Journey where you feel the ancient Japanese spirit and culture
Shikoku faces two seas and has deep mountains. The Seto Naikai, the inland sea of Japan, and the Pacific Ocean, which leads to many parts of the world, create a warm climate. The deep mountains create rich nature and beautiful scenery. These natural features have gently nurtured the spirit of hospitality, which has lived as part of the ancient Japanese culture, and warmth toward people.
Pilgrims on Shikoku Henro are affectionately called as “O-henro-san” and well cared. Visitors from abroad who took Shikoku pilgrimage were surprised and impressed because a person whom they were not acquainted with gave them food and drink saying “Douzo (Please)!.” This is not a special occasion. It is a culture of Shikoku pilgrimage that people do what they can do to help and care the pilgrims so that the pilgrims can travel without any problem.
Temple No. 1, Ryozen-ji
Address:126 Azatsukahana, Oasachobando, Naruto-shi, Tokushima
Access:Approximately 1 km from “Bando Station” of JR Kotoku Line
88 holy places on the route for training developed by a Buddhist monk, Kukai
The Shikoku pilgrimage route was developed by the Buddhist monk Kukai (also known as Kobo-Daishi), who was played an important role in the 9th century. Kukai visited Changan in the Tang Dynasty of China, mastered Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism, which was a leading-edge doctrine at that time, and brought it back to Japan as Shingon Buddhism. Mount Koya in Wakayama, which is registered as a world heritage, was a training site started by Kukai. To-ji in Kyoto, which has the highest five-story tower in Japan, was a temple entrusted to Kukai.
Kukai was born in the present-day Kagawa prefecture and practiced Buddhist asceticism in mountains and valleys in Shikoku when he was young. The road of his ascetic practices gradually shaped 88 holy places. It is also said that Kukai laid the foundation of the route for ascetic monks who wanted to deepen their faiths so that they could work and experience the world of “Mandala,” which symbolizes a state of enlightenment and a view of the world.
Legend of Shikoku pilgrimage handed down for more than 1000 years
Kukai is also called “O-Daishi-sama” and has gained the respect of many Japanese. There are many legends regarding him. The most famous one is a story about Emon Saburo, which is the model of Shikoku pilgrimage. One day, a monk visited the house of Emon Saburo, who was a greedy rich man, to ask for alms. However, Emon Saburo called him a beggar and chased him away. After that, Emon Saburo faced an unfortunate situation where his children died one after another. He thought that it was caused by his behavior toward the monk and went on a pilgrimage to apologize to the monk. Emon Saburo traveled around Shikoku for 20 times or more, but he was not able to meet the monk and finally fell down with exhaustion at Temple No. 12, Shozan-ji. While he was losing consciousness, the monk, Kukai appeared, forgave him, and granted his wish “to reborn as a compassionate person in the next life.”
Temple No. 51, Ishite-ji
Address:2-9-21 Ishite, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime
Access:1.3km from “Dogo Onsen Station” of Jyonan Line of Iyo Railway
Pilgrimage is a journey with the spirit of Kukai
Shikoku pilgrimage became popular among people around the 17th century. Even today, 400 years after the age, many men and women of all ages are walking on the pilgrimage route. Their purposes are various. Some want to realize their wishes, some want to pray for dead people, some want to discipline their minds, and some are just enjoying walking. Some are from abroad and some are not Buddhists. What they have in common are only wooden staffs with “Dogyo-Ninin” written on them on their hands, which are called kongou-zue. “Dogyo-Ninin” means that a pilgrim is traveling with the spirit of O-Daishi-sama or Kukai.
Temple No. 88, Okubo-ji
Address:96 Tawakanewari, Sanuki-shi, Kagawa
Access:15.2 km from “Nagao Station” of Nagao Line of Kotoden, 0.2 km from “Okubo-ji” stop of Sanuki City Community Bus
How to visit the 88 temples (fuda-sho)
Shikoku pilgrimage is a journey covering a distance of approximately 1,200 km across four prefectures (Tokushima, Kochi, Ehime, and Kagawa). It takes 45 days on foot, 12 days by bicycle, and 10 days by car to visit the 88 temples in succession.
88 Temples（Shikoku 88 Holy Place Association）
- Tokushima prefecture, the area of awaking (Hossin) or beginning (23 temples, approx. 150 km)(Japanese)
- Kochi prefecture, the area of training (Syugyo), which is for ascetic practices (16 temples, approx. 330 km)(Japanese)
- Ehime prefecture, the area of enlightenment (Bodai), which is for eliminating suffering caused by living (26 temples, approx. 330 km)(Japanese)
- Kagawa prefecture, the area of nirvana (Nehan), which is for feeling a higher state of enlightenment (23 temples, approx. 140 km)
Pilgrims’ attire for Shikoku pilgrimage
The pilgrims can wear whatever they like, but many of them choose to wear a conical hat (suge-gasa) and a white robe (hakue) and have a wooden staff (kongou-zue). As people recognize travelers in this attire as o-henro-san, they often encourage them, give directions, and offer help in other ways. This outfit can be purchased at Temple No. 1 or a store near the temple.
Wooden staff (Kongou-zue)
Shikoku pilgrimage is a difficult journey covering a distance of approximately 1,400 km. It sometimes happens that we want to give up halfway like our lives. In such a situation, the wooden staff helps us with the word “Dogyo-Ninin” written on it.
Conical hat (suge-gasa), white robe (hakue), and stole (wagesa)
Suge-gasa can be used as a sunshade or a rain hood. Hakue and wagesa are the formal clothing for visiting temples. These three items are symbols of o-henro-san.
Cloth bag (zuta-bukuro) and temple stamp book (noukyou-cho)
Zuta-bukuro is a shoulder bag for the pilgrims and made of cloth. The bag is for holding and carrying a stamp book (noukyou-cho) for collecting red ink stamps (shu-in) at respective temples, valuables, and other belongings.
Other implements for pilgrimage
A talisman album (omieire), name slips (osame-fuda), a book of sutras (kyohon), Buddhist prayer beads, incense sticks, candles, a lighter, and the like are necessary for formal visit to temples.
How to visit temples
1 Bow at the main gate.
2 Wash your hands and mouth at the water basin.
3 Go to the main hall (hondo). Light up a votive lantern, burn incense, offer a name slip, pray, and chant sutras.
4 Go to the great master hall (daishi-do). Light up a votive lantern, burn incense, offer a name slip, pray, and chant sutras in the same manner as in the main hall.
5 Receive a red ink stamp (shu-in) on the stamp book (noukyou-cho) at an office called Noukyou-sho.
That is how to visit a fuda-sho (Buddhist temple). It is important to behave modesty with respect to Buddha and Kukai enshrined in the temple. Receive a red ink stamp (shu-in) on your stamp book (noukyou-cho). This is a memory of the visit with wonderful brushwork. (At extra fee, 300 yen)
Temple No. 87, Nagao-ji
Address:653 Nagaonishi, Sanuki-shi, Kagawa
Access:3 minutes on foot from “Nagao Station” of Nagao Line of Kotoden
Spirit of Shikoku pilgrimage “Road to make a decision to live”
Kukai wrote “My mind becomes serene and reflects this world like a calm water surface. Nothing separates me from other people and I have a free mind not disturbed by anything. Like an ocean, my mind reflects everything.” When we are walking in nature surrounded by mountains and seas and visiting holy places associated with Kukai, our feelings are clarified and our minds are naturally cleansed. Shikoku pilgrimage is exactly a journey of spirit.