The rich Kuroshio ocean current sweeps across the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula bringing with it a plethora of fresh seafood. The surrounding lush mountainside has a long culinary history of cooking with wild plants and livestock. Delicious local food, seafood and locally raised Wagyu beef and farm-fresh vegetables.

One of the great joys of travelling is to dine on local dishes and we think you will enjoy the experience of eating fresh, delicious, rural Japanese cuisine in a relaxed, authentic environment.

Accommodation

Shobuku - pilgrim lodging in temples

Ryokan - traditional travellers inns

Customer Reviews

Listed below are some reviews from other customers who have already undertaken this tour with Walk the Camino.

  • Review by Al, USA
    The trip was super…really great for us…the scenery was some of the best we have ever seen. We never seen trees like that before. Some trees had the most unbelievable flowers on them - we were completely amazed, honestly not only have we never saw a tree like that but we didn’t even know they existed. The trains all run exactly on time. We did not miss any. On top of all that the accommodations well they were all wonderful experience because it brought us into a world we did not know existed…uniquely Japanese experience of hospitality, wonderful hot bath before dinner and the dinner - well its simply amazing. Everywhere you go friendly people. We cannot speak more than three words of Japanese and the woman running the place did not speak more than three words of English we felt a certain kinship and when she walked us to the door the morning we left there was a certain sadness we had to part with a friend.

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