A very dear friend of mine, and her husband, left yesterday for Shikoku, in Japan, for a pilgrimage that can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 months to complete!
The pilgrimage consists of visiting 88 temples, in a 1.200 km loop around the island of Shikoku. These temples are said to have been established or restored by the Buddhist monk Kūkai, better known by his posthumous title Kōbō Daishi. The map to the left gives a good eyeview of the island and the trek. Some diehards walk the entire distance, while some others use bikes, motorbikes, cars or buses to complete it.
Pilgrims, known as ‘o-henro-san’ (henro means pilgrim) can be spotted in the temples and roadsides of Shikoku clad in a white jacket emblazoned with the characters Dōgyō Ninin, which means ‘two traveling together’ — the other traveler being the spirit of Kōbō Daishi. The white gear, and pointy hats, identify them as pilgrims, making them very special in the eyes of the locals who then are very helpful and hospitable to them.
This pilgrimage is more than a thousand years old with over 100,000 visitors each year, through the year, in all seasons. It isn’t exactly a walk in the park so do your homework if you wish to go. Preparation would include learning at least a smattering of Japanese, to look for lodgings and food between temple visits, and training for fitness would be equally important if the trek were done by foot! Are you thinking of going? Well, then, sayonara (farewell in Japanese)! Don’t forget to write home 🙂