TOKUSHIMA, KAGAWA, EHIME AND KOCHI
Lush with greenery, towering trees and majestic mountains, Shikoku is a welcome escape from the densely populated regions of Japan. The first expressway to connect Shikoku to the main island of Honshu was built in 1988, and so could previously only be reached by boat. This still gives the region an isolated nature that has protected the original characteristics of Japanese culture and its ancient traditions. The mountainous nature of the region means there is heavy snowfall in winter and mild temperatures in summer. Shikoku’s rugged remoteness has attracted many travelers seeking a more unique part of Japan.
The island is also home to the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage, a spiritual journey following in the footsteps of Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai, who reached enlightenment in the isolated mountains and decided to devote his life to the Buddha. Following intense study of Buddhism in China and the creation of the temple complex on Mount Koya, he never forgot his home island of Shikoku and undertook a journey to visit all of its 88 temples. Even today pilgrims from all over the world follow in his footsteps and visit the temples dressed in traditional garb, receiving blessings in the form of food and drinks from the locals.
The majority of the population settled along the coast because of the flat terrain and established communities around the main temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Walking temple-to-temple is not only a spiritual journey but also a cultural one that passes through cities rich with history and ancient stories. The Japanese term dougyou ninin (同行二人) literally means ‘traveling together’ and in the context of the pilgrimage of the 88 temples this means that Kōbō Daishi always travels with the pilgrim and accompanies him/her in difficulties. This text is inscribed on the walking poles of the ohenro pilgrims and the hearts of the people of Shikoku.
Walk on the loveliest parts of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail in Tokushima, Kagawa and Ehime, spending nights in Shukubo temple lodgings and the natural baths of Dogo Onsen and Iya Valley