In the beginning of July I was in Shikoku, a little more than a two hour drive from Kyoto. We stayed in a resort hotel in the Naruto area. Since being so close to the first temple of the Shikoku Pilgrim (四国遍路) starting point, I took a look. I’ve been intrigued by this pilgrimage for some time and heard a lot about it. Although, I am not a Buddhist, the idea of walking across an island for spiritual benefit spoke to me.
I visited 3 temples, including the starting point and shot some pictures, while taking in the spiritual significance.
At Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺):
Ryōzen-ji is, by many, the starting point and has a store where you can buy the necessary items to start the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Yūben Shinnen (宥辡 真念) identified Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺) as the first place of his “Shikoku Henro Road Guide” (四国遍路道しるべ) of 1687. Since this was the rainy season there where not many people starting the pilgrimage. However, I talked to one young man from Switzerland who was about to commence this arduous trek on foot. He had purchased all the items of a o-henro-san (お遍路さん). He had a conical Asian hat (すげ笠), a kongō-zue or wooden staff (金剛杖). He was about to buy a white shirt (白衣 oizuru). Because of the summer heat I warned this young boy to be careful and drink plenty of water. His only regret, he couldn’t finish the entire Shikoku Pilgrimage, because he had only 3 weeks.
On foot it will take 7 weeks or more depending on your physical condition. See all pictures here:
Wiki’s Wisdom on the Shikoku Pilgrimage:
The Shikoku Pilgrimage (四国遍路) or Shikoku Junrei (四国巡礼) is a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi – 弘法大師) on the island of Shikoku, Japan. A popular and distinctive feature of the island’s cultural landscape, and with a long history, large numbers of pilgrims (known as henro – 遍路) still undertake the journey for a variety of ascetic, pious, and tourism-related purposes. The pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles, or motorcycles. The standard walking course is approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete.
Additional info on the Shikoku Pilgrimage:
There are different ways to complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Of course walking is the most challenging and takes time. You can rent a bike or a motor bike, making it a bit easier. Please note there are many hill in Shikoku. I’ve noticed that quite a few people, either couples or friends, use their car to visit the temples. Perhaps you can hitch a ride?
You can order a map by writing an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is the link to the official Tokushima Tourism Site.
Shikoku consists of four provinces and each has a cluster of sacred temples. You always pick one province either along the sea side or the more adventurous mountain side.
Some books available at Amazon about the Shikoku Pilgrimage: (buying through amazon helps support my website, Thank you!)