Shikoku Island is the smallest of the four main islands of Japan. The island has a mountainous landscape and is home to a historic Buddhist pilgrimage route that started in the eighteenth century called the “Shikoku 88 Temples”. The name is derived from the 88 sacred temples along the circular route on the island where “Kukai” the Japanese monk that founded the esoteric “Shinghon” or mantra school of Buddhism had stayed or studied.
Pilgrims are said to be following the step of Kukai (known posthumously as Kobo Daishi) … Each temple has been assigned a number and pilgrims will normally visit the temples sequentially in ascending or descending order and, as pilgrims traverse the island through each of the four prefectures it is said that the journey takes the pilgrims through the symbolic phases of “Awakening”, “Ascetic Training”, “Enlightenment” and “Nirvana”.
The journey is 1,200 kilometers long (745 miles) and is traditionally completed on foot. Modern pilgrims are allowed to use other forms of transportation as needed. To complete the pilgrimage, it is necessary to visit the official 88 temples of the pilgrimage. Many pilgrims begin or end their pilgrimage visiting the “Shinghon retreat” in Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture.
The Japanese name for pilgrims is “Ohenro” and they are recognized by their traditional costume of a white shirt and a bag where they carry their mantra books, incense and the book called the “Nokyo Cho”, used to collect stamps/seals from each of the temples visited.
The pilgrimage is completed when the “Nokyo Cho” contains all the seals from each one of the “88 temples” on the island of Shikoku plus the seal from the “Shinghon retreat” in Mount Koya in Wakayama.
Japan has for the longest been one of my favorite countries, to the point that I have learned Japanese…
During my career, my job has taken me to Japan on several occasions and I have always admired the richness of their culture, how orderly everything is and the politeness of their people. There is something very special about Japan, their people and their culture in general…
So, after completing my first “Camino de Santiago” in 2015. In 2016, I decided that I wanted this to be my next pilgrimage.
You carry all your belongings with you on your backpack… so, you are strictly limited to bringing with you only essential items. I carried two changes of clothing, a poncho, a sleeping bag, hiking poles, a small pocket camera, a small GPS unit, an iPhone, a first aid kit with medications and of course… my trusted Tilley hat that has since accompanied me on more pilgrimages.
This is an initial posting to meet my deadline for a project… the pilgrimage took me 32 days to complete and I have many images to organize before this is a cohesive story.
Please come back and visit again soon.
In the meantime, I will follow with some images that will serve to highlight this journey.
This is also a story of lasting friendships that one makes along the way… I met my friend Henk from South Africa during my Camino de Santiago in 2015 and we started walking the Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage together… unfortunately he got injured as we were walking to Temple # 12 and had to stop his journey. After taking a few days to re-plan, I decided to continue the pilgrimage and he made new plans to stay in Asia a little longer.
I met my friend Gintautas from Lithuania in Japan while walking the Shikoku 88 Temples… We met again in Ireland last October during my walk of the “Wicklow Way”.