The fourth-largest of Japan's islands, Shikoku is home to the 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail. Fascinating aspects of this deeply spiritual route include how little is known of its origins, and its mysterious connection with Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism. Pilgrims have walked the trails for 1200 years and even today we will see pilgrims in their distinctive attire and white cloaks throughout the island. The full pilgrimage route encircles Shikoku and connects 88 Buddhist temples, covering more than a thousand kilometers. Pilgrims, known in Japanese as Ohenro, traditionally did the journey from temple to temple on foot over many weeks.
Our tour selects the best of the walking trails through lovely landscapes. We visit all four of Shikoku's prefectures - Tokushima in the east, Kagawa in the north, Ehime in the west, and Kochi in the south. Each region has its own distinctive character, foods and scenery. In addition to the pilgrimage trail, our journey includes the remote Iya Valley, deep in the heart of Shikoku. We begin our journey with a stay on Mount Koya, the hilltop temple complex on Honshu established by Kobo Daishi, and an important location for Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage devotees. Public transport in the rural areas of Shikoku is limited and we will travel mainly by private chartered vehicle, but we will still enjoy walking along the ancient route from temple to temple through countryside and forest. We will stay in traditional country inns enjoying regional cuisine prepared from local ingredients from the island, soak in natural hot springs, and enjoy the exceptional hospitality of our hosts.