Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage self-guided 8 days in Tokushima, Kagawa and Ehime

The trail towards enlightenment

Highlights

  • Walk on the loveliest parts of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail in Tokushima, Kagawa and Ehime
  • Visit some of the most atmospheric temples on the trail
  • Spend two nights in a Shukubo temple lodging, with authentic Shojin-Ryori Buddhist vegetarian cuisine
  • Experience an authentic pilgrimage journey with demanding hikes of up to 8 hours
  • Bathe in natural thermal waters at historic Dogo Onsen
  • Climb the iconic ladder to the meditation spot used by Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism
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 Day 5, 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

  • 7 nights at Japanese inns on Shikoku Island
  • 7 breakfasts and 6 dinners
  • Round-trip transportation from Kyoto or Osaka & 5 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 (Temples 11 to 12)

Travel south from your Shukubo pilgrims lodging by pre-booked and pre-paid taxi to Temple 11 Fujii-dera, located at the bottom of a fascinating hillside temple complex. From Fujii-dera undertake a challenging hike to Temple 12 Shosan-ji. The full walk is one of the longest and most strenuous on the tour, but very rewarding with beautiful scenery. Walk onwards to Yorii and board a bus to the small Onsen village of Kamiyama and your inn for the evening.

 

Walking distance: 19.2km / 11.9 miles
Elevation gain: 1,330m / 4,365 feet of ascent and 1,210m / 3,970 feet of descent
Time required: About 7-8 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: Hot-spring Ryokan (Travellers Inn) or Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner 

Day 3 - Tokushima (Temples 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 4 - Kagawa (Temples 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 5 - Ehime (Temples 57 to 58)

Leaving Kagawa, travel by train to Imabari in northern Ehime and begin your hike to Temple 57 Eifuku-ji. The walk gradually passes from urban townscape to rural farming communities before entering a forest with a steady climb to Temple 58 Senyū-ji. Visit Eifuku-ji and Senyū-ji and there is also an optional detour to Temple 56 Taisan-ji. Overnight at Senyū-ji in the Shukubo pilgrims lodgings at the temple, or alternatively stay in a western-style hotel in Imabari City.

 

Walking distance: 4.4km / 2.7 miles
Elevation gain: 250m / 820 feet ascent and negligible descent
Time required: About 1.5 hours

 

Accommodation: Shukubo (Pilgrims Lodging) or Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6 - Ehime (Temple 58 onwards)

The hike continues with a gentle walk down the mountain from Senyū-ji, with the opportunity to explore small village settlements on the way. Return to the town of Imabari, with an optional paved town hike on to Temple 59 Iyo Kokubun-ji and continue onwards to Matsuyama by train and overnight in Dogo Onsen.

 

Walking distance: 4.4km / 2.7 miles
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and 250m / 820 feet descent
Time required: About 1 hour


An optional paved walk of 4.1km (2.5 miles) can also extend the hike by a further 1.5 hours.

 

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

 

Typical Accommodation

Sachiya Ryokan

This charming inn in the heart of Dogo Onsen is run by a friendly family with exceptional service, beautiful Japanese rooms, exquisite cuisine and lovely thermal baths.

Day 7 - Ehime (Temples 45 to 44)

Head south by bus and pre-paid taxi from Matsuyama to Temple 45 Iwaya-ji, a temple closely linked to Kōbō Daishi - the priest who founded Shingon Buddhism and Mount Koya. Climb the iconic ladder to his meditation spot, with its spectacular views over the surrounding region. From Iwaya-ji, enjoy a lovely forest hike to Temple 44 Daiho-ji before returning by bus to Matsuyama in the evening. Overnight in Dogo Onsen.

 

Walking distance: 11.7km / 7.3 miles
Elevation gain: 650m / 2,130 feet ascent and 580m / 1,900 feet descent
Time required: About 4 hours

 

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

 

Typical Accommodation

Sachiya Ryokan

This charming inn in the heart of Dogo Onsen is run by a friendly family with exceptional service, beautiful Japanese rooms, exquisite cuisine and lovely thermal baths.

 

 

Day 8 - Ehime (Temples 60 to 62)

The tour ends with a rewarding hike in the east of Ehime Prefecture. Travel by bus and pre-paid taxi from Matsuyama to reach the trail and walk to Temple 60 Yokomine-ji, Temple 61 Kōon-ji and onwards to Temple 62 Hoju-ji. The walk passes through a rural area of Shikoku and the temples are in lovely natural settings. After the hike, travel onwards by train to the Kansai area, arriving mid-evening.
 
Walking distance: 13.7km / 8.5 miles
Elevation gain: 620m / 2,050 feet ascent and 870m / 3,850 feet descent
Time required: About 4-5 hours
 

You can reduce the hike by about one hour to 11.3km / 7 miles, avoiding the first uphill section. Simply pay locally to extend the taxi ride to Temple 60 Yokomine-ji. Choose on the day - no need to decide in advance.

 
Meals: Breakfast