Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage self-guided 6 days in Tokushima and Kagawa

The trail towards enlightenment

Highlights

  • Walk on lovely parts of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail in Tokushima and Kagawa
  • Visit some of the most atmospheric temples on the trail
  • Spend a night in a Shukubo temple lodging, with authentic Shojin-Ryori Buddhist vegetarian cuisine
  • Enjoy wonderful views over cedar forests and rural villages
  • Undertake an authentic pilgrimage experience with moderate hikes of up to 5-6 hours
  • Visit the relaxing hot spring Onsen town of Kotohira Spa
Shikoku is Japan's fourth-largest island, home to some of the country's most spectacular and undeveloped scenery. The island is also the setting for an ancient walking trail, the challenging Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage. The trail connects 88 Buddhist temples and the full walk covers more than a thousand kilometres. Pilgrims, known as O-henro, traditionally covered the journey on foot over many weeks, staying overnight at Shukubo temple lodgings. Most modern travellers now travel from temple to temple by tour bus, but we have found sections of the original route which can still be enjoyed on foot.
Shikoku is Japan's fourth-largest island, home to some of the country's most spectacular and undeveloped scenery. The island is also the setting for an ancient walking trail, the challenging Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage. The trail connects 88 Buddhist temples and the full walk covers more than a thousand kilometres. Pilgrims, known as O-henro, traditionally covered the journey on foot over many weeks, staying overnight at Shukubo temple lodgings. Most modern travellers now travel from temple to temple by tour bus, but we have found sections of the original route which can still be enjoyed on foot.

On your final day, you may wish to try your hand at Sanuki Udon noodle-making. Please ask for information about tour extensions to the mountain-top temple town of Mount Koya with its monastery lodgings, the art island of Naoshima or the UNESCO World Heritage of Miyajima Island, and Tomonoura Bay on the Setouchi inland sea.

 

This tour offers more advanced hiking. Please see here for trips best suited to families.

 

Read about luggage options here.

 

 Downloadable PDF itinerary

 

 

What′s included

  • 5 nights at Japanese inns on Shikoku Island
  • 5 breakfasts and 4 dinners
  • Round-trip transportation from Kyoto or Osaka & 3 pre-paid taxis
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary, walking directions and Shikoku Island guidebook
  • Topographical maps
  • Local support by telephone

What′s not included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Pay locally for bus journeys on each day and the cable car journey on Day 3
  • Single room supplement(s) if required

Day 1 - Tokushima (Temples 1 to 3)

Start from Kyoto or Osaka and travel by long-distance bus to Tokushima Prefecture. Begin your pilgrimage with a gentle introduction to the walks on Shikoku through quiet neighbourhoods of Tokushima. Visit three of the most eye-catching temples on whole trail - Temple 1 Ryozen-ji, Temple 2 Gokuraku-ji and Temple 3 Konsen-ji. Spend your first night as all pilgrims should - with a stay in a Shukubo Temple Lodging. There is also the option of staying at a traditional Ryokan for this first night.

 

Walking distance: 5.8km / 3.6 miles
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and descent
Time required: About 2 hours

 

An optional additional walk along paved roads to Temple 7 Juraku-ji can extend the day by 3km / 1.9 miles and around 45 minutes.

 

Accommodation: Shukubo (Pilgrims Lodging) or Ryokan (Travellers Inn)
Meals: Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Anraku-ji

Anraku-ji offers temple lodging with spacious tatami rooms and good food. This is a fine and authentic experience of how modern-day O-henro pilgrims stay on their journey.

Day 2 - Tokushima (Temple 11 to 12)

Travel south from your Shukubo pilgrims lodging by pre-booked and pre-paid taxi to Temple 11 Fujii-dera, a fascinating temple complex at the base of Mount Shosan-ji. From here you hike up the mountain to Temple 12 Shosan-ji (mountain and temple share the same name), then finally descend to the east. The walk is strenuous, but very rewarding with beautiful scenery. Stay overnight in a rural inn at the end of the trail.
 

Walking distance: 17km / 10.6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,185m / 3,890 feet of ascent and 995m / 3,265 feet of descent
Time required: About 6-7 hours
 

You can reduce the walk to 4-5 hours (10.4km / 6.5 miles) and avoid the first half of the strenuous ascent up Mt. Shosan-ji. Simply pay locally to extend the taxi ride on the day - no need to decide in advance.
 
Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse) or Hot-spring Ryokan (Travellers Inn)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 - Tokushima (Temple 13 to 17)

There are three walking options today. Choose an easier day if you wish - explore the Ichinomiya Castle ruins near Temple 13 Dainichi-ji before heading onwards by bus. Or select one of the walking options: a moderate rural forest trail with some paved mountain roads provides lovely valley views. A more challenging walk combines this forest trail with a cultural walk, which visits Temple 13 Dainichi-ji and passes four other temples along mostly flat, paved paths through suburban areas. From the end of either trail, you board a bus to reach the small Onsen village of Kamiyama and your inn for the evening.
 
Walking distance: 11.5km / 7.1 miles (moderate trail option)
Elevation gain: 335m / 1,100 feet of ascent and 505m / 1,660 feet of descent
Time required: About 3.5 hours
 

The more challenging option begins with the 3.5 hour moderate rural trail and then adds the more urban cultural temple walk of 9.2km / 5.7 miles along mostly flat paved roads.
 

Accommodation: Hot-spring Ryokan (Travellers Inn) or Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 - Tokushima (Temple 20 to 21)

Travel by pre-paid taxi to one of the most beautiful and varied hikes on the entire 88 Pilgrimage route. After a short but steep uphill walk to Temple 20 Kakurin-ji, the trail descends to the hamlet of Anan, crosses the Nakagawa River and climbs again to Temple 21 Tairyu-ji. End the day with a cable car ride with wonderful views over a cedar forest and the small town below. Travel by bus to your accommodation for the evening.
 
Walking distance: 11.4km / 7.1 miles
Elevation gain: 900m / 2,960 feet ascent and 490m / 1,600 feet descent
Time required: About 5 hours
 

The walk can be shortened to about 3 hours (8.2km / 5.1 miles). Simply pay locally to extend the taxi ride on the day - no need to decide in advance.

 
Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers Inn) or Hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 5 - Kagawa (Temple 82 to 80)

Leaving Tokushima, travel by train, bus and finally pre-booked and pre-paid taxi to a rewarding hike in northern Kagawa Prefecture. Walk through lovely scenery and visit a fine collection of temples - Temple 82 Negoro-ji, Temple 81 Shiromine-ji and finally Temple 80 Kokubun-ji. Travel onwards by train for an overnight stay in the old hot-spring town of Kotohira Spa.
 
Walking distance: 13.5km / 8.4 miles
Elevation gain: 335m / 1,100 feet ascent and 655m / 2,150 feet descent
Time required: About 5 hours
 
The walk can be shortened by 1.5 hours (5.4km / 3.4 miles) by omitting the round-trip section to Temple 81 Shiromine-ji.
 

Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers Inn)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Typical Accommodation

Kotobuki Ryokan

Kotobuki is a small, family-run riverside inn near a charming, old-fashioned shopping arcade in Kotohira Spa. The hosts prepare refined, seasonal meals using locally-grown produce and there are baths made of Hinoki cypress.

 

Day 6 - Tour ends

After breakfast, spend some time exploring Kotohira Spa. Board a train after lunch for the return journey to Osaka or Kyoto, arriving late afternoon.

 

 

Meals: Breakfast