Shikoku’s Ancient Pilgrimage

Sep 28, 2020

Shikoku’s Ancient Pilgrimage

Shikoku is a welcome getaway from the densely populated areas of Japan. Filled with lush greenery, towering trees, and majestic mountains, Shikoku is a paradise of nature. The first expressway to connect Shikoku to the main island of Honshu was built in 1988, making the island previously only reachable by boat. As a result, Shikoku contains unspoiled scenery and an abundance of beautiful landscapes offering something new and unique when traveling in Japan.

In visiting Shikoku, you will find a strong culture and atmosphere surrounding an ancient pilgrimage. The Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage follows in the footsteps of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. This pilgrimage is undertaken for various reasons ranging from a connection to religion, an interest in history, or simply a change in scenery.

The full route is around 1,200 km, stopping at 88 sacred temples over what can take 1-2 months for those who wish to undertake the full pilgrimage. However, many options are available for you if you are interested in a shorter hike as a holiday, while still seeing the most significant sites and beautiful scenery.

While hiking the Shikoku 88, you’ll notice a pattern: pilgrims walking the trail while wearing distinctive white attire and traditional hats known as sugegasa. These pilgrims are known as O-henro, and the local people welcome them with osettai, a culture of giving, which often means that, in practice, pilgrims will receive warm hospitality and food for their journey.

The Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage is, without a doubt, a highlight of the region. However, the island is home to a variety of delights. One such delight is Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, known as Japan’s oldest hot spring and designated as a National Important Cultural Property. Matsuyama offers a glimpse into post-war Japan’s resurgence, retaining a feeling most modern Japanese cities have since lost.

Over in Kagawa Prefecture, formerly known as Sanuki, Sanuki Udon is recognized as the most famous and beloved type of udon. Characterized by its uniquely firm yet chewy texture, Sanuki Udon is made with simple ingredients and stands out as a must-try when visiting.

With a rewarding pilgrimage steeped in history, unique culture, and local specialties, Shikoku is a wonderful destination to experience a different side of Japan.

Talk to Oku Japan now about how you can explore all Shikoku has to offer.


Photos Courtesy of Oku Japan

This guest post is provided for informational purposes only.

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