Shikoku Pilgrimage
A Guide For Non-Japanese

Concept Map


Newly born babies are just one body, but as they live their lives and the years pile up, everything, from the necessary to the unnecessary, begins to adhere to them. Then when death comes, we are wrapped up in family, all of the possessions we leave behind, flowers, memories, …

What about stopping here and throwing yourself with impartiality into all things; into pure nature, into the universe, into the simplicity of surrendering yourself to natural and spontaneous activity, just like plants and animals. The world of simplicity lies there.

It is OK to go on the pilgrimage alone. In order to live a better life, we should undertake the pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage is extraordinarily profound, but we have elusive general ideas about it. Yet even with the endless wondering to ourselves, loitering among the uncertainties that come and go, over and over again, there is a “you” that sets out on pilgrimage once again. Thus, this sacred journey where people seek a mental and emotional high ground has no end. Being a human means being a pilgrim.

The purpose of this book is to alleviate the anxiety that non-Japanese pilgrims, who know little, compared to Japanese pilgrims, might have about the weather, the history, and the many other aspects of the pilgrimage. I have comprehensively collected information and put together concise summaries of each area. The intended reader is a walking pilgrim, but because I have also included information for other types of pilgrims, such as those who undertake it by car, please refer to those sections that are appropriate and essential for you.

Chapter 22, Legends & Folklore Found Along The Pilgrimage, was compiled with the purpose of allowing non-Japanese who walk the pilgrimage to understand the meaning and historical background of the things they see and hear while on the walk so that they can have a deeper understanding of the pilgrimage and its significance.

Regarding the religious theme of the pilgrimage, this book was edited while paying constant attention to maximum nonsectarianism, but given the differences in individual understanding and interpretation, in areas where you think there is too much or too little content, please be understanding.

Naoyuki Matsushita
Translated and edited from Japanese by David Turkington

Back to Top Page

Back to Top Page

1. What Is The Pilgrimage?

The Shikoku Pilgrimage (also referred to as the OHenro) is a magnificent pilgrimage to eighty-eight sacred temples dotted around the island of Shikoku, where it is said that Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) [774—835] performed ascetic religious practices. A journey of 1,142 km, this is, I think, an activity allowing pilgrims to approach a state of enlightenment while surrounded by such treasures as the sacred temples, natural roadside scenery, climate, people, culture, and stone Buddhas.

Furthermore, in modern times, besides religious ascetic practices, the pilgrimage is undertaken for many other reasons, such as recovery from an illness, memorializing the death of a close relative, and praying for the well-being of your household. Other purposes are wishing for healing and enrichment of your heart & mind, health, refreshing your spirit, mountaineering and hiking, and tourism. Indeed, in modern times people have begun to see this as a healing and therapeutic journey.

Because the nature of the pilgrimage is a “sacred journey of ascetic training,” people along the route will warmly, yet solemnly, come out to greet you. Having said that, and without thinking too narrowly, from the beginning this has been a journey that offers the possibility of rediscovering who you are as faith is born and you have the opportunity to reexamine yourself.

What’s more, the door is wide open and regardless of your nationality, gender, age, social status, clothing, etc., you will be welcomed by all.

While walking, numerous ideas will cross your mind, such as whether certain of your past actions were right or not, or repeatedly thinking back on things you have seen and heard along the route, and then coming up with answers about it all for yourself. The Shikoku Pilgrimage is an extraordinary space that grants you opportunities such as these.

So why Shikoku?

Rather than reaching a destination, what is important for the pilgrim’s journey is the journey itself. It is possible, through your own actions, to achieve a sense of spiritual fulfillment and accomplishment. In addition, along the pilgrim’s journey various difficult situations will be encountered: steep mountain trails, long monotonous paved roads, rain, and getting lost. One-by-one, these become unforgettable memories and may have some effect later in your life. Of course you can find these personal experiences on other trails as well. But on Shikoku, along the route spiritual temples serve as rites of passage. The Shikoku pilgrimage combines, on the one hand, nature’s abundance and bright, clear climate, with, on the other hand, a place to calmly face the sad fact of the ephemerality of life.

At each of the temples you receive a temple stamp in your pilgrimage book as proof of your visit, but besides collecting the stamps, the meaning, the significance of the journey is to accumulate countless meaningful experiences, so this is not simply a “stamp rally.” The pilgrimage is where you can refresh not just your body, but your heart, mind, and spirit.

The 1,142 km route is divided into four stages (dōjō; ascetic training areas) and these form a skillful production.


Going clockwise:
Tokushima Prefecture (Awa): The Dōjō of Resolving To Awaken. Making this resolution and beginning to take action.
Kōchi Prefecture (Tosa): The Dōjō of Ascetic Practice. Training to raise your spiritual nature.
Ehime Prefecture (Iyo): The Dōjō of Enlightenment. Cutting through worldly passions (klesha) and going towards Amida’s Pure Land.
Kagawa Prefecture (Sanuki): The Dōjō of Nirvana. That transcendent state of liberation where worldly desires have been defeated.

The names in parentheses above are the old regional names used during the feudal period; up to 1868. In Shikoku’s case, though, because the modern prefectures still coincide with the old borders, unlike other areas in Japan, even today these names are routinely used.

Back to Contents

2.The Shikoku Region

Shikoku is the smallest of the four main islands making up the Japanese archipelago. It comprises 5% of the nation’s total land area, 3% of the total population, less than 3% of Japan’s economic strength, and because of its economic development Shikoku’s social capital enhances Japan. A great deal of beautiful nature and a traditional way of living still remain, and this culture makes this a region where you can mingle with warm-hearted local people.

The image of Shikoku in Japanese minds is the natural beauty of the many islands in the calm Seto Inland Sea, and on the other side of the island, the dynamic beauty of the beaches and shorelines on the Pacific coast. Plus, the rural landscapes, temperate climate, and what many people consider as Japan’s oldest onsen, Dōgō Onsen. As for the food culture, many fresh and local specialties can be found, including marine products, Sanuki Udon, and citrus fruits.

Back to Contents

3. The Pilgrimage Season

Temperature, Precipitation, Hours of Sunshine, and Number of Days of Rain (By Month)

The temperature and weather of mid-March to May in spring, and October & November in autumn are most suitable for undertaking the pilgrimage.

In the normal cycle of yearly weather, during the rainy season of June and July there is a lot of rain. In August and September the weather is stable, but this is the season when occasional typhoons will make their appearance. From December to February, the lowest temperatures will be about 0ᵒ C and when a cold wave arrives, in the mountainous regions snow will accumulate and the roads can freeze over. In July and August it is not rare for the highest temperatures to surpass 35ᵒ C, and in the strong sunlight during the day, this leads, every year, to some pilgrims needing emergency transportation due to heat stroke.

Winter Solstice (late December) Sunrise at 7:00am / Sunset at 5:00pm
Summer Solstice (late June) Sunrise at 5:00am / Sunset at 7:20pm

The Seto Inland Sea side of the island has the least amount of rainfall in all of Japan, but the other side of the island, the Pacific Ocean side, is one of areas with the most rain. However, there is no great difference in the total number of days of rainfall between the two areas. That is to say, on the Seto Inland Sea area the rain comes in drizzles while on the Pacific coast the rain pours down.

As for temperature, there is not much difference between the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific sides of the island. Take the season into consideration as you make your preparations.

The Cherry Blossom season is from late March through early April. After this, from late April through early May you can enjoy the new colors as everything turns green. Then in late November there are several temples famous for the color and beauty of the autumn leaves.

As advice for a summer pilgrimage, your activity should take place during the relatively cool mornings and evenings, while during for the mid-day period (about 10:00 to 4:00) you should consider resting in the shade. A half-day before beginning to walk in the mountains, make sure you prepare and have about 2 liters of water to take with you.

As advice for a winter pilgrimage, during daylight activities you can walk without more than the necessary heavy clothes, but when the sun is blocked, the wind-chill will cause the temperature to instantly drop.
What’s more, if you get wet due to rain, you can easily get hypothermia so you need to be scrupulous about staying dry in rainy weather.

As a guideline for choosing general clothing, June through September is the season for short-sleeve shirts and shorts, while December through February is the season for down wear.

Given these different weather conditions, when the conditions are suitable, the number of pilgrims will increase very quickly, especially on weekends and national holidays, and when pilgrim bus tours arrive at a temple, for example, there will be long waiting times at the stamp office. In these cases, get the temple stamp before worshiping at the temple, or, conversely, make practical use of the waiting time by studying the details of the temple. Because this is a journey of ascetic practice, don’t selfishly get angry at the situation.

Back to Contents

4. The Number of Days Required and Elevation/Distance Data

Elevation and Distance Map Legend:

Since there are individual differences in the number of days required to walk the pilgrimage, it is impossible to categorically say how long it will take. However, as a registered surveyor, I have carefully measured distances and elevation and laid these out in Figure 2: Elevation & Distance Map, which you can refer to as you make your plans. The plan was devised while considering the location of possible lodging for each day’s start and goal, as well as allowing the time required at each temple’s stamp office (30 minutes). The plan assumes a person of average strength and endurance, walking 3.5 km/hr (2.0 km/hr on unpaved trails in mountainous regions). There are many pilgrimage routes and I have mapped what is considered the standard route, using the GIS application, PC-Mapping.

I should add, though, that all measured distances are horizontal distances and do not take into account the extra distance that slopes will add.

Activity time is assumed to be 7:00am—5:00pm, with lunch and break time included.
Elevation and Distance Map.
Total Distance: (Temple 1—Temple 1) = 1,142 km; (Temple 1—Temple 88) = 1.096.5km.

Route Elevation Gain and Loss

The below chart gives the total elevation gain and loss between any two consecutive temples along the route.

SectionGain (m)Loss (m)SectionGain (m)Loss (m)
1-2 11 -13 46-47 18 -15
2-3 22 -28 47-48 2 -51
3-4 115 -55 48-49 16 -8
4-5 11 -68 49-50 39 -25
5-6 27 -24 50-51 31 -46
6-7 26 -3 51-52 122 -103
7-8 92 -24 52-53 7 -74
8-9 0 -79 53-54 293 -274
9-10 137 -9 54-55 49 -68
10-11 72 -193 55-56 15 0
11-12 1,369 -700 56-57 33 -9
12-13 569 -1,251 57-58 254 -43
13-14 41 -34 58-59 31 -266
14-15 3 -21 59-60 886 -153
15-16 2 -7 61-61 255 -984
16-17 1 -3 61-62 7 -14
17-18 111 -43 62-63 8 -7
18-19 52 -125 63-64 43 -29
19-20 574 -76 64-65 765 -444
20-21 485 -477 65-66 1,045 -484
21-22 260 -723 66-67 112 -954
22-23 267 -286 67-68 38 -91
23-24 702 -562 68-69 0 0
24-25 62 -212 69-70 22 -28
25-26 169 -23 70-71 256 -48
26-27 672 -401 71-72 66 -242
27-28 256 -615 72-73 52 -1
28-29 30 -89 73-74 9 -82
29-30 80 -81 74-75 11 -4
30-31 157 -49 75-76 6 -16
31-32 135 -171 76-77 2 -17
32-33 25 -107 77-78 39 -23
33-34 35 -31 78-79 36 -35
34-35 154 -29 79-80 56 -43
35-36 306 -396 80-81 433 -184
36-37 1,322 -1,152 81-82 312 -238
37-38 1,322 -1,535 82-83 119 -440
38-39 830 -790 83-84 299 -50
39-40 963 -985 84-85 236 -299
40-41 1,362 -1,202 85-86 53 -274
41-42 68 -55 86-87 62 -27
42-43 457 -374 87-88 770 -359
43-44 1,688 -1,394 88-1 879 -1,305
44-45 640 -632      
45-46 907 -1,394 total 24,376 -24,376

Elevation Acquisition:
Elevation data was calculated with PC-Mapping on the basis of the Geological Survey Institute’s base cartographic numerical elevation data, 5 meter and 10 meter grids.

Adding The 20 Bekkaku Temple Data

The 20 bekkaku temples didn’t officially organize until 1966, which means there is no “traditional" pilgrimage route between them. To measure the distance that visiting the 20 bekkaku temples adds to the main pilgrimage, I used data measured along general roads, including those used for the main pilgrimage route. The distance was calculated as follows:

  • Detouring off the main pilgrimage route when necessary to visit all 20 bekkaku temples: 594.3 km.
  • Visiting only those bekkaku temples that are located on the main pilgrimage route: 432.2 km.
  • Subtracting to find the extra distance: 162.1 km.

Total pilgrimage (88 main temples + 20 bekkaku temples): 1,141.7 km + 162.1 km = 1,303.8 km.

Bekkaku Temple Elevation (Mail Hall):
1. Taisanji:
2. Dogakuji:
3. Jigenji:
4. Saba Daishi:
5. Daizenji:
6. Ryukoin:
7. Shussekiji:
8. Toyogahashi:
9. Monjuin:
10. Koryuji:
11. Ikiki Jizo:
12. Emmeiji:
13. Senryuji:
14. Tsubakido:
15. Hashikuraji:
16. Hagiwaraji:
17. Kannoji:
18. Kaiganji:
19. Kozaiji:
20. Otakiji:

Note: Main 88 Temple Data is recorded in the Elevation & Distance Map.

Back to Contents

5. Approaches To Walking The Pilgrimage

Don’t obsess about the entire pilgrimage. When considering your travel plans and the amount of time you can stay on Shikoku, even if you walk only one section of the pilgrimage you can experience the pilgrimage culture for yourself.

Because only people with surplus time and money can walk the entire distance, you should make a plan that it is possible for you to accomplish considering your own circumstances and consultations with family and friends. Please don’t worry, the pilgrimage isn’t disappearing, perhaps you will have the chance to experience the pilgrimage again. But, walking the pilgrimage more than once has come to be called “Shikoku Sickness.”


Walking in a clockwise direction (junuchi) you walk to each of the temples in numerical order. I strongly recommend that people unfamiliar with the geography of Shikoku walk in a clockwise direction. Because route markers are maintained at every turn in this direction, even first time walkers can probably walk the route, even without the guide maps, if they stay on the standard route.

When pilgrims worship at a temple, we say they “strike” the temple. This is because, formerly, pilgrims would nail a wooden or metal votive card to the temple building itself while worshiping, but because this damages the buildings it is forbidden today.

Currently many people walk the pilgrimage in a clockwise direction beginning at Temple 1, but before transportation facilities were fully developed, in the case of Tokushima Prefecture, people would take a ferry to Naruto and walk from Temple 1, or they would start at Temple 17 and then from there visit Temples 16, 15, 14, 13, 11, 12, and 18. After this they would continue around the island visiting the temples in order up to Temple 88 and then walk to Temple 10 and continue from there to Temple 1. In the case of Ehime Prefecture, people would take a ferry to Takahama (in Matsuyama) and then walk in a clockwise direction finishing their walk at Temple 51. In the case of Kagawa Prefecture, they would take a ferry to Marugame and begin walking at Temple 78.There was a great deal of freedom in how people went around the island.

In these cases, we didn’t have the idea that the pilgrimage was comprised of four dōjō, or stages of training. It is now understood that the concept of four dōjō was attached to the pilgrimage at a later time.


Walking counterclockwise, opposite the numbering of the temples, is called gyakuuchi. Because, when walking in the counterclockwise direction, it is easy to overlook all the route markers that are in place for clockwise walkers, you have to be resigned to getting lost frequently. However, since walking counterclockwise is difficult, as noted above, when compared to walking clockwise, it is generally said that the counterclockwise direction offers three times more benefit. Even today it is said that, because Kōbō Daishi performed ascetic practices while walking in the clockwise direction, those that walk counterclockwise increase their chances of encountering him (and gaining merit). In any case, these explanations can be conjectured to be from 1980 and later, the time route markers began being maintained. In the period when Takamure Itsue walked the pilgrimage in 1918 (when she was 24, and written about in her book Musume Junreiki), both clockwise and counterclockwise walks were looked on as identical.


Tooshiuchi is when you walk the entire pilgrimage in one walk.


Kugiriuchi is when you don’t walk the entire pilgrimage in one walk, but, for example, divide the route into sections and walk to the temples in those sections on different weekends. That is, rather than covering the entire route, you visit only those sections that you decide in your plan. In this case, you use public transportation to get to and from the starting and finishing points for each separate walk.

The particular section from Temples 71 to 78 has a historical significance and calls itself the “7-Temple Mairi,” or “7-Temple Pilgrimage.” It can be walked in one day and has its own special pilgrimage book.


Completing the pilgrimage and visiting all 88 temples is called kechigan. Visiting all eighty-eight of the temples in order is irrelevant, the 88th temple you visit is called the “Kechigan Temple.” Another way of thinking says that kechigan is visiting all 88 temples and then returning to the temple from which you started, or the nearest temple to that, and completing the circle. In either case, after kechigan, it is common as a culmination of your pilgrimage, to travel to Mt. Kōya and report the fact to Kōbō Daishi. However, I cannot verify that this visit to Mt. Kōya took place before World War 2, even when researching all sorts of pre-War descriptions of Mt. Kōya (with the exception of Chōzen’s book, Shikoku Henro Nikki, written in 1653).


Regarding kechigan, mentioned above, oreimairi is where, after finishing worshiping at all 88 temples, you return to the temple where you started, or the nearest temple to that, and offer a prayer as thank you for having finished.

Back to Contents

6. How To Get Around The Island

There are many ways that people do this pilgrimage. It certainly isn’t wrong to say that the standard way is to walk, but everyone has their own personal circumstances that affect their ability to do so, such as those who have disabilities. Therefore, where there is a compelling reason to do the pilgrimage, as a rule, those that don’t walk the pilgrimage should not look down on themselves.

As a method of getting around, the fact is there is a strong tendency to use convenient modes of transportation when the purpose is tourism.

Walking Pilgrimage

This is the style that emphasizes tradition and ascetic training, but it is also the most expensive and requires the most number of days. It also requires the most strength and stamina as you will be walking every day.

Carefully think about the equipment you take. It is necessary to objectively understand your own strength and to pay careful attention to managing your physical condition while you walk. If you can’t keep up with the plan you made before starting, it is important to have the time and mental composure to adapt and change your schedule as necessary.

According to the media, you see values such as 1,400 km and 1,200 km as the total distance for the pilgrimage, but I can say that the values listed in this book and in Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide are the most accurate.

In general, most walking pilgrims aim for 30 km/day when walking on level sections of the route.

If you notice problems with your body or feet, it is important to stop and look into their condition and care for them immediately, without waiting to see what happens. (For example, by taking cold medicine, icing sore spots, stretching, taping, or adding support to a joint).

Many uncertainties will arise during your walk, such as changes in natural conditions or getting lost. Because things don’t always go as planned, understand that it may become necessary to face the fact that you might be forced to take days off because of an accident, or even be forced to give up and quit.

As you walk throughout the day, because the body is freshest in the mornings, this is the most favorable time to walk longer distances. Since fatigue occasionally accumulates in the afternoons and your pace drops accordingly, you can help prevent this by drastically slowing your pace and taking short breaks earlier than originally planned.

More importantly, so that you can walk continuously it is recommended that you carefully train in conditions similar to what you expect to encounter before beginning the walk.

If you walk the entire pilgrimage, but do not visit the bekkaku temples, the time required is usually about 45 days. If you also visit the bekkaku temples, the total time is about 50-55 days.

Bicycle Pilgrimage

Because there are unpaved sections of the route in the mountains, you are not always able to follow the same route as walking pilgrims. Therefore, please look for the special, separate Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide Index Map and Tourism Shikoku’s Pilgrimage pamphlet at, which make it easier to find roads that are possible for bicyclists to ride on. In Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, unpaved roads are indicated by gray single lines and labeled as “Walk Roads*” in the legend at the front of the book.

With the exception of Temple 45, bicyclists can get to the area around the main hall at all of the temples, including the bekkaku temples, but some of the temples are located at the top of steep slopes that will be difficult for bicyclists climb. In these cases, consider leaving your bicycle at a lodge or shop at the bottom of the mountain. When asking permission to leave your bicycle somewhere, ideally you would show your feelings of gratitude. In Japanese society, offering money would be considered impolite by the person you are offering it to, so the ideal would be to offer something inexpensive, such as a small souvenir from your country or one of your pilgrim name slips (and note that this is not limited to just bicycle pilgrims).

In cases where you are unable to leave your bicycle somewhere, leave your bicycle in a suitable place at the bottom of the mountain, but be sure to lock it and take all of your possessions with you.

If you need to take your bicycle on public transportation, keep in mind that while it is possible on trains, they are not permitted on local buses and highway buses. When you do travel on public transportation with your bicycle, it is necessary to take the front and back wheels off and put them, and the entire body of the bicycle, in a bag. Additionally, you can put the bicycle on the all ferry.
If you put them in a bag too, and bring in passenger room as baggage with you, in cases your payment is only passenger fare, but if you put them as light vehicle like other cars without apart, you will pay additional light vehicle fare.
If you do the entire pilgrimage by bicycle, it should take about 20 days to complete.

Automobile Pilgrimage

It is possible to use your own car or a rental car. This makes the pilgrimage possible for people with disabilities. You can also go on the pilgrimage without regard to the season or even if you have a lot of luggage. Even if there is no lodging near a temple, there will be many places to stay in the larger cities nearby that you can travel to with a car, and this gives you a great degree of freedom as you plan your pilgrimage. It is necessary to understand Japan’s traffic rules and regulations, and because a traffic accident would force large changes in your travel plans, please use sufficient caution when driving. At car rental companies, it may be possible to request a multi-lingual navigation system in your rental car.

Automobile pilgrimages usually take about 10 days.

Motorcycle Pilgrimage

Like automobile pilgrimages, motorcycles offer much higher degrees of freedom. In terms of the amount of luggage you can carry, there isn’t much difference between this and a bicycle pilgrimage. Even though the roads leading to mountaintop temples are paved they are often long, narrow winding roads, so be sure to drive carefully.

Public Transportation Pilgrimage

If you use trains and buses, it is possible to get near most of the temples. There is a particularly effective chart for this in Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, but you can get detailed regional information by asking at local lodging or at the information offices listed at the back of this book.

Depending on your stamina, you could also consider using trains and buses to cover the long distances between some of the temples while walking the shorter sections. When you want to use a train, buy a ticket to your desired destination at the station where you board the train. At stations with no attendants, buy your ticket from the ticket vending machine that has been installed there, or, after boarding the train, take a numbered ticket from the machine by the entry door (which verifies where you boarded the train) and buy your ticket from the train conductor. You can use a credit card at the “Midori No Madoguchi” (Green Window) found in the majority of stations where a limited express train makes a stop.

When boarding a bus, board through the back door and take a numbered ticket from the machine by the door, which verifies where you boarded the bus. There will be a money-changing machine at the front of the bus, but avoid using 10,000 yen bills. Pay your fare as you get off the bus at the front door.

In areas where there is no train service, such as near Cape Muroto and the Shimanto, Ashizuri, and Ainan regions, the local bus services are quite well developed. In addition, because you can always escape to a large city by using an Intercity Bus, ask for information about these at places such as your lodging.

Small Bus or Taxi Pilgrimage

Small groups of friends can get together and charter small busses or taxis. This is effective mainly for small groups of 7-8 people, and especially for the elderly or those unable to walk, who can then share the cost of the charter.

Some taxi companies rent out taxis for tours where the driver is also a “sendatsu,” a registered pilgrimage guide. Using this option allows people to have private tours, but Japanese will be the only language spoken. Because you are hiring the driver, it is necessary to pay his personal expenses and lodging expenses while on the tour.

Because parking lots can be quite a distance from the main hall at some temples, and at others the approach to the main hall requires climbing long flights of stairs, commercial vehicles are given special access to areas nearer to the main hall than non-commercial pilgrims are allowed to access.

Each company offers their own specific tour plans, but in general, if there are 2 or more people in the group the cost will be ¥500,000 and up, and it will take 8 days or more to complete the pilgrimage.

Tour Bus Pilgrimage

Travel companies arrange the entire itinerary, including the daily schedule, meals, and lodging. They offer various plans, including trips that cover the entire pilgrimage and those that cover shorter sections. A guide, called a “sendatsu,” accompanies the pilgrims and gives detailed explanations of many topics, thus making it easy for pilgrims to deepen their knowledge of the pilgrimage and to gain a better mastery of the sutras than walking pilgrims. Other than the company Walking Softly, tours that offer foreign language services do not exist. Travel companies assume that no non-Japanese will participate in their tours so if you want to participate in one of these tours, it is essential that you have some understanding of the Japanese language.

Bus tours covering the entire pilgrimage cost between ¥210,000 and ¥250,000, and usually take between 9 and 12 days to complete.

See, for example:

Back to Contents

7.Cost and ATMs

Necessary expenses for a walking pilgrimage (approximate): Lodging, food, temples, and more.

Lodging Expenses
Zenkonyado (no meals included) ¥0—¥4,000
Minshuku (2 meals included) ¥5,500—¥7,500
Ryokan (2 meals included) ¥5,500—¥20,000
Business Hotel (no meals included) ¥3,000—¥8,000
Hotel (no meals included) ¥6,500—¥40,000
Temple lodging (2 meals included) ¥6,000—¥8,500
Food Expenses
Breakfast: ¥300 and up Restaurants and cafes/coffee shops (kissaten) have an inexpensive set menu called “morning service.”
Lunch: ¥350 and up Restaurants and cafes/coffee shops (kissaten) have an inexpensive set menu called “lunch service” that is offered during the week, but not on Saturday or Sunday.
Temple Offerings and Stamps
Temple offerings (at both Main Hall & Daishi Hall; but optional) ¥10—¥100
Temple stamp in pilgrimage book ¥300/temple
Temple stamp on back of hakui (white overcoat) ¥200/temple
Temple stamp on hanging scroll ¥500/temple


Other charges will be incurred, but these depend on each individual person:
Telecommunication charges, snacks, drinks (water or other), health & hygiene products, medicine, train fares, bus fares, etc.

Total Cost

If walking the entire pilgrimage at one time, the total cost will be about ¥400,000 (less than ¥10,000/day)
A bicycle pilgrimage will cast about ¥200,000.
If doing the pilgrimage by automobile, the cost should be about ¥150,000. Rental car costs are extra and depend on the make and model of the car you rent; averaging about ¥70,000—¥130,000.


  1. Expenses vary per person. The above include only the necessary expenses like lodging and food; other expenses, like souvenirs, are not included.
  2. Travel expenses related to getting to Shikoku are not included.
  3. Equipment expenses, like clothing and shoes, will add an additional ¥40,000—¥50,000


If you walk the entire pilgrimage at one time, it will take more than one month. In order to reduce the risk of crime or loss you should not carry a lot of cash on a daily basis. Instead, as you expend money for the necessary expenses, you can regularly replace what you spend as you make your way around the island. There are a great number of lodging facilities (hotels), restaurants, super markets, convenience stores, etc. that accept credit cards issued outside of Japan, but because most privately run minshuku and shops still do not accept them, cash is required and carrying cash is the most reliable plan.

In order to get Japanese yen with credit cards or cash cards issued outside Japan, there are two methods available:

1) Post Office International ATM Service

Because there are a great many post office ATMs along the route, these are very available. Please inquire at the financial institution that issued your card for information regarding service charges and withdrawal fees.

For current information, see:  "
Credit cards that can be used are: VISA, VISAELECTRON, PLUS, Master Card, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, Diners Club, JCB, China Unionpay, and DISCOVER (as of December, 2015)
English operating instructions can be displayed on the main screen of the ATMs, making it very easy to get Japanese yen.

Operating hours differ for each location, but the hours of availability are generally weekdays, 8:45am—5:30pm, and Saturday, 9:00am—12:30pm. At facilities in the center of towns they are also open on Sunday and national holidays between 9:00am—2:00pm. There are 16 public holidays in Japan throughout the year. Please plan carefully during the periods January 1 through January 3 and April 29 through May 5 as weekends and public holidays are combined during these periods to make long vacation periods.

2) Convenience Store ATMs (7 Eleven)

Open 24 hours a day, every day, including Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Fees and other details vary depending on the financial institution issuing the card used.

See the 7 Eleven ATM website: ""
Credit cards that can be used are: VISA, PLUS, Master Card, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, JCB, China Unionpay, DISCOVER, and Diners Club (as of December, 2015)

Operating instructions can be displayed in English Korean, Chinese, and Portuguese.

As of February 2016, there are about 300 7 Elevens and this number seems to be increasing annually.

Traveler’s Checks

Traveler’s checks (American Express only) can be exchanged for Japanese yen at the following 14 post offices branches (US $, Canadian $, Australian $, British £, Chinese元, and Korean won).
Tokushima Central, Naruto, Komatsushima, Aki, Kōchi Central, Kōchi South, Matsuyama Central, Imabari, Niihama, Kannonji, Marugame, Sakaide, Takamatsu Central, and Takamatsu South Post Office.

In addition, at these post offices, air mail letters can be sent for prices from ¥92 and small parcels can be sent internationally.

Foreign Exchange on Shikoku

At the above listed post offices, non-Japanese currency can be exchanged for Japanese yen. Currencies accepted: US $, Canadian $, Euro, British £, Swiss Franc, Australian $, Chinese元, and Korean won. Open until 4:00pm.

If you happen to stay in the Clement Takamatsu hotel in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, the hotel offers exchange services so you can exchange cash between yen and your country’s currency right at the hotel. Both yen and foreign currencies may be limited.

If you arrive at Matsuyama Airport in Ehime Prefecture on an international flight, the Iyo Bank branch at the airport will exchange cash in your country’s currency for yen, if you do so within 2 hours of arrival. Both yen and foreign currencies may be limited.

In general, though, exchanges at banks are not permitted for those without a bank account at that institution.

Back to Contents

8. Walking: Advice for planning your pilgrimage

Dining and Shopping

In towns and urban areas, restaurants, cafes/coffee shops (kissaten), and convenience stores are plentiful. Outside of these areas their numbers decrease, but there is no risk of the rural stores being out of stock of supplies. Because many regions have local specialty foods, it is a good idea to ask local people you meet about these.

Tap water is always good to drink, everywhere, although water used in toilets may or may not be (in case you are camping and desperate), depending on location. Beverages can be purchased from vending machines all along the route and the machines accept change or ¥1,000 yen notes. While there are pilgrims who do the pilgrimage as ascetic spiritual practice, there are no prohibitions to drinking alcohol or smoking. This is strictly a personal decision.

Convenience Stores Retail operations offering many kinds and varieties of goods. Open long hours, 7 days a week, all year long, with no holidays. Some of the goods for sale: food, beverages, pastries, first aid supplies, washing detergent, bathing and washing supplies, underwear, cosmetics, insecticides, batteries, stationary supplies, newspapers, magazines, and much more.
Supermarkets They have fixed days off and shorter operating hours than convenience stores.
Drug Stores Offer goods such as medicine, health and hygiene supplies, and occasionally food for light meals. As with supermarkets, prices are a bit lower.

Toilets (Bathrooms)

This is an important issue for walking pilgrims outside of urban areas. In Japan, bathrooms are called the “toilet;” this word does not refer solely to the actual toilet that you use, but the room where the toilet is located. (The bath will always be located in a separate room called the furo, or ofuro).

In addition to at all of the temples, bathrooms (toilets) can be found at train stations, convenience stores, super markets, city & town halls, cafes/coffee shops, restaurants, and public parks. In emergencies, consult with the local people you meet. Some bathrooms at train stations are inside and not available to the general public. In these cases, if you ask any of the station employees, they will most likely be very willingly let you use them.

Please keep in mind that there are people whose job it is to manage and keep public bathrooms clean. Please offer thoughts of gratitude for these people when using them. If you use a privately managed bathroom, offer thanks and a few coins as a sign of your gratitude. In many of these bathrooms, Ususama Myōō is enshrined and the flames around his statue are thought to purify the space.

I have verified the locations of many bathrooms in field surveys and this information is included in Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, but some of these may be rather unclean and people may hesitate to use them.


Each day’s walk entails, of course, leaving one lodge in the morning and arriving at your next lodge that evening. This is repeated every day. When making each day’s plans, one of the more important factors to consider is the distance between these lodgings. In cases where there are no inns in the area where you had hoped to stop for the night, it will be necessary to stop at an inn somewhere before that point.

The first thing to do upon arriving at lodging each night is to wash the bottom of your walking staff and then to start washing your clothes. After this, baths are taken and then dinner is served. Meals are served in the dining hall and all pilgrims eat together. This is a time full of spur of the moment pleasures as everyone has walked the same roads on the same day and stories and information are exchanged by all. Don’t forget to make your plans for the next day during the evening as well.


Laundry can be done at each night’s lodging. There are some inns that will ask you when you arrive if you have laundry to do and do it for you as osettai, even though the machines are coin operated. Usually, just by hanging your laundry in your room it will dry by the time you are ready to depart the next morning, but on very humid nights, for example, they may not. In this case you can use one of the clothes dryers, but it could be quite expensive to get them dry. Some people find it convenient to carry a portable dryer to dry their shoes and other belongings that get wet while walking.

Backpackers will have to use coin laundries. It is undesirable to dress in clothes that make the people you meet uncomfortable. Instructions for using coin laundries will be in Japanese, but there are many with machines big enough to wash large items like blankets. The cost is usually about ¥400—¥1,000 (30—60 minutes).

Another effective strategy is to keep air fresheners with your clothes and equipment.

Asking for help

It is possible to supplement your knowledge and experience by asking people for help as you walk. This may also affect your own personal value judgements. That is, this asking for help can be a kind of spiritual training. Interacting with other people is said to be a distinctive part of the pilgrim’s journey.


There are differences between people, but because of friction between feet and shoes, blisters are a big problem for pilgrims. I have heard of pilgrims who have had to abandon their walk because of the pain and injury caused by blisters. There are no definitive measures that can prevent them, but as some basic countermeasures:

  • Carefully choose shoes that fit your feet and break them in sufficiently before beginning the walk.
  • Because your feet easily tire when walking on asphalt with shoes that have stiff soles, put soft insoles inside the shoes. In this case, though, be sure to choose shoes that are about 0.5 cm larger than usual.
  • As another countermeasure against friction, carry adhesive tape, bandages, blister prevention cream, or other products that you have found effective for you.
  • Because calluses can cause blisters use something like a pumice stone to repair your feet and preserve soft skin.
  • Five-toe socks are available but it is important that your shoes still fit your feet if you wear them.
  • One possibility is to wear thick socks in the mornings and change to thinner socks in the afternoons.
  • If you start to feel discomfort in your feet, don’t take any chances—immediately dry your feet and apply tape to affected areas.
  • I personally put Sorbo insoles in my low-cut Gore-Tex trail running shoes (insole + shoe = 400g). I also put bandages on my big and little toes as well as the ball of my feet. In order to retain the arches of my feet, I wrap them with non-stretchable tape to raise the soles of my feet while walking.


Try to recover from the day’s fatigue each night in your lodging. After taking a bath, it is effective to do some stretching if you have any particular weak points. Stretch the muscles at each part of the body slowly, for at least 30 seconds, without pain, and only to the point where no recoil is felt. When going to bed, heat any parts of the body that bother you in order to promote blood circulation in that area. This also reduces your fatigue. Because amateurs sometimes injure their muscles when they give themselves massages, please use gentle pressure when you do this.

If you already have muscle pain, ice the affected area, but not to the point of causing frostbite. After doing this, apply an anti-inflammatory analgesic agent to the area. You may be able to borrow a cold pack from the owners of the inn. If any pain persists, it may be necessary to consider taking a rest day and not walking.

Shikoku No Michi

The “Shikoku No Michi” is the name given to two additional walking routes that go around Shikoku. The first is a Ministry of the Environment route that emphasizes nature. The second is a Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism route that emphasizes history and culture.

Neither of these routes is the pilgrimage route, but both overlap large portions of it. Because they connect to beautiful scenic areas, in addition to pilgrims you will see general hikers as well.

However, prefectural Departments of Forestry which manage and maintain the Ministry of the Environment route are only doing so in a fragmented manner and there are sections of the route that have been damaged in past natural disasters and have not been restored. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism route has not been maintained at all for the past 15 years. For both of these routes, trail markers and guideposts are decaying badly and the routes can be very hard to follow at times.

Michi No Eki

Michi No Eki, or Road Stations, are government-designated rest areas along roads in Japan. Toilets and rest areas can be used 24 hours a day. Many display and sell regional products allowing pilgrims to learn about the local area. For the most part, Michi no Eki are open between 9:00am—5:00pm and have a staffed information desk that can answer questions. Managers of Michi no Eki forbid camping out on the property but realistically, they usually allow pilgrims to spend the night in their cars and tents on the property.

Wild Animals and Electric Fences

Some of the wild animals that you might encounter while on the pilgrimage include: wild boar, deer, monkeys, snakes, and pheasants. If encountered, it will usually be on a mountain path or in a low uplands area, between the plains and mountainous areas. If you encounter a wild boar, remain calm, maintain as much distance between you and it as you can, and continue on, acting as if you don’t notice it. Unfortunately there are one or two cases each year of pilgrims who are bitten on the hand or leg and need emergency medical care.

It is common knowledge that you should not give any food to wild animals and that if you do happen to encounter one it will usually run away. In any case, because wild animals are also living things, living in the same natural world as we humans, if you encounter one it is good to have the composure of mind to greet it with a simple “Hello.”

Some of the fields along the pilgrimage route will have fences and netting installed to keep wild animals out. On some of the smaller roads off the main pilgrimage route there may be gates blocking the road. In these cases you can pass through freely, but be sure to close the gate once you pass through.

Some fields in low upland areas could have electric fences installed to block access to wild animals. The electric current in these fences is low enough that there won’t be an effect when touched by a human, but it is best not to touch them if possible.

There is a poisonous snake on Shikoku called the “mamushi.” When compared to other snakes, they have fat, short, triangular shaped heads. Do not run away if you encounter one. If it doesn’t feel threatened it will not attack, but it might bite if you happen to stick your hand in bushes or thickets where they happen to be hiding. I usually encounter a mamushi once or twice each year and as preventative measures between April and October I wear spats that cover my legs from the knees down.

If you are bitten by a mamushi, you have less than a 1% chance of dying, but you must stay calm and call an ambulance immediately. Ideally, if you call loudly, someone in the area will come and help.

Mountain Trails and Wet Downhill Slopes

On sections of the route with steep slopes or along the ridge of a cliff your walking speed will decrease to about 1 km/hour. It is easy to fall and injure yourself, especially on wet downhill slopes and steep sections where the trail is covered in concrete or asphalt. Put anti-skid devices on the soles of your shoes, or, as the simplest measure, wrapping rope around your boots is very effective. Because it can be total darkness in front of you if you walk on mountain trails before dawn or after twilight, wear a headlamp and walk very, very carefully.

Getting Lost

If you become lost, without hesitation return to where you started. Continuing when you are lost could end in an accident. If you stay on the standard route, as indicated on the Elevation and Distance Map, there are enough sign posts and trail markers that you don’t have to worry about getting lost. However, once off this standard route, there are sections with absolutely no markings, but I have never been unable to cover these sections when I have a compass and GPS receiver.

Round Trip Sections of The Route

There are a few sections of the route that will be walked round trip. These are: Bekkaku Temple1, Temple 10, Bekkaku Temple 3, Temples 27, 35, 36, and 38, Bekkaku Temple 7, Temples 44, 45, and 60, and Bekkaku Temple 20. In these cases, if you ask at a shop or inn at the foot of the mountain, you may be able to leave your bags, allowing you to walk to and from the temple with only the necessities. It would be ideal if you offered the person who watched you bags something small as a token of your appreciation.

Using Courier Services

Some people arrive in Japan with much more luggage than they need to walk the pilgrimage and it is neither practical nor realistic to carry all of it with you. Some options to avoid this are: 1) Ask the inn where you stay on the first night of your pilgrimage to keep it for you, then spend your last night at the same inn and reclaim it; 2) Use a courier service or home delivery service to send your larger bags to an inn you plan to stay at in about 4 days, then repeating as needed until you complete the pilgrimage.

Courier services pick up their parcels in the evenings and will deliver them to their destination the next morning, as long as the delivery is on Shikoku. Regarding the invoice for paying the courier, ask the people who manage the inn where you are staying. (One suitcase will cost about ¥1,000)

Your Health, Physical Condition, and Hospitals

Be sure to get health insurance before leaving for Shikoku in case, by some unforeseen possibility, you are required to consult a doctor due to an emergency such as poor health or physical conditions, or an accident. In these cases it is best to assume that there is the possibility that you may have to temporarily pay for the medical expenses.

Good health is the foundation of a successful pilgrimage so take sufficient care of your physical condition, including caring for any troubles or minor illnesses as soon as they appear. Basic health care supplies can be purchased at drug stores along the route.

Back to Contents

9. Lodging


Other than at minshuku, ryokan, and temple lodging there are many places that accept credit cards. If you need to stay at a minshuku or ryokan that is off the main pilgrimage route, be sure to call and ask, some owners will come pick you up in their car.

In lodging with shared baths, please be considerate of other guests and be sure to wash clean outside of the bath tub before getting in to soak. It is considered good manners to not take your towel in the bath tub with you when you soak. Breakfast at minshuku and ryokan is usually served at 6:00am during the summer and 7:00am in the winter. Dinner is almost always served at 6:30pm.

Breakfasts and dinners at minshuku and ryokan are Japanese meals and consist of rice and fish as the main ingredients, along with tsukemono (pickled vegetables) and miso soup. For vegetarians, those that want bread, or those who don’t particularly like fish, be sure to mention this when you make your reservations and in many cases the owners will try to accommodate you. It is a Japanese custom at breakfast to add a raw egg and soy sauce to your bowl of rice and eat the mixture, but if you ask, the owner will boil your egg for you instead. Raw eggs can be eaten in Japan because they are sterilized when fresh. In a similar manner, the Japanese dish sukiyaki is eaten after soaking in beaten raw eggs.

Notes: The Japanese believe that the origin of their culture comes from the ocean, and the pilgrimage is, for the most part, a loop following the coastline around the island. Given this connection with the ocean, the center dish of all meals in minshuku and ryokan will be fish and other local marine products.

Dinner is usually served at 6:30pm in temple lodging and small-scale family run inns (like minshuku and ryokan), so you should arrive and check in by 5:00.

Keep in mind that the owners of small-scale family run inns (like minshuku and ryokan) have regular day jobs in addition to providing lodging to pilgrims and that temples have temple affairs to manage. Therefore, please be considerate in your demands.

For the most part only Japanese is spoken in minshuku and foreign languages are not understood. But, because of the increasing numbers of foreign pilgrims, people are learning to communicate on the basic topics, like baths, toilets, laundry, and meals.

Making Reservations

Signs at temples posting information (in Japanese) about minshuku and business hotels in the area are common, but because lodging staff can be busy with preparations for meals please make room reservations at inns listed in the guidebook by shortly after noon. In particular, at privately run minshuku and ryokan, at times other than early morning, noon, and evening, family members can be out running errands or shopping and will not be available to answer the telephone.

When the season and weather are suitable for walking the pilgrimage, the number of pilgrims can increase suddenly, especially on Saturdays, Sundays and the day before national holidays. What’s more, when local festivals, school sporting tournaments, and local events are held, all local lodging can be fully booked and rooms may not be available. In these cases, try one of the following methods to find a room:

  1. Ask if it would be possible to share a room,
  2. Make reservations 2-3 days in advance,
  3. Use a train or bus to travel round trip to an area where there is room available.

Advice for making reservations:

  1. Since English will not be spoken at minshuku and small ryokans, please refer to the collection of useful Japanese/English phrases found at the back of this book.
  2. Ask the manager of the lodging you are staying at to call the inn where you hope to stay the next night and make a reservation on your behalf.
  3. If you are a foreigner carrying a personal mobile phone that does not have the capability of making calls inside Japan, it may be possible to ask Japanese pilgrims that you meet along the route to call and make reservations on your behalf with their phones.

Once you make a reservation the inn will be busy in the afternoon preparing food and the bath for that night’s guests. If you find that you unexpectedly need to cancel your reservation be sure to call the inn immediately and let them know.

Depending on who you talk to, foreigners cancelling reservations at the last minute is becoming a problem on Shikoku as the number of foreign pilgrims increases. There are some lodging owners who no longer accept reservations from foreigners because they have been left with last minute cancelled reservations and no payment.

As mentioned above, most lodging on the pilgrimage are small operations, never having more than 8-10 guests each night. The owner buys and prepares food for each night’s guests on the afternoon that they arrive. If you cancel your reservation at the last minute it is a huge inconvenience and morally you are obligated to pay a cancellation fee; they now have an empty room that they most likely cannot fill and food already being prepared that they will not be compensated for. If you find that you have to cancel your reservation, please, to the best of your ability, do so early in the afternoon instead of waiting “just to be sure.” Remember, the treatment future pilgrims receive will always be based on the treatment you offer to the Japanese while you are on Shikoku.

Also, again because of the food, please understand the nuisance you are causing if you show up at an inn with no reservation and ask for a room. Avoid doing this unless absolutely necessary.

Types of Inns

Lodging is generally classified into five groups: 1) minshuku, 2) ryokan, 3) business hotel, 4) hotel, and 5) temple lodging. However, the differences are not very clear between minshuku & ryokan and between business hotels & hotels.

In most instances, minshuku provide guests with a bath towel, hair dryer, yukata (to use while at the lodging), disposable toothbrush, disposable razor, and green tea.


Typical western style hotels do not provide meals and guests should expect nothing but a bed and in-room bath.

Business Hotels

Business hotels are, overall, smaller than hotels, with smaller rooms and lobbies, but they will also be less expensive. Like hotels no meals are provided and guests should expect nothing but a bed and in-room bath.


Ryokan are traditional Japanese style lodging that generally offer more services and facilities than minshuku. Their main target is pilgrims and general tourists and the price range between establishments can vary by a factor of two. The service and price range of small scale ryokan, which cater to walking pilgrims, will be the same as found at minshuku. Dinner and breakfast are included in the price of a room. Guests sleep in futon on the floor and the bath facilities are shared.


Minshuku are, for the most part, small family run inns providing traditional Japanese style rooms, and are numerous in the vicinity of pilgrimage temples. Because these are family run operations, they can close on an irregular basis for such things as important family occasions and annual events. Dinner and breakfast are included in the price of a room. Guests sleep in futon on the floor and the bath facilities are shared.

Temple Lodging

For the most part, temple-run lodging caters to pilgrims in group bus tours, but if they have a free room they will accept individuals. Guests can participate in sutra chanting services (called “otsutome” after dinner or in the early morning before breakfast. During these services the temple priest will offer a short Buddhist talk. Attendance at all services is completely optional. In addition, guests have the chance to get near and appreciate the temple’s Buddhist statues and ornaments. Dinner and breakfast are included in the price of a room. Guests sleep in futon on the floor and the bath facilities are shared. Temple lodging is closed during Japan’s nationwide New Year’s celebrations.

Other Types of Lodging


Some temples offer free lodging space, called “tsuyadō.” Keep in mind that nothing will be provided except a place to sleep; neither a futon nor anything else is provided.

Advice that I might respectfully offer walking pilgrims is, when you hear about the existence of a tsuyado from another pilgrim you happen to meet, please inquire directly to the temple staff in the evening hours about the possibility of sleeping there. It is best to wait until around 4:00pm to ask at the stamp office, because if you ask earlier they are more likely to say no and tell you to keep walking. Because tsuyado only provide space for sleeping, all fires, of any kind, are completely forbidden so be sure to purchase food somewhere else prior to arriving.


Out of the kindness of their hearts, some local people offer free or very inexpensive spaces to sleep and these are called “zenkonyado.” As with local temples and tsuyado, ask other henro you meet about the location of these. The majority of zenkonyado will not accept reservations, but those that require one are listed in Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide. Of course, be sure to keep the space clean.

A word from the author about tsuyado and zenkonyado

I have verified about 20 temples that have tsuyado but am hesitant to publish the temple names because the temples themselves are not very welcoming to people using the tsuyado. The reason for this is because the space is not a legal lodging facility and they are faced with the problems of crime prevention and the possible danger of fire. In truth, an official tsuyado is a small hall set up in the temple complex for the purposes of Buddhist memorial services. The services that are held throughout the night during, for example, a deceased person’s wake, are called “tsuya.” Hence, “tsuya” + “dō;” the hall for services. By chance, on Shikoku these lodgings have only been offered to pilgrims that suffer from a lack of finances.

Nowadays, information is spread widely due to it being posted on the internet. “It’s a convenience place to sleep for free” is a self-centered mistaken reason for posting the information, but one that I hear frequently.

Zenkonyado are faced with the same operational circumstances as tsuyado.

Owners really are good and kind hearted people, and out of nothing but pure benevolence, they want to provide hospitality to pilgrims so they invest their own personal finances in opening facilities. But, because different strangers are coming and going every day, others in the neighborhood may not be particularly happy with this. In spite of this, unfortunately there are some pilgrims insensitive enough to complain, saying things like “They didn’t even have electricity or water, and the futon wasn’t clean.”

Do you observe good manners? Do you show your gratitude to the people who manage these lodging facilities? Pilgrims who have benefitted from the use of a zenkonyado, should, I think, with the spirit of a mendicant monk, pray for the happiness of the people and families who manage the space.

Because of the above, it is possible that zenkonyado and tsuyado could close down tomorrow. This has become a delicate topic and situation. Because I care for other people to the point of shedding tears, and want this magnificent aspect of pilgrimage culture to continue long into the future, I am hesitant to publicly list the free lodging so that they aren’t swarmed with pilgrims.

Bed Bugs

Japanese inns are very clean and I have never heard of a case where there have been bed bugs in the bedding at one of the paid lodges. However, because it isn’t impossible that they could be found in bedding at a zenkonyado, for those who worry about this, carry bed bug spray or anti-bed bug sheets. In the case that you are bitten, use either a medical cream or oral medicine as appropriate.

Camping Out

By law, camping anywhere except in official campgrounds is illegal. However, the reality of the situation is that not a small number of pilgrims camp out wherever it is suitable to do so. Good locations include (in order of the ease of camping): camp grounds, pilgrim rest huts, Michi no Eki (road stations), beaches, river banks, public parks, temple and shrine parking lots, and bus stops with roofed enclosures. (Because Michi no Eki are located right on the side of main roads, even as late as midnight they will be noisy.) If you meet someone who takes care of or manages a place you are considering camping, or just someone from the area, it is best to ask permission. If that person gives you a face that obviously indicates that they don’t want you to stay there, please simply give up and find another location. This is an everyday occurrence for the people that live in the area, so for the sake of future pilgrims that will follow in your shoes, and yourself as well, don’t cause trouble to the neighbors by leaving garbage, damaging the facilities, or making a lot of noise. As seen in this picture, signs have unfortunately begun to appear at pilgrim rest areas that say “Camping is forbidden” because previous pilgrims did cause trouble for the people in the neighborhood.

If you want to camp out, one possibility is to wait until after 8:00pm to set up your tent because after this time most people won’t be outdoors. Then, if you take down your tent and depart by 6:00am you will leave before anyone sees you.

Even among those that camp out, there are some who occasionally stay in paid lodging in order to do laundry, get a full night’s sleep, and to make repairs to their equipment. There is some merit to this thinking of taking time occasionally to refresh yourself.

If you camp out you will want to have a tent. You will see pilgrims who don’t have tents and are only carrying a sleeping bag, spending the night in rest huts and under the eaves of super markets to avoid the morning dew. But in these cases they have to rely on other people for permission to camp right from the very start of their trip. Given our human nature of being independent, self-reliant beings, the policy for the pilgrimage should be, in order to help other living beings, you must improve yourself.

Modern tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping mats are not inexpensive, but there are light weight, compact, and high performance models that you can use many times and they last a long time, so over the long run they are not that expensive.

Back to Contents

10. General Information

International Telephone Calls

For travelers who are staying in Japan for only about one month, the International Calling Card is an inexpensive and easy service that allows you to make international telephone calls. You purchase a prepaid telephone card that works with land lines, mobile phones, and public telephones when used according to the provided instructions. Several companies sell prepaid cards that offer various different calling rate plans. You can also buy the cards at airports inside Japan and from specific vending machines at convenience stores along the pilgrimage route.

Telephone Calls Within Japan

Pilgrims need to make numerous domestic phone calls during their walk in order to, for example, make lodging reservations or to call an inn where you already have a reservation to advise them of a change in your time of arrival. Unfortunately, as the use of mobile phones increases and spreads through society, the need for public telephones is decreasing and it is getting more and more difficult to find them. Of course, public telephones can still be found in locations like municipal offices, town halls, train stations, and Michi no Eki (Road Stations). For the location of existing public telephones, please visit: ""  (In Japanese).

Public telephones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins as well as prepaid telephone cards, but I recommend using ¥10 yen coins. With some exceptions, telephone cards are available at convenience stores. While it is possible to make emergence calls to the police (110), fire department (119), and emergency medical services (119) from public telephones for free, the operator is Japanese, so, if possible, it is recommended that you ask a Japanese person to make the phone call for you.

For making lodging reservations, if you ask the manager at a minshuku you are staying at, they will probably let you use the inn’s land line.

Free Public Wifi

Free public wifi is spreading rapidly on Shikoku. While still not available at minshuku and temple lodging, free wifi can be found at many facilities, such as: hotels, business hotels, cafes, convenience stores, and public facilities.

Typical free services:

Others (Still free, but log-in is required)

Locations where connectivity is available can be found on the above web sites.

In some lodging, shared PCs are available in the lobby and available for free use. Most hotels and business hotels either have LAN cables in each guest room or they are available at the front desk.

Prepaid or Rental SIM Cards

Prepaid or rental SIM cards can be purchased at the Narita, Haneda, Chubu, and Kansai airports, as well as in select vending machines. It is a good idea to ask for detailed information about them at information desks in the airport. They are also available in large consumer electronic stores in Tōkyō, Ōsaka, and other large cities.

Rental Wifi Routers

Portable wifi hotspots are available, and there are two ways to find them:

  1. Reserve a Japanese domestic router/hotspot before entering Japan and pick it up upon arrival at the airport. Several online companies offer this option, one of which is Rentafone Japan. (
  2. There are stores at the Narita, Haneda, Chubu, and Kansai airports that rent them out, but note that these will be relatively more expensive than those obtained in 1) above.

Trail Guideposts

English signposts indicating that you are on the pilgrimage route are posted along the entire walk (but not on mountain trails). In addition, there are a great many Japanese guideposts maintained by volunteer groups, but because they include an arrow or a finger pointing in the direction of the route, even these will prove useful.

Safety and Lost Equipment

It is relatively safe to take walking trips in Japan. In fact, young women will be seen from time to time walking the pilgrimage alone.

Compared to regular walking tours, there are a great many opportunities to lose equipment and personal items while on the pilgrimage route. Be sure to take extra precautions to avoid this. It is good practice to check and recheck your bags and belongings two or three times after you have opened them for any reason, such as before leaving your lodging in the morning, when repacking your backpack after getting your temple stamp at one of the temples, after eating lunch, or after taking a rest break. Also consider diversifying your risk by carrying a mixture of cash and credit/cash cards instead of all cash, and consider separating them by carrying them in different areas of your bags.

People forget items in great numbers at inns and temples. For example, walking staffs, wallets & purses, mobile phones, and guidebooks & maps. It is not rare for people to take items (like purses, wallets, and mobile phones) that they find on the road to the local police station, so be sure to attach your name and contact information on all your valuables and your backpack.

Japan is one of the safest societies in the world and the risk of someone stealing your luggage is very small compared to many other countries. However, there is the possibility of encountering a natural disaster or being involved in a traffic accident. And while Japan is very safe, the risk of being involved in a crime is not zero. Plus, there is always the possibility of getting hurt. In the end, the best policy is to always keep in mind that you are responsible for your own safety and welfare.


At inns, restaurants, and other places, tipping is unnecessary—any service fees are included in the price of the service.

Back to Contents

11.Clothing and Equipment

The pilgrimage does not have strict rules regarding what pilgrims must wear and carry with them. If the traditional style as described below does not suit you it is perfectly acceptable to follow a style that you prefer. However, if you wear the typical pilgrim outfit, people along the route will recognize and welcome you as a pilgrim, will go out of their way to make sure you stay on the correct roads, and will warmly exchange greetings with you. Furthermore, wearing the white hakui (over-jacket) will enhance your experience of the solemnity of what you are doing.

All of the pilgrim clothing and equipment can be purchased at Temple 1, Ryōzenji. They are also sold at many of the other temples and at many shops selling Buddhist goods in the vicinity of the temples, so it is possible to buy suitable items as necessary along the walk.

I particularly recommend the pilgrimage supply store called Sumotoriya (Asano), located just below Temple 10, Kirihataji. Their prices are lower than most other supply shops and the owners are bilingual in English, which is always a pleasure for non-Japanese. Their location can be found on map #22 of the current edition of the guidebook Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide. (

At a minimum, you should purchase a temple pilgrimage book, a pilgrim’s walking staff, and the white over-jacket (hakui).

The pilgrim’s walking staff (kongōzue), sedge hat (sugegasa), and white cotton over-jacket (hakui) are symbols of this reformative trip. At the same time, though, they are tradtionally considered symbols of burial clothes. Among the Japanese, not a small number of people put a completed pilgrimage book, a hakui, and a pilgrim’s waking staff in their coffin, or the coffin of a blood relative, saying that these are the “clothing for the trip to Amida’s Pure Land.”

It is recommended that you write your name and contact information on your pilgrimage gear.

Pilgrim’s Walking staff (Kongōzue)

Prices range from ¥1,000 and up.

This is a pilgrim’s most sacred item as it represents Kōbō Daishi, guiding your around the pilgrimage. The walking staff is usually made of cedar, but other materials used include cypress and oak. The top portion represents the form of the Shingon Gorintō, a Buddhist pagoda that expresses the Buddhist view of the world, and frequently has five Sanskrit characters written on it for (from the bottom) earth, water, fire, wind, and space.

The gorintō, as a whole, represents Dainichi Nyorai, the highest Buddha in Japanese esoteric Buddhism, thus connecting you with Kōbō Daishi. The gorintō also shares the same meaning as the pagoda used in Buddhist memorial services.

Below this section, the treasured phrase “Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō” and the words “Dōgyō Ninin” are usually written. Lastly, the four sides of the walking staff itself represent the four spiritual dōjōs (training places) the pilgrimage passes through: Hosshin, Shugyō, Bodai, and Nehan (see section 1 for information on these).

In this way, the top portion of the walking staff is the most sacred so it is usually covered in a brocade cover while walking the pilgrimage.

Naturally, the walking staff is used for the practical purposes of supporting yourself as you walk and protecting yourself from snakes and other wild animals, but keep in mind that since it represents Kōbō Daishi himself, the walking staff should never be treated poorly. Traditionally, the standard way to use your walking staff is to put your hands together in prayer (gasshō) and greet your walking staff as you set out from your lodging each morning. Then, in the evening, as you check into your lodging for the night, the first thing to do upon arrival is to wash the tip of the walking staff and gasshō in thanks as another day of walking finishes.

According to pilgrimage lore, Kōbō Daishi could be sleeping beneath any of the bridges you cross during your walk (refer to the legend of bekkaku Temple 8 near the end of this book). In order to prevent disturbing him, in case he is sleeping, it is tradition not to let your walking staff touch the ground while crossing any bridges.

After walking long distances, the tip of your walking staff will certainly begin to wear down. It is tradition to not use any tools to try and repair the tip, but letting the constant contact and friction with the road do what it will.

These are the traditional rules associated with the pilgrim’s walking staff.

The walking staff personifies Kōbō Daishi but many pilgrims forget them at the temples after getting their temple stamps. Most pilgrims leave their walking staffs as an offering at Temple 88, Ookuboji, when they have finished their pilgrimage, but because it has become a constant companion during the walk it is also an important commemoration of the trip and some recommend that you take it home with you.

The walking staff is both a walking tool and a spiritual support during the long walk. Realistically speaking, though, every pilgrim is different and they will treat their walking staffs differently. Some pilgrims choose not to even use one but carry high-tech trekking poles instead.

Professional tour leaders (sendatsu) carry a round vermillion colored walking staff (to represent the form of Kōbō Daishi) called a shakujyō. On the top of the staff are metal rings that make noise each time the staff hits the ground, which helps remove bonnō (the worldly desires that block our path along the spiritual journey) and is effective in bringing the user to enlightenment.

Sedge Hat (Sugegasa)

Prices range from ¥1,500 and up.

The sedge hat is ideal for use as both a sun shade and as rain hat given its wide brim and a vinyl cover that can be stretched over the top. It is not necessary to remove your hat when worshipping at a temple, when you are inside one of the temple halls, or when talking with one of the temple priests (as described in several 17th century books about the pilgrimage). Historically, if a pilgrim dies while walking the pilgrimage, the hat is placed over the corpse and serves the purpose of replacing a coffin.

Six words and phrases are written on the top of the hat: The first four are called the “shiku no satori,” the four phrases of enlightenment.

  • Mayou ga yueni sangai wa shiro nari
    Lost and confused the three worlds become a prison.
  • Satoru ga yueni jippō wa kū nari
    In enlightenment everything is empty.
  • Honrai mu tōzai
    In essence there is no east and west.
  • Doko aru nanboku
    Where, then, is there a north and south?

In adition, there are :

  • Dōgyō Ninin
    We two, travelling together. Or, We two, practicing together
  • The sanskrit character representing Kōbō Daishi.

The four phrases of enlightenment are both an admonition for pilgrims to work towards overcoming this world of samsara as their devotion and ascetic training accumulate throughout their walk, and their determination accomplish this, by, for example, unifying with nature without separating the world into the four directions.

One way of interpreting this poem is to consider it from the point of view of the teachings of Kōbō Daishi’s Shingon Buddhism. In those teachings, and in Shingon’s main Dual Mandalas, Dharmakaya Mahavairocana is always surrounded by four Buddhas.

  • To the east of Mahavairocana is Ashuka, who represents bodaishin, the mind resolved to awaken.
  • To the south of Mahavairocana is Hōshō, who represents practice.
  • To the west of Mahavairocana is Amida, who represents enlightenment.
  • To the north of Mahavairocana is Fukujoju, who represents nirvana.

Each of these Buddha’s represents one characteristic of Mahavairocana (Dainichi Nyorai) himself. In Shingon teachings, there is no difference between the mind resolved to awaken and enlightenment itself. Because Buddha-nature is inherent in everyone, awakening to the thought of enlightenment is the same as enlightenment itself. Therefore, bodaishin, in the east, is the same as enlightenment, in the west. And if they are equal, the same in all regards, then it is not possible to say that they are different; it is not possible to say there is east and there is west if they are the same thing.

In addition, we practice because we live in samsara, the world of birth & death, good & bad, right & wrong, etc. But according to Shingon, samsara and nirvana are the same, there is no difference. Samsara is Mahavairocana’s world of nirvana manifesting as the world we live in and experience. So, if samsara is the same as nirvana, then practice, what we do in samsara to cultivate our awakened mind, must be the same as nirvana. So, as above, it is not possible to say there is a south (practice) and a north (nirvana) if they are not different but fundamentally the same thing.

Given this, the poem on the sedge hat is a constant reminder to all pilgrims, always as close as the top of your head, that:

Lost and confused the three worlds become a prison
In enlightenment everything is empty
In essence, in truth, there is no awakening mind (east) or enlightenment (west)
Where, then, can there be practice (south) and nirvana (north)

And once you understand that, when you realize that this is true, that awakening mind equals enlightenment and that practice equals nirvana, then you can become a Buddha in this very body, the body you are living in right now. This is what Kōbō Daishi refers to as Sokushin Jōbutsu.

When you wear a sedge hat, be sure that the large Sanskrit character is facing the front. The other characters will then be arranged based on the directions of the compass, but historically there has been a change in their arrangement. However, on Shikoku the meaning of the Sanskrit character representing Kōbō Daishi is “East,” where Tokushima is located and where pilgrims traditionally begin their walk.

The chin strap that comes with a sedge hat when you buy it will be weak in the wind so you should consider reinforcing it to your liking. For people who are carrying large (tall) backpacks, be sure to test your hat with your backpack on your back at the time of purchase to ensure they don’t interfere with each other. Some pilgrims who have walked the pilgrimage many times wear a conical woven wicker hat, the same style that Kōbō Daishi was supposed to have worn.

Cotton Over-Jackets (Hakui and Oizuru)

Prices for hakui range from ¥2,100 and up; for oizuru prices range from ¥1,700 and up

The hakui and oizuru show the purity of a pilgrim to those that see them. Formerly, their meaning was to show a pilgrim’s readiness to die while walking the trail and to never return home. If this were to happen, it would then serve as the pilgrim’s burial clothes. Officially, the style is to wear an oizuru over a hakui. In addition to wearing them, some people get their temple stamps on a hakui and, therefore, carry a second, extra one for that purpose. Because they cannot be washed once you get them stamped with the temple stamps, take care to not get them dirty. Hakui that have gotten stamped with all 88 temple stamps are considered family heirlooms and people who own them will wear them when they die, considering them their “Sunday best clothes” as they die and are then cremated.

It is only at Temple 16, but at this one temple you can get the Komyō Mantra stenciled on the collar of your hakui. (¥1,500)

Mala (Juzu, or Nenju)

Prices range from ¥2,000 and up.

For Japanese this is the most familiar of all Buddhist ritual implements. Styles vary depending on the religious sect, but on the Shikoku pilgrimage people use those of the Shingon sect. When you hold the mala with your hands together in gasshō (as in the picture) while facing the Buddha, this is a pious act and helps eliminate the worldly desires that block the path on your spiritual journey.

Hold the mala with the tasseled end looped over the middle finger of the right hand and the index finger of the left hand (the middle finger is also OK). Then, with the main loop of the mala held between the palms of your hands, rub your hands together vigorously (while still in gasshō) so that the beads make a noise as they rub together.

Name Slips and Bag (Osamefuda and Fudabasame)

Usually sold in packets of 200 for ¥200.

Osamefuda are the name slips that pilgrims leave in special collection bins at both of the halls in each of the temples. Write your name, address, and a wish on each name slip and deposit one in the box provided in front of each Main Hall and each Daishi Hall. They are also given to people who give you gifts (settai) and to fellow pilgrims as a sort of business card. If you choose to make your own name slips rather than buy them, that is not a problem.

There is a belief among some people that if they collect name slips from pilgrims and display them in their houses, this will prevent disasters from striking. In former times, offering your name slips at the temples was the main purpose of the pilgrimage and was considered more important than collecting the temple stamps in a pilgrimage book.

Name slips come in six different colors. The colors refer to the number of times a pilgrim has completed the entire pilgrimage. There have been times in the past when the color scheme has changed, there was no clear determination, but as of now, the colors have the following meaning:

  • White: 1-4 times
  • Green: 5-7 times
  • Red: 8-24 times
  • Silver: 25-49 times
  • Gold: 50-99 times
  • Brocade: 100 times or more

There are pilgrims who value their original intention, however, and who continue to use white name slips no matter how many times they complete the pilgrimage.

There is a unique style of bag, called the fudabasami, specifically made for name slips. This can also easily be used to carry your pilgrim incense and candles. If all you need is something to carry your name slips in, though, a pen case will serve the purpose just as well.

Pilgrimage books, Stamp Scrolls, and Hanni

Pilgrimage books (Nōkyōchō): ¥2,000 and up.

Stamp Scrolls (Kakejiku): ¥12,000 and up (Mounting is an extra ¥30,000 and up)

As proof of having worshipped at a pilgrimage temple, you can get a temple stamp either in your pilgrimage book, on a hanging scroll, or on the back of a hani (similar to a hakui). The stamps consist of calligraphy in black India ink and several vermillion colored stamps. The stamps that are put on a hanging scroll are the same as those put in the pilgrimage book.

Once the scrolls are completely covered with stamps from all 88 temples and then mounted, they become family heirlooms.

A very special note here: Completed hanging scrolls are very highly valued and the risk of having yours stolen increases dramatically the closer you get to acquiring all 88 stamps. Please take very special care, and extra precautions as you near the end of your pilgrimage to ensure your scroll is not stolen.

If you choose to get the stamps put on the back of a hani, all that is affixed are the vermillion color stamps; the calligraphy is not added.

Pilgrimage books and name slips from past pilgrimages have become important keys for researchers studying the history of the pilgrimage.

Monk’s Stole (Wagesa)

Prices range from ¥1,200 and up.

The wagesa is a simplified version of a kesa, a monk’s full robes. Its meaning is to show devotion to Buddhism and is worn when worshipping at the pilgrimage temples. It is necessary to remove the wagesa when eating or using the toilet.

The origin of the monk’s kesa is its having served as the type of clothes that Shakyamuni wore while performing ascetic practices and its image is one of a worn out strip of cloth that has repeatedly been sewn up.

Originally, the wagesa was loop-shaped and connected at both ends. What has come to be called the wagesa on Shikoku, though, is a strip of cotton with the two ends connected together with a cord and it is formally called a “hankesa,” or half-kesa.

Sutra Book (Kyōhon)

Prices range from ¥300 and up.

The sutra book contains the Heart Sutra and all of the mantras that are chanted at the 88 temples. While chanting, even if you remember the sutra and mantras, having the sutra book to verify the words allows you to chant slowly and wholeheartedly.

Monk’s Bag (Zudabukuro)

Prices range from ¥1,200 and up.

Used to carry a pilgrim’s sutra book, candles (¥250+), incense (¥300+), pilgrimage book, and other pilgrim necessities. It is also called a “sanyabukuro,” a pilgrim’s carry-all bag. Waterproof versions are available.

Bell (Jirei)

Prices range from ¥1,000 and up.

Pilgrims shake the bell in time with their chanting when they formally chant the sutras and mantras. The bell’s sound is considered punctuation marks of the scriptures. The sound is said to sweep away a pilgrim’s bonnō, the earthly desires that hinder them. The echo is also thought to purify a pilgrim’s heart.

Practical Equipment

For most non-Japanese pilgrims, this is a walk in an area where they have little background knowledge of the customs or geography, so sufficient preparation is necessary to make your pilgrimage as pleasant as possible.

Because everybody is different and brings their own hiking experience and preferences to the pilgrimage, it is not possible to categorically state what equipment should be brought and what should be limited, but here is some of the most common equipment I recommend.


The basics should include: one set of walking clothes, one set of rain gear, and two sets of underwear. If you are camping out, then in addition, you need to think about what you will sleep in. Outdoor goods stores, such as those specializing in supplies for mountain climbing, offer high-tech goods and high performance clothing that are light weight and easy to carry, and are also moisture wicking and quick drying. Being light weight is important as this reduces the weight of your backpack. To respond the most effectively to changes in weather conditions, it is recommended that you dress in layers of warm clothing. In particular, think of having a base layer, a second layer, and a third, outer layer, adding and subtracting layers as the weather changes in order to maintain your body at a constant temperature. If you are not careful and catch a cold, this can greatly affect your planned itinerary for the entire trip.

Rain Wear

Depending on the season and your level of experience there are many varieties of rain wear available. Because there aren’t many sections of the route that have steep mountain trails, a simple poncho that can cover your body and your backpack is practical. If you combine the poncho with a pair of rain pants this will work perfectly. Because of its compactness, the poncho proves especially advantageous at the temples where you are always opening your backpack and taking things out and replacing them as you get your pilgrimage book out to get stamped. If you choose to carry separate high-tech rain wear and backpack cover, these will be bulkier than a poncho, but because of this they can also serve more purposes than just protecting against rain; such as serving as warm clothing if you are camping.


These are, without doubt, the most important item that you have to consider, so take great care to choose walking shoes or boots that suit you. Choose footwear that you can comfortably walk in even in all day rainy weather. Because the route is almost all paved with asphalt and this can cause feet problems, choosing footwear that suits you will have a large effect on your walk. It is best to ask for advice at a store that specializes in hiking footwear when making your selection.


Things to consider when choosing socks are fit, their moisture wicking ability, and whether or not they are quick drying. Keep in mind that walking in poor fitting socks is one of the causes of foot blisters.


Use a backpack that fits your body type. Backpacks with a volume of about 25L is best, unless you are camping out, in which case 40L seems to be appropriate. There is a great amount of difference between backpacks in their comfort while walking, but as you consider different backpacks, I recommend that you choose one with a waist belt that suits your body type. Because my back always itches when I carry a backpack for long periods of time, my favorite type of backpack has a mesh area between my back and the backpack.

Waist Pouch/Belt Bag

A small bag on your belt is very convenient for carrying the many small items pilgrims always have. However, it can make walking a little less comfortable if this is used at the same time as carrying a zudabukuro (monk’s bag).


Wearing any hat suitable for outdoor use is OK, but the pilgrim’s sedge hat (with a vinyl rain cover) is very nice in all weather conditions, with the exception of when there are strong winds. If is effective against strong sunlight because of its wide brim, and this same reason makes it an umbrella in rainy conditions.


Notwithstanding high-tech rain wear, in all seasons except mid-winter it can be warm and stuffy from time to time. Since putting on and taking off rain wear in these conditions can be bothersome, some pilgrims carry a small collapsible umbrella in a side pocket of their backpack. An umbrella is especially useful on days when rain drizzles are constantly starting and stopping. Although, I admit that in these conditions I find that the sedge hat with its vinyl rain cover works so well that I do not carry an umbrella.

Smart Phone

With their many varied functions, smart phones are very practical. They can be used to check weather forecasts, translate Japanese into your language, display maps, and show your location with GPS, besides the obvious use of making telephone calls and sending/receiving email.

Electrical Adapters

If you are bringing electronic items from your home country, it will be necessary to bring adapters that allow them to work with Japanese power supplies and the electrical outlets found in lodging. Electricity on Shikoku (like all of Western Japan) is 100v and 60 cycles. Plugs are type A, dual parallel flat pins, like those used in the US. Before coming to Shikoku be sure to obtain transformers and adapters that allow your electronic gear to work with these.

Household Medicine, First Aid Supplies, & Health/Hygiene Supplies

These items are readily available all along the route so it is unnecessary to carry more than the minimum required for the types of items that are used on a daily basis. If you learn basic first aid, then it is possible to treat yourself for many common problems, such as taping areas that are experiencing arthritis or joint pain.

Insect Repellent

You will encounter mosquitoes between April and November, but in mountainous areas they will be prevalent along mountain streams in July and August and their bites can be considerably painful. Drugstores along the route carry many types of compact high-tech insect repellents and it is advisable to purchase one that suits your needs.


In rainy weather, it is possible to dry your wet equipment, clothes, shoes, and socks at each night’s lodging. While some inns have clothes dryers, and in April and May clothes left to hang in your room will dry overnight, there may be times when it is convenient to carry a compact portable dryer.

Other Items (As suitable for each different person)

Other items to consider are: alarm clock, camera, compass, flashlight, bed lamp, multi-purpose knife, dictionary, electronic dictionary, passport, health insurance card, neck wallet or money belt, writing utensils, supporters for wrists, ankles, etc., gloves, cording, batteries, waterproof bags, and emergency blanket.


For walking pilgrims it is absolutely necessary to carry the smallest backpack possible. Since you will be walking long distances over long periods of time, you must pursue the goal of traveling as light weight as you can. For men, the optimal weight for your backpack is roughly 4-5 kg; for women it is roughly 3-4 kg. Among those pilgrims who camp out, it is not uncommon to find those who carry backpacks that easily weigh more than 10 kg.

Use and test your outdoor equipment at home and this will help you find any trouble with your choices before arriving on Shikoku.

Back to Contents

12. Worshipping At The Temples

The order of temple procedures

While walking to all of the temples in numerical order is the common way of walking the pilgrimage, it is certainly not required. As explained above, the temples can be visited in any order, over many trips to the island, and using any mode of transportation. While visiting all eighty-eight temples in one walk is the traditional way to approach the pilgrimage, there is no definitive right or wrong way that it can be accomplished.

Upon arrival at a temple, stop in front of the main gate (sanmon), and bow one time in the direction of the main hall (hondō). The main gate is the place where you move from secular ground to spiritual ground, so cleanse yourself of any impure thoughts before proceeding through the gate.

Just inside the main gate you will find the water purification stand (temizuya). Using one of the ladles provided, wash your hands and rinse out your mouth to purify your body. The order of doing this is to first pour water over your right hand. Then switch hands and pour water over your left hand. Then sip water out of your right palm to rinse out your mouth. By rinsing out your mouth you are purifying both the outside and inside of your body. Once this is finished, put on your wagesa and get out your mala.

Stop at the belfry and ring the bell one time to announce your arrival to the deity enshrined in the main hall (the honzon). Do not ring the bell on your way back out of the temple, after worshipping. Doing so is called modorikane (returning bell) and is considered a bad omen. It is said that ringing the bell on the way out of the compound will take away any wisdom you might have found while worshipping.

From the belfry, proceed to the main hall. In the appropriate containers, light one candle and then three sticks of incense; one each for the past, the present, and the future. In the glass enclosure where you place your candle, it is considered good etiquette to place your lighted candle on one of the back rows to make it easier for the next pilgrim to add their candle without burning their arms.

Hanging at the top of the steps leading to the front of the main hall will be a small circular bell, called the waniguchi bell, the alligator mouth bell, with a long braided rope hanging down to almost ground level. Ring this one time to announce to the deity inside that you have arrived. Place one of your name slips in the appropriate container to the right or left of the temple door. Some pilgrims handwrite a copy of the Heart Sutra and leave a copy at each of the temples. If you are doing this practice, leave your copy in the appropriate container, also by the temple door. Put any small change that you are offering in the offertory box, located across the front of the temple entrance. Finally, place your hands in gasshō (hands together at heart level, palm-to-palm, fingers facing up) and then chant the Heart sutra and the appropriate mantras.

When chanting at the main hall, the Heart Sutra is chanted first, followed by the mantras specific to that hall’s deity, and then the Gohōgō (Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō). While this is the common practice, though, it is not required and simply solemnly placing your hands together is acceptable. For those that choose not to chant at the beginning of their pilgrimage, it is entirely possible that you will find yourself beginning to do so at some time during your walk as you get used to hearing and seeing all of the other pilgrims doing so.

Don’t simply throw your offering in the offertory box. The offering is being accepted by the main deity or Kōbō Daishi, so place the coins in the box with a heart of gratitude. Your chanting is done, when possible, directly in front of the entrance to the temple. After you have finished, please be observant of other pilgrims trying to do the same thing and move out of the way as soon as possible.

After worshipping at the main hall, proceed to the Daishi hall and repeat the same procedures that you performed at the main hall. The only difference will be in what you chant, because the main statue enshrined in the Daishi hall is Kōbō Daishi, and not one of the Buddhist Deities.

After completing your worship at the Daishi hall go to the stamp office (nōkyōsho). Here you get the temple stamp in your pilgrimage book (nōkyōchō) and a slip of paper (called an osugata) with an image of the deity in the main hall printed on it. This slip of paper is small and easy to loose so take appropriate care. This is also where you get stamps on a hanging scroll or the back of a hakui, if you are carrying one of those. Some pilgrims who walk the pilgrimage more than once always get the temple stamps for each walk in the same pilgrimage book, the new stamps right on top of the old ones, resulting in a pilgrimage book with pages that gradually turn solid bright orange in color.

The stamp office is open between 7:00am and 5:00pm. However, at Temple 62 only, the hours are 7:00am—12:00pm and 1:00pm—5:00pm. Typically you get the temple stamp after you worship at the main hall and Daishi hall, but if you arrive at the temple just before 5:00, be sure to get the stamp first.

Finally, after worshipping at the two halls and then getting your temple stamp, exit through the main gate. After passing back out of the gate, turn around and bow towards the main hall once again.

Chanting The Sutras

According to Shingon Buddhism, below is the official order of what is chanted in front of the temple halls.

A) Gasshō Join your hands together at heart level, palm-to-palm, fingers pointing up. Announce your intention to worship and your respect and loyalty to the temple’s enshrined deity by bowing your head 3 times and chanting the following: “uyauyashiku, mihotoke wo reihaishi, tatematsuru ”.
B)Chant the Kaigyōge Mantra one time.

Mu myō jin jin mi myō hō
Hyakusenman gō nan sō gū
Ga kon kenmontoki ju ji
Gan gen nyorai shin jitsu gi

This sutra is chanted at Buddhist memorial services and calls the Buddha to appear before you.

C)Chant the Sangemon one time.

Ga shakushozō shoaku gō
Kaiyu mushi tonjin chi
Jyūshin goi shi shoshō
Issai gakon kai sange

All of the bad actions that I have done up to now, from long ago, have been caused by my arrogance, anger and foolishness, and have come from my body, speech, and mind. I now repent all of them.

D)Chant the Sankiemon three times. Sanki  Deshi mukō
 Jinmi raisai
 Kie butsu
 Kie hō
 Kie sō

As a disciple of the Buddha, until end of time, I will put my deep trust in the Buddha, I will deeply believe the truth as explained by the Buddha, I will place deep trust in the monks who put the Buddha’s teachings into practice.

 Deshi mukō
 Jinmirai sai
 Kie bukkyō
 Kie hōkyō
 Kie sōkyō

As a disciple of the Buddha, until end of time, I already put my deep trust in the Buddha, I already deeply believe the truth as explained by the Buddha, I already place deep trust in the monks who put the Buddha’s teachings into practice.

E)Chant the Juzenkai (10 precepts) three times.
  1. Fusesshō: I will respect the life of all living beings.
  2. Fuchūtō: I will not steal and will deal with others with great care.
  3. Fujain: I will practice moderation with regards to sexual activities.
  4. Fumōgo: I will not tell lies.
  5. Fukigo: I will not use exaggerated and extravagant language.
  6. Fuaku: I will not speak badly of others.
  7. Furyōzetsu: I will always speak truthfully.
  8. Fukendon: I will not be greedy and covet possessions.
  9. Fushinni: I will not get angry but will remain even tempered.
  10. Fujyaken: I will not think bad thoughts.
F)Chant the Hatsu Bodaishin Mantra three times.

On bōji shitta bodahadayami

I raise the mind that seeks for enlightenment.

G)Chant the Sanmayakai Mantra three times.

On sanmaya satoban

I am united with and the same as the Buddha.

H)Chant the Heart Sutra (Hannya Shingyō) one time.

The Heart Sutra is the vast Buddhist scriptures condensed into 262 characters. Before being transmitted to Japan, the Chinese monk Hsuan-tsang (Jp., Genshō Sanzō) brought the Heart Sutra from India to Chang-an, in China. Since being brought to Japan, it has become the supreme sutra and is used in many sects of Japanese Buddhism.

The sutra teaches the idea of emptiness, which leads all to the mind of enlightenment. “In this world everything is impermanent; nothing lasts forever. Everything appears temporarily and changes from moment to moment. Therefore, there is no necessity to obsess about things, to fixate on them. Drawing on my power, with ease and comfort I chant the living sutra.”

The Buddha’s Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, practicing deep perfection of wisdom

Intuitively saw that the five aggregates are all empty, thus surpasses all suffering

Shariputra, form is not different from emptiness, emptiness not different from form

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form

The same is true for feelings, perceptions, mental reactions, and consciousness

Shariputra, these are the characteristics of the emptiness of all dharmas

They neither arise nor cease, are neither defiled nor pure, neither increase nor decrease

Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no feelings, perception, mental reactions, or consciousness

No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind

No form, sound, smell, taste, touch, or mind object

No eye sense-sphere, up to no consciousness sense-sphere

No ignorance nor the ending of ignorance

Up to no old age and death nor the end of old age and death

No Truth of Suffering, nor of the Cause of Suffering, nor of the Cessation of Suffering, nor of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering

There is no wisdom, nor is there attainment, for there is nothing to be attained

Because bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom

Nothing obstructs their mind. Because there are no obstructions

They have no fear and pass far beyond all illusions and imagination, and awaken to ultimate nirvana

All the Buddhas of past, present, and future, by relying on the Perfection of Wisdom

Attain Unsurpassed Perfect Enlightenment

Therefore, know that the Perfection of Wisdom

Is the great mysterious mantra, the great mantra of illumination

The supreme mantra, the unequaled mantra

Which can remove all suffering, and is true and not false

Therefore is said the mantra of the Perfection of Wisdom

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate

Bodhi Svaha

The Heart Sutra

I) Chant the mantra appropriate for the deity enshrined at the temple three times. The name of each temple’s deity is written in hiragana on one of the pillars in front of the entrance to the main hall.
J)Chant the Kōmyō Mantra (in Sanskrit) three times.

On abokya beiroshanou makabodara mani handoma jinbara harabaritaya un

Om, the Lord of the Great Sun. Mudra. Mani jewel. Light and lotus! Turn the wheel of eternal compassion to all beings. Hum.

This is the strongest mantra in Shingon Buddhism.

K)Chant the Gohōgō Mantra (the name of Kōbō Daishi) three times.

Offer your faith in Kōbō Daishi.

Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō
(Known as Kōbō Daishi’s mantra, or Following the Daishi.)

L)Chant the Ekōmon one time.

Gan n ishi kudoku
Fu gyū a issai
Ga dōyo shujyō
Kaigu jyōbutsu dō

If possible, may the reward for all my good works be passed to each and every thing in this world; may I and every living being, together, make progress on the Buddhist path.

This mantra is a ‘thank you,’ so as you say it place your hands in gasshō and bow your head.

The above supplications are not required, but if chanted, they should be offered from the heart, as if a gift. However, the Heart Sutra and the Gohōgō Mantra should not be omitted. The same procedure that was performed at the main hall is performed at the Daishi hall, except that step I above is omitted since Kōbō Daishi is enshrined in the Daishi hall instead of one of the Buddhist deities.

Walking inside the temple compound

When passing through the main gate, walking up the stone steps leading to a temple, or on any approach to a temple, walk on the left side. When going up steps to get to the receptacle for name slips or the offertory box, go up the left side of the steps and come back down on the right side.

Temple bathrooms

Do not take your monk’s stole, sedge hat, pilgrimage book, or mala into the bathrooms as this will be taking the temple’s man deity (honzon) and Kōbō Daishi into impure environments. In addition, since “Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō” is written on the back of your hakui (white over-jacket), it is best not to wear that in bathrooms as well. If nothing is written on the hakui, then doing so is not a problem.

Visiting Shintō shrines

Prior to 1868, Buddhism and Shintō were combined in a confusing mix with temples and shrines combined. Many of the temples (Buddhist) on the Shikoku pilgrimage still have deep connections to neighboring shrines (Shintō) so among Japanese it is considered ideal to pay respects at those shrines when visiting the temple. The proper procedure for this is as follows:

  • With your hands in gasshō, bow your head in prayer at the torii (the common Shintō orange/red arch) or the stairs leading to shrine (ogami ishi).
  • Walk along the side of the walkway leading to the shrine, not in the middle.
  • Purify yourself by rinsing your hands and mouth at the water purification stand using the same procedures as used at a temple (see above).
  • Place your monetary offering in the offertory box.
  • With your hands in gasshō, bow your head in prayer two times.
  • Clap your hands together two times.
  • With your hands in gasshō, bow your head in prayer one more time.
  • Say your vow, wish, oath, prayer.
  • Proceed to the shrine stamp office and get the shrine stamp (if you are collecting these).
  • After passing back down the stairs leading to the shrine or through the torii, turn around and, with your hands in gasshō, bow your head in prayer towards the shrine one time.

Eating meals at temples

Before eating while at a temple, place your hands together in gasshō as a sign of thanks to the universe, or nature, for providing this blessing that is your meal. Also offer a thank you to the producer of the meal as well as the person who prepared it.

After finishing your meal, place your hands in gasshō once again, offering thanks for what you have eaten.

If you are eating outside, place a couple grains of rice or a couple crumbs of bread in the palm of your hand and, while bowing your head, offer these to the spirits of all the deceased in the area.

Waterfall training (Takigyō)

Takigyō (waterfall training) is an ancient Japanese purification ceremony for cleansing yourself of such things as wrongdoings & sins, excuses you have used, and shame & disgrace. It is a spiritual practice that allows you to reset your natural heart/mind of acceptance, of not complaining or criticizing.

The main purposes of waterfall training are: forging your body & mind; nurturing your decisiveness; developing your untapped potential; unifying your body, mind, & spirit; and releasing worries and problems from your mind.

The order of performing waterfall training is:

  • Enter the area in front of the waterfall.
  • Change into your hakui and hold your mala.
  • Face the waterfall and chant a sutra as you would at a temple.
  • Prepare your body and mind and then enter the waterfall.
  • Concentrate your mind as if meditating.
  • Make the mudra of Fudō Myōō with your hands, or simply place them in gasshō.
  • Chant the Gohōgō (Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō).
  • Chant the mantra for Fudō Myōō, the guardian deity for waterfalls.
    (Naumaku sanmandabazaradan senda makaroshyada sowataya untarata kanman)
  • After exiting, turn to face the waterfall and say, “Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō” and “arigatōgozaimashita” (thank you).

Performing waterfall training is dangerous in winter without the guidance of a trained leader.

There are no particular set hours for performing waterfall training.

Several temples on Shikoku are famous for their waterfall training areas, including some on the pilgrimage route: Konjiji, the Kanjō Waterfall at Jigenji (Bekkaku Temple 3), Shōryūji (Temple 36), the Inner Temple (Okunoin) of Kōonji (Temple 61), Senyūji (Temple 58), and Senryūji (Bekkau Temple 13).

Back to Contents

13. Admonitions For Pilgrims

Admonitions for pilgrims, as people

  • For what reason, specifically, did you come to Shikoku?
  • When meeting inefficiencies, discomfort, anxieties, lack or shortages, and mild dangers, consider these as trials and tests, offered to you by the pilgrimage, and be thankful.
  • Also when in pain or finding yourself lost, keep moving forward, understanding the feelings of satisfaction that will come from having conquered difficulties.
  • Being a pilgrim is enduring difficulties, when you feel like you are no longer in control, yet being helped by the compassion of other people and considering everything from the viewpoint of others.
  • People’s thinking changes to match the speed of their walking. Over time, and distance, their sensitivity is polished and improved.
  • Being a pilgrim does not include complaining, dissatisfaction, or constantly thinking of comfort and ease.
  • What makes the pilgrimage magnificent is meeting other people. Greet those you meet warmly and from the heart.
  • Always keep in mind the pilgrims that will come in the future. Do not cause problems.

The Three Pilgrim Creeds

  1. Believe that Kōbō Daishi will save all beings, to the very last one. Walk the pilgrimage humbly, and with the mind of “We Two, Traveling Together" (Dōgyō Ninin).
  2. As troublesome and painful situations are encountered along the route, without complaining, keep in mind that this is spiritual training.
  3. Believe in the possibility of salvation, in this very world, as it is. Walk the pilgrimage with the ever present wish for enlightenment.

The Ten Precepts

See section 12-E in “Chanting The Sutras" above.

Back to Contents

14. Osettai

When local people along the route give pilgrims gifts, such as food, this is called “osettai." In the past, there were no vending machines or convenience store and the entire society was poor. It was only through the kindness and charity of the local people that walking pilgrims managed to survive at all. Rice and clothing were also important items given as osettai. From the viewpoint of the local people, while osettai was looked on as social welfare activities, at the same time, pilgrims were seen as representing Kōbō Daishi and seen as someone who could visit faraway temples on their behalf. Pilgrims were seen as having a religious value.

This custom of osettai still lives today. Automobile and bus pilgrims have few opportunities to experience this practice, but walking pilgrims very often find themselves receiving osettai from people living in houses along the route and from the complete strangers they meet on the street.

Because osettai is seen as have a religious value, it is believed that a pilgrim cannot refuse it when offered. However, some people also offer such things as a ride in their car to the nearest pilgrimage temple, which walking pilgrims cannot accept. In these cases, as you decline to accept the offer, it is best to offer an explanation as to why.

Unfortunately, some pilgrims grow used to receiving osettai and their feelings of gratitude begin to fade. Occasionally you will even meet a few arrogant pilgrims who have begun to think thoughts like “Receiving osettai is natural, a matter of course." Please keep in mind the pious and devout feelings of the people who give osettai to pilgrims even though they are complete strangers. Pilgrims must think about the people who are offering them osettai and accept it with care. As you are accepting it, please ask yourself if you are a human being worthy enough to receive it.

Back to Contents

15.Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai)

Le caractère sanskrit qui représente Kōbō Daishi est celui-ci :

Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) continues to be one of the most beloved figures from Japanese history among all the people of Japan, and legends about him can be found throughout the country. Besides being a monk, he also left his mark in fields such as of calligraphy, education, the fine arts, and civil engineering. It is said that he was like a Japanese Superman.

Kūkai was the founder of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. It is thought that the Shikoku Pilgrimage is a journey through the areas where Kūkai performed ascetic religious training in his youth. This is the foundation for the aspiration found amongst all pilgrims who spiritually and physically desire liberation.

However, research into Kūkai, the man, doesn’t lead to an image of an omniscient and omnipotent god. Rather, we should consider that, as the founder of the Shingon sect, the disciples that followed endowed him with divinity, or at least with a divine nature. In particular, it should be clear that the writing activities of travelling missionaries from Mt. Kōya, as well as of Shinnen and Jyakuhon, had a great influence on how he has been remembered. All of them were complete believers in Kūkai.

Even today, Kōbō Daishi is thought to be alive in his mausoleum on Mt. Kōya and meals are delivered twice a day to the inner temple that stands in front of it.

As seen on the front of your sedge hat, on each of your name slips, and many other places, this is the Sanskrit character that represents Kōbō Daishi:

Kūkai’s Biography

774 Born in the Tado District of Sanuki Province (now Zentsūji City of Kagawa Prefecture) to the influential local Saeki family. He was given the name Mao at birth.
792 At 18 years of age, he entered the university in Nara with the intention of becoming a government official, but left the university when he became attracted to Buddhism. He returned to Shikoku, the land of his birth, to perform the esoteric Buddhist training practice called “Kokūzō Gumonjihō,” popular among practitioners of Japanese mountain asceticism.
797 At the age of 24, he wrote his first book, the Sangō Shiiki, in which he compares Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.
804 When he was either 28 or 29, he took official ordination to become a monk at Tōdaiji Temple in Nara and departed for China. After drifting off the coast of Fukien Province for some time, he entered China’s capital of Chang-an.
805 Kūkai meets Keika Ajari (746-805), the 7th patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism, at Shōryūji Temple (Chinese, Qinglong Temple) and begins studying with him. Keika transmits the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism to Kūkai. (In 1982, a stone monument was placed in Shōryūji Temple memorializing Kūkai and showing the high value they place on his accomplishments). Keika gives Kūkai the name Henjō Kongō.
806 Kūkai had gone to Tang China with the intention of staying for 20 years, but just before his death, Keika Ajari told him to spread Esoteric Buddhism to Japan, so he returned home after only 2 years.
813 Appointed head of Tōdaiji Temple in Nara.
816 Founded Kongōbuji Temple on Mt. Kōya in Wakayama Prefecture. (Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
821 Managed a project to repair Mannōike, an agricultural water reservoir in Kagawa Prefecture, thus expanding non-religious voluntary social service.
828 Established an educational institution called “Shugeishuchiin” in Kyōto for the general public, those that didn’t receive any favor from the culture of the time.
830 Wrote the book “Himitsu Mandala Jujushinron,” a 10 volume book that explains the human condition from the Buddhist point of view.
835 Dies at his monastery complex on Mt. Kōya.
921 Emperor Daigo grants him the posthumous name Kōbō Daishi.

As a sign of their affection for this virtuous monk and all that he accomplished, the Japanese refer to him as “ODaishi-san.” Whether or not Kūkai was the one who actually founded the Shikoku Pilgrimage is not very clear, but even today, pilgrims in this 21st century believe that Kūkai, with a heart full of compassion, envelops them with his protection.

When considering all that has been written about him, in addition to being one of the wisest of all people, we can surmise that he was skilled in every area, such as political power and the ability to control vast wealth. For example, in the mere two years that he was a student envoy to Tang China, he used his self-taught language skills to play a major role in translating for the main Japanese envoy while drifting off the coast of western China, or, as sand naturally absorbs water, he was able to absorb the entire essence of Esoteric Buddhism, and we can imagine that an unimaginable amount was spent on his inauguration as the eight patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism. He is also called “Gohitsu Osho,”and was famous in Chang-an as a master of calligraphy. Furthermore, when he returned to Japan he brought a vast supply of Buddhist scriptures and ritual implements.

Kōbō Daishi lived so far in the past that the details of his life are hazy and mysterious, and this preserves the charisma attributed to him.

Back to Contents

16. History of The Pilgrimage

The basis of the number 88

There are many explanations for why there are 88 temples on the pilgrimage, but none of them can be proven as authentic.

  • One explanation is that 88 is the sum of the major unlucky ages (yakudoshi) for men (42), women (33), and children (13).
  • Another is that, when combined, the three characters used to write the number 88 form the character used to write the word rice. (In Japanese history, the culture of rice cultivation has been fundamental to politics, everyday life, etiquette, and everything else.)
  • This mimics a pilgrimage, called the “99 Princes," to 99 places of worship on the Kumano Kodō, an ancient pilgrimage trail in the Kumano area of what is now Wakayama Prefecture.
  • The character used to write the number 8 is auspicious because when it is written it spreads out, representing prosperity, and this meaning is overlaid on the number 88.
  • Occasionally, Japanese tend to prefer to use numbers that have a pleasant sound when spoken, so they simply chose eighty-eight as the number to mean “many."


In truth, it is not possible to be certain as to how the pilgrimage began. Some say that Kūkai began it, others say the pilgrimage began when Emon Saburō circled around the island trying to find Kūkai.

It appears in literature in Kūkai’s Sangō Shiiki, written in 797 when he was 24, followed by the 12th century books Konjaku Monogatari, and Ryōjin Hishō. At that time it was referred to as the Shikoku Hechi, which held the meanings of being a remote region, the region by the ocean, the far edge of the land. During this period monks doing spiritual training and monks of the Shūgendō tradition wandered the island practicing severe austerities in order to develop magical and spiritual powers, and this served as the pilgrimage’s main purpose. It is possible to say that both ocean worshippers and mountain worshippers, from areas more culturally advanced than Shikoku, crossed over to Shikoku in search of places specifically set aside for their religious practices. The concept of the number eighty-eight still had not been clearly formulated, they were simply searching for the countless remote areas found on Shikoku where they could practice their austerities.

As the next step, the characters for “Shikoku Pilgrimage" first appear in a document at Daigoji Temple in the year 1,280. Also there were the Kōya Hijiri, wandering missionaries from Mt. Kōya, whose activities took place in the 12th – 15th centuries. These monks, were, so to speak, the worker bees of Mt. Kōya and circled Shikoku collecting donations to take back to Mt. Kōya. They were half monk and half laymen, and it is thought that their efforts were a major contribution to the growing belief in Kōbō Daishi and the formation of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Famines were frequent at this time and social conditions were terrible, with many of the poor dying from starvation. In these circumstances, the people clung to their religion.

The number 88 appeared in the year 1471, and then again in 1629, but the historical investigation into these years isn’t clear and they are still considered imprecise.

In modern times it is thought that a fixed pilgrimage to 88 sacred places and the name Shikoku Henro (Shikoku Pilgrimage) were established sometime from the end of the 16th century to the 17th century. First, Chōzen’s travel book, Shikoku Henro Nikki (1653), and then Shinnen’s (thought to be a Kōya hijiri) pilgirmage guidebook, Shikoku Henro Michishirube, (1687) were published and as the first books in Japanese history intended for the general public, came out in many editions and became best-sellers. Eventually it came to the point where even Kabuki and Jōruri took up the subject of the pilgrimage and it now permeated all of society, including the common people. As society in Japan popularized, public stability, economic growth, security, the maintenance of roadside facilities, and the means of transportation all were established. From this point, affluent tourists coming to the pilgrimage began to make their appearance.

After this, the status of pilgrimage rose and fell due to changes in government and several wars, leading us to where it stands today. Nowadays, with the development of automobiles and railways, a new style of pilgrimage has been born.

Roadways, road markers, and signposts have rapidly improved, plus, with the addition of a sightseeing component and the lowering of the hurdles for people wanting to participate, many more people are becoming familiar with the pilgrimage. What’s more, in this materially abundant age, we find ourselves on the tailwind of a boom were the number of people seeking real wealth and a healing of the heart are increasing.

As a supplement…

When discussing the history of the pilgrimage, there is a past that cannot be buried and forgotten. According to records, in the middle of the 1600s, together with the establishment of the political system, socio-economic conditions stabilized and, as the lives of the masses became more affluent, the number of pilgrims increased. Yet at the same time, the disparity in society also grew larger and in the latter half of the 1600s the poor from the lowest rungs of society began to make their appearance on Shikoku.

This dark history had various societal causes. Due to unimaginable famines, burdensome taxation, and overall meager lives, those who received nothing from society headed to Shikoku in search of the culture of osettai. Osettai is the pilgrimage’s most unique feature, and therefore begging pilgrims, fake pilgrims, professional pilgrims, and sick & invalid pilgrims appeared.

Pilgrims suffering from chronic malnutrition and overwork, wandered like zombies between life and death, and when they died, were buried according to the customs of the village where they died, leaving only a letter that they had carried with them, called a “Sute Orai Tegata," saying that nothing mattered and which the village sent back to the pilgrim’s hometown informing the family of the pilgrim’s death. In this manner, a great many pilgrims have become part of Shikoku’s soil. If a pilgrim happened to have any money, a gravestone was set up, but if not, they were simply buried in unmarked graves. It is almost unimaginable today, but people undertook journeys involving such levels of hardship and suffering.

On the face of it, villagers talked of osettai, but in some cases, because having a person die would cause problems for the others in their own village, in the middle of the night the villagers would carry a dying person to the border of a neighboring village. Nevertheless, records remain noting the sympathy that people on Shikoku had towards sick and invalid pilgrims, offering them health checkups, care, and burials, all out of the desire to offer pilgrims osettai. It is easy to imagine the people of Shikoku feeling close to those who, like themselves, were poor and distressed and offering them osettai.

Lung cancer and leprosy were thought to be hereditary diseases at this time, so if someone in the household became sick, in fear of becoming social outcasts and being ostracized from the village, they would leave and become pilgrims. But, they were also discriminated against by other pilgrims and ended up walking the back roads of the pilgrimage route. They were loathed at lodging facilities as well, and spent their nights under the eaves of rural hermitages. Some of them became thieves and robbers. Pilgrims such as these dreamed of Kōbō Daishi curing their illness, but even today we see the many gravestones of those pilgrims who fell and died along the route. Graves of the comparatively blessed pilgrims (because they could pay for a gravestone) can be seen everywhere along the old pilgrimage routes, and as roads and housing developments are built these gravestones are collected into one special, out of the way, area.

This influx of such a large number of henro coming to the pilgrimage increased social unrest, and among local administrations, having no idea how to handle it, financially austere Tosa and Uwajima Provinces began restricting the number of pilgrims that were allowed to enter their provinces, culminating with a total ban on their entry from 1854 through 1866.

Keeping this dark past in mind, shouldn’t people today, even though they live in peace and harmony, acknowledge it and pass it on to the next generation?

The pilgrimage can be said to be a complex of various beliefs and practices. In addition to the nature worship and Shintō beliefs that existed in Japan prior to the introduction of Buddhism (538 or 552), it also now includes faiths such as Buddhism, Shugendō, and Kōbō Daishi worship.

The image of Kōbō Daishi’s Shingon Buddhism is strong, but, historically, many religions and religious sects make up the composite that has become the pilgrimage.

Religious affiliation of non-Shingon temples:

  • Tendai: 4 (#43, Meisekiji; #76, Konzōji; #82, Negoroji; #87, Nagaoji)
  • Rinzai Zen: 2 (#11; Fujiidera; #33, Sekkeiji)
  • Sōtō Zen: 1 (#15, Kokubunji)
  • Ji: 1 (#78, Goshōji)

Back to Contents

17. Glossary and Miscellaneous Information


Stories of the origin, history, and divine benefits of a temple.

Pilgrimage Hut Project A plan to build small huts throughout Shikoku for walking pilgrims to use for breaks and naps. All huts are built by volunteers to honor their inheritance of the pilgrimage culture and to assist with its continuation and spread in the future. The design of each hut is characteristic of the local region and incorporates Kūkai’s thinking.
Bangai Temples Temples along the pilgrimage route that are historically related to the pilgrimage, yet not included among the main 88 temples.

Footprints of Shakyamuni Buddha, engraved in stone and serving as objects of worship.

Dōjō The Japanese word “dōjō" is frequently translated into English as “exercise hall or gymnasium," but in Buddhism, a dōjō is a place where you not only train and discipline your body, but a place for spiritual training as well.

The concept of there being four dōjōs through which the pilgrimage route passes can only be confirmed in books written since World War II. This fact is in agreement with the general ideas of Shinnen (1687) that this is a loop pilgrimage to 88 temples and that is acceptable for a pilgrim to start anywhere on that loop.

Dōgyō Ninin The idea that a pilgrim is never walking the pilgrimage alone, but is always accompanied by Kōbō Daishi, who is there to help with your training and discipline.
Ekiroji The designation given in 1598 to eight temples in Tokushima Prefecture (then Awa Province), where pilgrims could find lodging. However, the temples were also given the responsibility of tracking and monitoring pilgrims passing along the route. The current Temple 6, Anrakuji, resulted from a merger in the past with the ekiroji temple called Zuiunji.
Gokosho A ritual instrument Kōbō Daishi is seen holding in his right hand in his official portrait. One type of Vajra, with other types being the Dokkosho and Sankosho. Among various Buddhas and other deities as well, this is a weapon held by Wisdom Kings, with which they drive out people’s worldly desires (bonnō).
Goeika A poem sung at the end of religious services. They have the same effect as chanting a sutra.
Goma A fire ceremony where offerings and wooden sticks with prayers and wishes written on them are burnt in a fire pit, with the prayers and wishes being carried to the heavens by the flames in order to be fulfilled. Fire ceremonies held outdoors are called Saito Goma. In a ceremony tied to Ocean worship, mountain temples would hold fire ceremonies in order to aid ships that were navigating in the area.
Hannya Shingyō The Heart Sutra. One of the many Buddhist sutras. It is said that the Heart Sutra condenses 600 volumes of scripture into 262 characters. Thought to have been written in the 2nd ̶ 3rd century C.E., it teaches that the concept of emptiness (Kū) will bring you to the state of mind called enlightenment (satori) by means of discarding all obsessions like greed and attachment.
Henro Korogashi Difficult and steep sections on some of the mountain trails of the pilgrimage route where it is easy to slip and fall. These occur on the trails to & from Temples 12, 20, 21, 27, 60, 66, 81, and 82. “Korogashi" is the Japanese translation of “falling down," or “tumble down."
Honzon The statue in the main hall of a temple that serves as the central focus and object of worship. Either one of the Buddhas or one of the other Buddhist deities. In almost all cases, there is one statue that serves as the honzon, but there are a few temples that also have Kyoji, supporting statues that stand on the left and right sides of the main statue.
Hyōseki Stone trail markers set up along the pilgrimage route providing temple name/number, distance, and direction information. They have been set in place during many periods over the years, from the 17th century to the present. Two of the more famous people who have been known to erect the stone markers are: Shinnen, in the 17th century, who erected 200 markers, and Nakatsukasa Mohei (1845—1922), who is known to have erected about 240 markers.

Ichinomiya are local Shinto shrines of the highest ranking (although the official ranking system was abolished in 1946). Between the years 701 and 1869 the nation was divided into 68 administrative divisions with each division having their own Ichinomiya shrine.
In this regard, the current Ichinomiya shrines on Shikoku are:

  • Awa (Tokushima Pref.): Ōasahiko Shrine
  • Tosa (Kōchi Pref.): Tosa Shrine
  • Iyo (Ehime Pref.): Ōyamazumi Shrine
  • Sanuki (Kagawa Pref.): Tamura Shrine

At each of these there is also a pilgrimage temple, with which they have a deep historical relationship.


Mt. Ishizuchi, in Ehime Prefecture. Kūkai performed ascetic religious practices on this mountain. It is 1,982 meters high and is the roof of Shikoku and the tallest peak in western Japan. In his book Sangō Shiiki, Kūkai described it as, “At one time I straddled Ishi Peak, and with food completely cut off, I was separated from the world." (He suffered while fasting on Mt. Ishizuchi.) Many tourists come to visit if the weather is good, because not only can you see the scenery of Setouchi beyond the Taiju Sea, but you can also see the mountains of the Chūgoku and Kyūshū regions as well.

According to En-no-Gyōja, the area was opened in the 7th century, and was used for mountain worship and ascetic practices by the Shugendō Sect. The trails still look as if they were used for ascetic training, with consecutive steep sections of rock face with chains installed to allow climbers to ascend. In addition, the north side of the Mt. Ishizuchi area is dotted with training areas associated with the Thirty-Six Prince Shrine (Sanjūroku Ooji Sha) and believers come from areas that range from Temple 60 all the way to Temple 64.

Kechigan To finish worshipping at all 88 of the pilgrimage temples.
Kokubunji In order to calm problems causing anxiety in the country, in the year 741 Emperor Shōmu (701—756) ordered each province to build a state temple for monks and a nunnery for women, called, respectively, Kokubunji and Kokubu-niji. Each temple was run by the government and built next to the provincial government offices. Each of the four Kokubunji temples on Shikoku are included among the 88 pilgrimage temples.

Mt. Kōya, in Wakayama Prefecture. A large monastic city opened in 816 by Kūkai on an isolated mountain peak at an altitude of 800 meters, with about 3,000 people authorized to live there, and with Kongōbuji Temple at the center. Designated a World Heritage Site in 2004.

Based on the idea of “Dōgyō Ninin," (We Two, Travelling Together; or We Two, Practicing Together), it has become tradition for many pilgrims to visit Kōbō Daishi’s mausoleum at the Inner Temple (Okunoin) on Mt. Kōya after they finish their pilgrimage so that they can report to him that their pilgrimage is complete. Other pilgrims chose to visit the mausoleum before they being their pilgrimage in order greet Kōbō Daishi and ask for his help and support along the journey.

Mandara Mandala. An iconographic map of the Buddhist world, usually depicted in painted form. In Japanese Esoteric Buddhism (mikkyō), there are two principal mandalas, each representing one of the two main scriptures used in Shingon Buddhism. The Kongōkai Mandala is a visual representation of the Kongōchōgyō (Vajrasekhara Sutra, or Tattvasamgraha Sutra). The Taizōkai Mandala is a representation of the Dainichikyō (The Mahavairocana Sutra).


It is thought that Buddhism was transmitted to Japan from the Kudara Kingdom (Baekje) on the Korean Peninsula in either 538 or 552 C.E., but esoteric Buddhism didn’t arrive in Japan until the Tenpyō Period (729—749). After this Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) organized and systematized its teachings and spread it among the masses.

Mikkyō is still a living religion today with many believers among the people and scholar monks continuing to research and study its teachings. It is only practiced in the regions of Tibet and Japan, but given that Japanese Esoteric Buddhism is a later transmission, the two teachings have differences.

After being transmitted to Japan, Buddhism underwent its own unique development. Many sects have come and gone, and while Shakyamuni is the founder of Buddhism as a whole, each sect had its own charismatic founder and gathered believers under that person’s name. Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai), the founder of Japan’s Shingon Buddhism sect of Esoteric Buddhism, is one such charismatic founder.

Nehan-zō A Buddhist statue showing Shakyamuni laying on his right side in the sleep of death, after entering final Paranirvana. Made of two sets of sandalwood, for a total of 4 pieces. In these statues, the Buddha’s pillow is always aligned to the north and he is laying on his right side, with Bodhisattvas and others, such as disciples, kings, and governmental ministers placed around him depicting their state of mourning.

The custom in ancient times where women were forbidden to enter sacred mountain areas. It is thought to be related to the practices of Shugendō, and in places where it was enforced, special areas for women to use when necessary were prepared beforehand. On Shikoku this affected three temple complexes:

  • Mt.Ishizuchi, which still enforces the ban on July 1, but not on any other days.
  • Kannon Cave below Hotsumisakiji Temple (#24). Ban lifted in 1873.
  • Fudō Rocks near Kongochōji Temple (#26). Ban lifted in 1873.
Oku-no-in Inner temple. In general, inner temples are located in difficult, and sometimes dangerous, places to access, such as caves, waterfalls, and mountain peaks. In former times, ascetics would perform their austerities in the vicinity of these inner temples and it is thought that these ascetics and their attendants would live at the temple itself. Because of their presence at the temple, other people would gather and gradually the number of buildings would increase, soon followed by local people beginning to come and worship as well. Understanding inner temples in this way is the key to understanding the religious and social significance of the pilgrimage temples themselves. Because they were places for ascetic religious training, they remained small and simple temples with no extra facilities.
Orei-Mairi The custom of returning to the temple you started your walk at, after visiting all eight-eight temples. Or, after finishing your walk, visiting the Okunoin on Mt. Kōya to report to Kōbō Daishi that you have completed the pilgrimage. Kōbō Daishi is thought to be resting in eternal meditation in the mausoleum behind the okunoin ever since his bodily death.

The custom of local people giving walking pilgrims gifts of many various things such as food. This is done not only to support the pilgrim, but is also seen as an offering to the Buddha, and for this reason it is improper for pilgrims to refuse the offer. Undoubtedly, many pilgrims are surprised by the kind-heartedness of the people on Shikoku. Many people on Shikoku see a pilgrim’s daily existence as being close to that of the Buddha, so in their minds their offering to a pilgrim is going to the Buddha. Osettai is the one keyword that most represents the Shikoku pilgrimage in most people’s minds.

A personal opinion from the author:
There is a procedure for giving and receiving osettai. Accepting osettai while praying for the happiness of the person offering it is the purpose of accepting. Is there any value in receiving osettai for people seeking their own personal benefits? What about you? Receiving osettai has this requirement, so while answering this question for yourself and noticing any seeds of conflict in you, please feel the seriousness of osettai. We all want to see the culture of osettai continue into the distant future.

Rakan In India, disciples of Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment were praised and called rakans. In China, the word indicated groups of Buddhist ascetics. Several interesting collections of rakan statues can be seen among the pilgrimage temples (#5, Jizōji; #66, Unpenji; and #75 Zentsūji) and even though some of the collections have 500 statues, every statue is supposed to exhibit a different facial expression no two are supposed to be alike. A red-painted statue of Binzuru, Obinzuru-sama as he is usually called, is frequently seen at pilgrimage temples, and he is also a rakan. Obinzuru-sama is a healer, and it is said that if you alternate rubbing a part of your body that is diseased, hurts, or otherwise bothers you, and rubbing the same part of the body on the statue, Binzuru will heal the affected part.
Saisen Money offered at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples when making pilgrimages to them. In the olden days, the money was wrapped in paper before being placed in the offertory box. Furthermore, if we go back even further in time, the offering wasn’t money, but things like rice.

The Three Secrets. In Shingon Buddhism, it is believed that everyone is born with the inherent potential to realize Buddhahood. In fact, according to Shingon Buddhism, everyone, just as they are, are already Buddhas, but they don’t realize it, and it is through the three secrets practices that they come to realize this Buddha nature.

The three secret practices work in two directions: Dainichi Nyorai, the personification of Truth (Dharmakaya), practices them in order to reveal the Truth to living beings while we practice to realize that Truth. When our practice unifies with that of Dainichi Nyorai, enlightenment is the result.

The secrets practices come in three varieties, the secrets of the body, speech, and the mind:

  • The secrets of the body include performing specific hand mudras, manipulating ritual instruments, and meditating,
  • The secrets of speech include the chanting of mantras,
  • The secrets of the mind include visualization practices with mandalas and written Sanskrit characters.
Satori Enlightenent. A pilgrim’s final goal, their highest objective. Buddhism’s highest state. People who attain enlightenment become Buddhas. In easy to understand words, it is understanding the true meaning of all things.
Sekishoji Barrier temples where Kōbō Daishi is said to check each pilgrim’s habitual behavior. If their behavior is bad, it is impossible for them to continue their pilgrimage past this temple. There is one barrier temple in each prefecture, and these are: #19, Tatsueji; #27, Konomineji; #60, Yokomineji; and #66, Unpenji.
Sendatsu Senior guides. Sendatsu are experienced guides who lead novice pilgrims around the pilgrimage. To become a sendatsu, it is necessary to have completed the entire 88 temple pilgrimage more than four times and to be recommended by one of the pilgrimage temples. Once this is complete, the organization that oversees all of the pilgrimage temples deliberates and, when approved, grants the applicant the appropriate qualifications and permissions.
Shinbutsu Bunri

In 1868 the Japanese government gave priority to a new policy, in line with nationalistic thinking, that replaced the prior amalgamation of Shintō and Buddhism (Shinbutsu Shūgō) with a policy of strictly separating them (Shinbutsu Bunri). As the policy took effect, the anti-Buddhist movement (Haibutsu Kishaku), bent on abolishing Buddhism, spread throughout the general population. The effects were even felt among the Shikoku pilgrimage temples, and many of them saw their property and assets destroyed. This destruction continued until religious liberty was reintroduced in 1875.

In recent times, much Buddhist art outside of Japan has been swept away and destroyed. Moreover, there is an anecdote that says that the wood from the five-story pagoda at Kōfukuji in Nara (which became a World Heritage Site in 1998) was being sold as firewood for 25 yen.

Shingon The Japanese word “Shingon” has several meanings. In the first instance, Shingon are the many Sanskrit mantras assigned to the Buddhas and other deities in Esoteric Buddhism. It also signifies the Japanese Shingon school of Buddhism established by Kūkai in the 9th century.
Sokushin Jōbutsu Sokushin Jōbutsu is realizing ultimate enlightenment and becoming a Buddha in this lifetime, in the very body you have. In order to accomplish this it is necessary to deviate from your normal patterns of daily life and submit to strict religious training and practice. It is necessary to relinquish your own ego and offer your body and life to the world and to others. It is necessary to seclude yourself in the mountains for 1,000 days, even 2,000 days, and give up all grains while performing ascetic practices. The world of sokushin jōbutsu is a world that transcends everything, including north, south, east, & west (see information about the sugegasa hat above), good & evil, and life & death.
Takuhatsu In former times, ascetic monks and true pilgrims, for the salvation of all beings, for religious training, or to seek material and financial support for the temple where they lived, would daily walk from house to house, and while standing in front, chant sutras for the happiness of all inhabitants of that household. The householders came to call this practice alms giving (ofuse) and donated rice or money offerings by placing them in the monk’s bowl. Ofuse also took on an opposite meaning, though; for pilgrims to undertake takuhatsu training was an activity that required considerable courage. Even today it is possible to see monks practicing takuhatsu training in front of train stations and on streets in business districts, but it is forbidden inside the temple compounds.

Tashinkyō Polytheism. Many Japanese are polytheistic and their belief in Buddhism is only one aspect of their religious faith. Everywhere in the world, people have their own preferred gods and buddhas. We should understand that people’s religions include the worship of statues of these gods and buddhas and that the statues are not just objects of art.
Otera Temples. Until about 30 years ago, temples for the Japanese were places for local gatherings and meetings, as well as a place for the local children to play. It was a place closely connected to people’s everyday lives. Today, there are few chances to use them for events other than memorial services or other religious functions. This tendency is especially strong in urban areas.
Waniguchi A metal bell that hangs from the front edge of the roof eaves at both the main hall and the Daishi hall. Waniguchi translates as “alligator mouth," and the bell has taken this name because of the round flat shape of the bell with a wide opening along the bottom. Pilgrims ring the bell by shaking the attached rope that hangs down from the clacker. This tells the enshrined Buddha that you have arrived to worship.

Waraji At many of the main gates in front of pilgrimage temples, you will find straw sandals (waraji) of various sizes, hanging there as prayers for strong and steady feet as you walk your pilgrimage. Waraji are easy to walk in on mountain trails and over long distances, and some people even make their own, although you will almost never see them being used. In former times, before roads were paved, they were a necessity for all pilgrims.

Yaku To meet with misfortune, calamity, or disaster.

Those years of your life when you need to be vigilant about the high risk of encountering misfortune, calamity, or disaster (yaku). When using the old manner of considering a newborn as being 1 year old, the yaku-doshi for men are 25, 42, and 61. For women, they are 18, 33, and 37. In particular, the age of 42 for men and 33 for women are called years of “daiyaku," great calamity; years of the highest risk of misfortune. Because the Japanese no longer use the system where newborns are considered 1 year old, today it is necessary to add one year to each of the above to calculate the years that might be bad for you.

There are some pilgrimage temples that have “yaku-doshi kaidan," stairs with the number of steps equaling the major years of misfortune for men and women. In these cases, people who happen to have that age sometimes place a coin on each of the steps as the climb them in hopes that the offering will help offset the risk that the year poses.

Yaku-Yoke Praying to the deity enshrined in the main hall in order to escape any misfortune. This is still a strong custom among Japanese.


Leap year. The pilgrimage is typically walked in a clockwise direction (jun-uchi), but some pilgrims walk it in the opposite, counterclockwise direction (gyaku-uchi). It is said, though, that walking in the counterclockwise direction during a leap year brings the pilgrim even more benefits and blessings.

This comes from the story of Emon Saburō, who walked around Shikoku 20 times in the clockwise direct while searching for Kōbō Daishi. Not finding him, on his 21 circuit he decided to walk around the island in a counterclockwise direction in hopes that this would improve his chances of finding him. While walking in the counterclockwise direction he finally encountered Kōbō Daishi at the foot of the mountain leading to Shōsanji, Temple 12. For this reason, that year became a leap year. Even today, it is said that pilgrims walking in a counterclockwise direction will surely meet Kōbō Daishi, who continues his spiritual training by continuously walking around the island in a clockwise direction.

It should be noted that all of the pilgrimage signposts have been erected for use by those walking in a clockwise direction. This means pilgrims walking in the counterclockwise direction will frequently get lost. However, for this very reason, walking in the counterclockwise direction is seen as the method that affords pilgrims the greatest benefits and blessings.

Go-Butsu Five buddhas. This refers to Dainichi Nyorai (Buddha) and the four other buddhas that surround him in the center section of the two main Shingon mandalas. Five-color flags are seen hanging at the pilgrimage temples and the five colors get their origin from the colors associated with these five buddhas.
Jūsan-Butsu Thirteen Buddhas. There are thirteen Buddhas worshipped in Shingon Buddhism and, as a group, they make up the main deities found in the two main Shingon mandalas. At Buddhist memorial services for mourning someone who has died, during the service held on the seventh day after the person’s death, Fudō Myōō is placed on the altar and worshipped. Services in subsequent days and years rotate through the thirteen Buddhas with a given schedule and each ceremony enshrines and worships a different Buddha, with Kokuzō Bodhisattva being worshipped at the final service on the 33rd anniversary of the person’s death.
En-no-Gyōja (634-701)

Also known as En-no-Ozuna. Born in modern day Nara Prefecture, En-no-Gyōja (634—701) was a diviner and healer who studied esoteric mantra practices and performed austerities in the mountains and eventually laid the foundation for Shugendō. He was an actual living person, but the picture of him transmitted down over the years has been largely affected by the legends and folklore surrounding him.

He is usually referred to as En-no-Gyōja and considered the founder of Shugendō. He is also thought to be the founder of four of the pilgrimage temples: #12, Shōsanji; #47, Yasakaji; #60, Yokomineji; and #64, Maegamiji.

Frederick Starr(1895-1933) A professor of Anthropology at The University of Chicago, he made fifteen trips to Japan over the course of his life. He travelled extensively and his homemade name slips (osamefuda) have been found attached to temples and shrines throughout the country, leading to people to begin calling him “Dr. Amulet." In 1921 he undertook a 30 day pilgrimage and found a copper name slip at Enmyōji, Temple 53, which is the temple’s oldest name slip. He also climbed Mt. Fuji five times and is buried at the foot of the mountain.

Gyōki (668-749) A monk born in what is now Osaka Prefecture. His activities centered on social work in the center of the Kansai region, working with local people on issues such as helping the poor, flood control, building new rice fields, and bridge building. In 745 the government awarded him the highest rank of High Priest. He was also given the title of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) and, therefore, has since been known Gyōki Bosatsu. He is thought to have established 30 of the pilgrimage temples on Shikoku.
Chōsokabe Motochika (1538—1599) The feudal lord who ruled Tosa Province (now Kōchi Prefecture), but his power and influence magnified greatly when he unified all of Shikoku in 1585. Most of the pilgrimage temples outside of Tosa Province were destroyed by fires during the wars leading to the island’s unification, and there was much suffering during the years that followed as they rebuilt all that was lost.
Shinnen Yuben (?-1691) It is said that the popularization of the pilgrimage on Shikoku began in the 17th century. Shinnen published the first pilgrimage guidebook, Shikoku Henro Michishirube, in 1687. He walked the pilgrimage more than 20 times and, because he often saw pilgrims who were lost, went on to set up over 200 stone signposts throughout Shikoku. After this, he collected stories of the merit and benefits of walking the pilgrimage into a book he published in 1690, called Shikoku Henro Kudoku Ki, Record of the Merits of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Together with his colleague, the scholar monk Jyakuhon, from Mt. Kōya, he wrote and published a handbook about all eighty-eight of the pilgrimage temples in 1689, called Shikoku Henro Reijō Ki, Record of the Pilgrimage Temples on The Shikoku Pilgrimage.
Units of Length Until Japan introduced the metric system in 1891, units of measurement were based on an old system inherited from China. For this reason, old signposts were marked with distances measured in chō (109m) and ri (3,927m). In reality, though, there were variations in how distance was measured depending on place and time.
Museums Housing Complete Information on The Pilgrimage
  • Ehime Prefectural Historical Museum (Ehime Prefecture, Seiyo City)
  • Kagawa Prefectural Museum (Kagawa Prefecture, Takamatsu City)

Back to Contents

18. An Introduction To Buddhist Statues

This is an introduction to the Buddhist statues that will frequently be seen at the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

In Japan’s polytheistic system where Buddhism and the local Shintō religion were amalgamated for centuries, the unlimited desires and wishes of people gave rise to various gods and buddhas, each with a different form and offering different benefits when worshipped. The below will introduce the many main deities worshipped in the main halls of the 88 pilgrimage temples. By understanding of the benefits of worshipping each deity and the significance of their existence, the statues will become more meaningful to you as you worship at the temples.

Nyorai (Buddha)

Beings who have already become enlightened. In the world of Buddhist statues, Nyorai are also called “Budda" (Japanese transliteration of Buddha) and this points back to the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni. Nyorai are rated as the highest level of beings and when depicted in statues, as a general rule, they hold no artifacts and no accessories are attached to their bodies.

Shaka Nyorai (Shakyamuni) Born the son of a king and given the name Gotama Siddhartha, Shakyamuni was the founder of Buddhism. He is called Shaka Nyorai as a sign of respect. As an actual historical person, he attained enlightenment after years of ascetic training and practices, and with the powers he gained, he works to save all beings.
Amida Nyorai Amida Nyorai’s lifespan is unlimited and he shines his light on all countries and all people. He is a being of superpowers, unconstrained by either time or space. People who believe in Amida Nyorai go to his Pure Land after their death.
Yakushi Nyorai Whereas other nyorai work to comfort you after death, Yakushi Nyorai has the very pragmatic wish of saving people by granting them relief from the suffering encountered in sickness. Yakushi is a very affectionate Buddha. A characteristic of all statues depicting Yakushi Nyorai is the medicine bowl that he always holds in his left hand.
Dainichi Nyorai Dainichi Nyorai is dressed as a model of a young Shaka Nyorai. In addition, in most statues, he is depicted wearing various cosmic ornaments and accessories. Dainichi Nyorai is the greatest, highest ranking nyorai in Esoteric Buddhism.

Bosatsu (Bodhisattva)

While performing religious training with nyorai, bosatsu exert great efforts to save all beings. Bosatsu statues have more ornamentation than nyorai statues, and are usually dressed in items like crowns, necklaces, and earrings. In addition, they are shown holding various tools in their hands that will be used to fulfill the wishes of those it helps.

Jūichimen Kannon Bosatsu Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. In addition to the main face, the statue has eleven other faces arranged above the statues head, all of which show expressions of human emotions (joy, anger, pathos, and humor). With a deep sense of compassion, this bosatsu (like others) strives to save all beings from suffering. Many statues depict Kannon as a goddess.
Senju Kannon Bosatsu One thousand-armed Avolokitesvara Bodhisattva. The palm of each of the one thousand arms contains an eye, and with these thousand eyes she is able to find the suffering and troubles of all beings, and then try to relieve them and bring them to salvation.
Jizō Bosatsu Jizō Bodhisattva. Just as the great earth contains the power to nurture and care for all beings, Jizō Bosatsu works to save them from their worries and difficulties. Jizō Bosatsu is popularly believed to be the “guardian deity of children." It is said that during the 5,670,000,000 years between the time when Shakyamuni died and the appearance of Miroku Bosatsu (Maitrea Bodhisattva) as the next Buddha, while there are no buddhas in the current world, Jizō Bosatsu will continuously work to rescue all beings.
Shō Kannon Bosatsu Sacred Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Depicted in the form of a common human being, this bosatsu is given the general name of Shō Kannon. She wears a crown containing small statues of Amida Nyorai and is depicted holding a lotus flower in her left hand.
Batō Kannon Bosatsu Horse-Head Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. This statue depicts Kannon Bosatsu with the head of a horse on top of his head. He works to remove all being’s ignorance and worldly desires (bonnō), and to destroy all of the evil in their lives. Where other statues depict Kannon with a calm and gentle feminine appearance, Batō Kannon is depicted with the corners of his eyes raised in a fierce look and with fangs bared, giving the statue an overall expression of anger or fury.
Kokūzō Bosatsu Akasagarbha Bodhisattva. Like the vast size of the universe, Kokūzō Bosatsu is said to have infinite wisdom and compassion. Worship of Kokūzō is said to bring benefits to a person’s studies and memory. He is depicted holding a wish-fulfilling jewel in his left hand.
Monju Bosatsu Manjusri Bodhisattva. Monju is the bosatsu of knowledge that gives us the wisdom to correctly judge and decide all things. He sits on a lotus throne, which is sometimes placed on the back of a lion. In his right hand he holds a sword, a symbol of the wisdom with which he destroys our delusions. In his left hand he holds a lotus flower and a sutra with which he dispenses wisdom to all.
Miroku Bosatsu Maitreya Bodhisattva. Maitreya Bosatsu will appear in this world 5,670,000,000 years after the death of Shakyamuni Buddha in order to save all beings so is called the future Buddha. He will become a Buddha (nyorai) after his appearance in the world.

Myōō (Wisdom Kings)

According to Esoteric Buddhism, among existing deities, myōō are the messenger deities of Dainichi Nyorai. They hold swords in their right hands and a rope in their left hand. With eyes wide open, they scowl at the world and use their power to punish evil and wickedness.

Fudō Myōō Acala Vidyaraja. A deity unique to Esoteric Buddhism and brought to Japan from China by Kūkai. Fudō is a personification of Dainichi Nyorai and he destroys our worldly desires (bonnō) with his terrifying appearance and the flames that surround him. He protects us by becoming people’s substitute in times of need.

Tenbu (Devas)

Originating in Brahmanism, there are many deities whose purpose is to protect Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Wisdom Kings from their enemies. Four of them, as a group, are generally called the Shitennō, the Four Heavenly Kings, and their role is to protect the Buddhist world in each of the four directions: East, West, South, and North. These are, in the order of the direction they protect: Jikouten, Kōmokuten, Zōchōten, and Tamonten.

Kongō Rikishi(Niō Guardians) Two deities in human form standing to the left and right side of the main gate leading into a temple, blocking entrance to the enemies of the Buddhas with their ferocious facial expressions. The deity on the right (as you face the gate) is called Agyō, and is depicted with his mouth open. On the left side of the gate, the deity is depicted with a closed mouth and is called Ungyō. Most people refer to the pair together as “Oniō-sama."

Back to Contents

19. Access

Getting to Shikoku from primary access points inside Japan

By Air

Tokushima Airport ←→ Tōkyō Haneda and Fukuoka airports.

Kōchi Airport ←→ Tōkyō Haneda, Nagoya, Ōsaka, Fukuoka airports.

Matsuyama Airport ←→Tōkyō Haneda, Narita, Chubu, Osaka, Kansai, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Naha, Seoul, and Shanghai airports.
Takamatsu Airport ←→Tōkyō Haneda, Narita, Naha, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei airports.

By Train Primary access points inside Japan ←→ Okayama ←→ Tokushima, Kōchi, Matsuyama, and Takamatsu

Japan Rail Pass

A very profitable ticket limited to short-term stays in Japan or short tourist related visits. Including the Shinkansen, this allows unlimited rides on JR line trains. It is necessary to apply for a Japan Rail Pass before entering Japan.

Price of Exchange Orders( as of March 2016)

Duration Adult Child Adult Child
7-Day 38,880yen 19,440yen 29,110yen 14,550yen
14-Day 62,950yen 31,470yen 46,300yen 23,190yen
21-Day 81,870yen 40,930yen 59,350yen 29,670yen


By Bus

Tokushima, Anan, Kamojima ←→ Tōkyō, Ōsaka (Toku Bus)

Tokushima ←→ Nagoya, Kyōto, KIX, Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima (Toku Bus)

Muroto, sud de Tokushima ←→ Ōsaka, Kobe (Toku Bus)

Nahari, Noichi, Tosayamada ←→ Kyōto, Ōsaka, Kobe (Kintetsu Bus)

Kōchi, Aki ←→ Ōsaka (Tosaden Bus)

Susaki, Kōchi ←→ Kyōto, Ōsaka, Kobe (JR Bus)

Sukumo, Nakamura, Kubokawa, Susaki ←→ Kyoto, Ōsaka, Kobe (Kintetsu Bus)

Johen, Uwajima, Unomachi, Ōzu ←→ Ōsaka, Kobe (Uwajima Jidōsha)

Ōzu, Uchiko, Matsuyama ←→ Kyōto, Nagoya, Ōsaka (Iyōtetsu Bus)

Matsuyama ←→ Kyōto, Kobe, Okayama, Fukuyama, Fukuoka (Iyōtetsu Bus)

Imabari, Saijō, Niihama, Shikoku Chūō ←→ Kyōto, Ōsaka, Kobe (Seto Uchi Bus)

Awaikeda, Donari, Itano ←→Ōsaka, Kobe (Hankyū Bus)

Marugame, Sakaide, Takamatsu, Shido ←→ Kyoto, Yokohama, Nagoya (Shikoku Kōsoku Bus)
Kanonji, Marugame, Zentsūji ←→ Ōsaka, Kobe, (Shikoku Kōsoku Bus)

Takamatsu ←→ Ōsaka, Kōbe (Foot Bus)

Takamatsu ←→ Hiroshima (JR Shikoku Bus)

Note 1: Bus stations are located adjacent to all train stations.
Note 2: Cities written in bold characters stop at the Nankai Nanba Station in Osaka.

Getting to Mt. Kōya from primary access points inside Japan

By Air

KIX ←→ Tōkyō, Narita

KIX ←→ Mt.Kōya (Nankai Densha)

By Train Anywhere ←→ Ōsaka Nanba ← (Nankai Densha) → Mt.Kōya

Getting Around Shikoku

Public Transportation
When you are short of time, or if you just want a break or want to escape, it is possible to use public transportation. However, while there is service outside of main urban areas, the number and frequency of busses and trains decreases.

All four prefectures on Shikoku are interconnected by Highway Buses, and bus terminals can be found adjacent to train stations.

Getting Between Shikoku and Mt. Kōya

Nankai Electric Railway:

The starting point for getting to Mt. Kōya is the Osaka Nankai Dentetsu Namba Station. From Namba station to Mt. Kōya, it takes about 1:30 hrs (¥1,990) if you go by limited express train. Note that there is a discounted round-trip ticket available.

To get to Namba Station from anywhere on Shikoku:

By Highway Bus
  1. From Tokushima City, take a Toku Bus. From Takamatsu City, use Foot Bus, but note that there are no busses that go direct to the 5th floor Nankai Namba Bus Terminal at the Namba station. You can find the Good Bus by walking 25 minutes from Temple 1 to the West Naruto PA Bus Stop.
    (It is possible to buy discounted round-trip tickets to Mt.Kōya that include train fare to/from the mountain, bus fares on local busses on the mountain, and discount tickets for select tourist sites.)
  2. From Tokushima City, Kōchi City, Matsuyama City, or Takamatsu City, take an Ōsaka bound bus that makes an intermediate stop at the Ōsaka City Air Terminal (O-CAT), about a 5 minute walk east of the Namba Station.
By Train Go by Shinkansen train from Okayama to the Shin Ōsaka Station. Then transfer to a train that goes to Shin Imamiya Station, via the Ōsaka Station.
From the Shin Imamia Station, transfer to the Nankai Dentetsu Line, and go to Mt.Kōya from there. Or, at Shin Ōsaka Station transfer to the subway and go to the Namba Station and go to Mt.Kōya from there.
By Air From the Matsuyama Airport, there is an LCC flight that goes to the Kansai International Airport (KIX). From the Nankai Dentetsu Kansai International Airport Station, take at train to Tengachaya Station. By limited express this will take about 35 minutes (¥1,390). From there transfer to a train to Mt.Kōya.
By Ferry

Take a ferry from Tokushima Port to Wakayama Port. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs ¥2,000 From the NankaiDentetsu Wakayama Port Station, take a train to the Tengachaya Station. By limited express this takes about 1 hour and costs ¥1,350. From Tengachaya, transfer to a train to Mt.Kōya. There is a popular ¥2,000 discout ticket available at Tokushima Port for travel to Mt.Kōya.

Another possibility, once you are in Wakayama, is to take a train from Wakayama City Station to Hashimoto Station. This takes about 1 hour and costs ¥820 From Hashimoto Station, transfer to the Nankai Dentestu line for the trip to Mt.Kōya, which should take about 1 hour. Be warned, though, that the connections for the Mt. Kōya portion of the ride are scarce.

Information on Mt. Kōya
Mt. Kōya Tourist Association:
Telephone: 0736-56-2616.

Mt. Ishizuchi

There are two routes that can be used to get to Mt. Ishizuchi. The first involves taking a bus from Matsuyama City to Kuma and then transferring to another bus to Tsuchigoya. The second route leaves from Saijō, where you take a bus to the ropeway at Mt. Ishizuchi.

The first route, from Matsuyama, is limited on Saturdays, Sundays, and on public holidays between April 1 and November 30. The second route, from Saijō, runs all year. Because Mt. Ishizuchi is a tall mountain, with an altitude of 2,000m, weather is quickly changeable and it is necessary to take great care when selecting the equipment to take with you.

Back to Contents

20. Useful Basic Japanese

For the most part, the Japanese that you meet while on the pilgrimage will not be able to understand English. However, if the people on Shikoku understand that you are a pilgrim they will do almost anything they can to find an answer to your question. Language problems are not a big problem. Having an electronic dictionary, smart phone, or a PDA with dictionary and/or translation software installed would be a very useful item.

A pdf file with practical phrases for a great many common situations is available from the Japan National Tourism Organization at the below link. It is available in English, French, Chinese (Traditional & Simplified), Korean, and Thai.


In addition to the above very useful brochure, below are the bare-bones basics that will help you in many situations along the trail.

Basic Greetings & Exchanges

EnglishJapanese PronunciationJapanese
Yes/No hai/iie はい / いいえ
Please onegai shimasu お願いします
Thank you arigatō-gozaimasu ありがとうございます
You're welcome dō-itashimashite どういたしまして
Excuse me sumimasen すみません
Sorry gomennasai ごめんなさい
Good morning ohayō-gozaimasu おはようございます
Good afternoon konnichiwa こんにちは
Good evening konban wa こんばんは
Good night oyasumi nasai おやすみなさい
Goodbye sayōnara さようなら
Mr./Mrs./Miss .....san 〜〜さん


1 ichi いち (一) 11 jū ichi じゅういち (十一)
2 ni に (二) 12 jū ni じゅうに (十二)
3 san さん (三) 20 ni jū にじゅう (二十)
4 yon よん (四) 30 san jū さんじゅう (三十)
5 go ご(五) 50 go jū ごじゅう (五十)
6 roku ろく (六) 100 hyaku ひゃく (百)
7 nana なな (七) 200 ni hyaku にひゃく (二百)
8 hachi はち (八) 1 000 sen せん (千)
9 kyū きゅう (九) 10 000 ichi man いちまん (一万)
10 じゅう (十) 0 zero ぜろ (0)

Times and Days of The Week

Minute fun ふん Sunday nichi yōbi 日曜日
O'clock ji Monday getsu yōbi 月曜日
Day hi/nichi ひ/にち Tuesday ka yōbi 火曜日
Month gatsu がつ Wednesday sui yōbi 水曜日
Morning gozen ごぜん Thursday moku yōbi 木曜日
Afternoon gogo ごご Friday kin yōbi 金曜日
Night yoru よる (夜) Saturday do yōbi 土曜日

Days of The Month

1 st tsuitachi 一日 9 th kokonoka 九日
2 nd futsuka 二日 10 th tōka 十日
3 rd mikka 三日 11 th jū ichi nichi 十一日
4 th yokka 四日 12 th jū ni nichi 十二日
5 th itsuka 五日 20 th nijū nichi 二十日
6 th muika 六日 21 st nijū ichi nichi 二十一日
7 th nanoka 七日 22 nd nijū ni nichi 二十二日
8 th yōka 八日 30 th sanjū nichi 三十日

General Words

Cash genkin 現金 Telephone denwa 電話
Post office yubinkyoku 郵便局 Cell phone keitai 携帯電話
Ticket kippu きっぷ Smart phone sumaho スマホ
Map chizu ちず Wi-fi wai-fai ワイファイ
Crossing kōsaten 交差点 Hand/leg te / ashi 手/足
Signal shingō 信号 Shoe kutsu
Box lunch obentō 弁当 Medicine kusuri
Water/tea mizu / ocha 水/お茶 Public bath sentō 銭湯

Useful Expressions

m/km me-toru/kiro-me-toru メートル, キロメートル
Five more kilometers. ato go kiro あとごきろ
30 more minutes. ato sanju pun あと30ぷん
Do you speak English? eigo ga wakarimasuka えいごがわかりますか
I don't speak Japanese. nihongo ga wakarimasen にほんごがわかりません
I don't understand. wakarimasen わかりません
I understand. wakari mashita わかりました。
I'm (American). watashi wa (amerika jin) desu わたしは(アメリカ)じんです
What's your name? onamae wa nan desuka なまえはなんですか
I am lost. michi ni mayoi mashita みちにまよいました
Left/right Hidari (migi) e magaru ひだり/みぎ
Turn to the left/right. Hidari (migi) e magaru ひだり(みぎ)へ曲がる
East/West/North/South higashi/nishi/kita/minami 東・西・北・南
What time is it? ima nanji desuka ? いまなんじですか
Please contact... ... ni renraku shite kudasai. 〜〜に連絡してください
Please call a doctor(the police). isha (keisatu) wo yonde kudasai 医者(警察)を呼んでください
I have a stomachache. onaka ga itai desu おなかが痛いです
I have a fever. netsu ga arimasu 熱があります
Wait a moment. chotto matte kudasai ちょっと待ってください

Asking Directions

Where is......? .. wa doko desuka 〜〜はどこですか
Washroom toire トイレ Grocery store su-pa- スーパー
Station eki Convenience store konbini コンビニ
Bus stop basu-tei バス停 Hospital byōin 病院

At Lodging

I'd like to make a reservation. yoyaku onegai shimasu 予約お願いします
I'd like to cancel a reservation. sumimasen, kyanseru shimasu キャンセルします
Yesterday/today/tomorrow kinō / kyō / ashita きのう/きょう/あした
Day after tomorrow asatte あさって
For one /For two hitori desu / futari desu ひとりです / ふたりです
My name is ... namae wa ... desu なまえは〜〜です
I will arrive at (six) o'clock. (roku) ji ni tsukimasu (6) 時に着きます
I am at .... now. ima ... ni imasu いま〜〜にいます
Breakfast/Dinner chōshoku/yūshoku 朝食 / 夕食
I would like dinner. yūshoku onegai shimasu 夕食お願いします
Without meals sudomari desu 素泊まりです
I would like another helping. okawari onegai shimasu おかわりお願いします
How much is it? ikura desuka いくらですか
Can I use a credit card? ka-do wa tsukae masuka カードは使えますか
Can I use the Internet(Wi-fi)? Inta-netto (waifai) wa tsukaemasuka インターネット(wi-fi)は使えますか
Bath ofuro おふろ
Can I do laundry? sentaku dekimasuka ? 洗濯できますか
It's delicious. oishii desu おいしいです
I am a vegetarian. watashi wa bejitarian desu 私はベジタリアンです
One night stay/Two night stay i-ppaku/ni-haku 一泊/二泊
No rooms are available manshitsu 満室
Share a room aibeya 相部屋

Back to Contents

21. Public Information In Foreign Languages

The below Public Information Offices have the ability to offer help in foreign languages. The offices are open all year, except as noted for selected locations.

For a complete list of Tourist Information Offices throughout Japan, visit the Japan National Tourist Organization web site at:

Information offices in the list are divided into three categories:

  • Category 1: Part time English
  • Category 2: Full time English
  • Category 3: Full time English and other languages

Worthy of note: The list also shows which offices have wi-fi and/or public computers available for your use.

It’s safe to assume that someone at the offices listed below will speak English and be able to offer you help. For other languages, it will depend on the office and the day.

Tōkyō Area

Tourist Information Center (TIC)
(Shin-Tōkyō Bldg, 1F, JR Keiyō Line, Tōkyō Station. Exit No. 6)
 Open: 9 am – 5 pm
 Telephone: 03-3201-3331
 Closed: Jan 1

Narita Airport (NRT)

Terminal No. 1, Arrival Lobby, 1F
 Open: 8 am – 8 pm
 Telephone: 0476-30-3383

Narita Airport (NRT)

Terminal No. 2, Arrival Lobby, 1F
 Open: 8 am – 8 pm
 Telephone: 0476-34-5877

Kansai Region & Western Japan

Kansai International Airport (KIX)

(Kansai International Airport, 1F)
 Open: 7 am – 10 pm
 Telephone: 072-456-6160

Osaka Visitors Information Center

(NANKAI Railway Namba Station, 1F)
 Open: 9 am – 8 pm
 Telephone: 06-6631-9100
 Closed: Dec 31 - Jan 3

Kobe Information Center

(South side of JR Sannomiya Station)
 Open: 9 am – 7 pm
 Telephone: 078-322-0220
 Closed: Dec 31 - Jan 2

Momotaro Tourist Information Center

(JR Okayama station, 2F)
 Open: 9 am - 8 pm
 Telephone: 086-222-2912

Hiroshima City Tourist Information Center

(Main entrance (South exit) of JR Hiroshima Station, 1F)
 Open: 9 am – 5:30 pm
 Telephone: 082-261-1877


Tokushima Prefectural International Exchange Association (TOPIA)

(In JR Tokushima Station Building, 6F)
 Open: 10 am – 6 pm
 Telephone: 088-656-3303
 Closed: Dec 29 - Jan 3

Miyoshi City Tourist Information Center

(In front of JR Awa-Ikeda Station)
 Open: 9 am - 6 pm
 Telephone: 0883-76-0877
 Closed: Year-end and New Year holidays

Kōchi “I" Tourist Information

(In front of JR Kōchi Station Building)
 Open: 9 am - 5 pm
 Telephone: 088-826-3337

Aki Tourist Information Center

(3 min walk from Aki station)
 Open: 8 am - 5:30 pm
 Telephone: 0887-34-8344
 Closed: Year-end and New Year holidays

Shimanto Tourist Information Center

(In Sun River Shimanto, near Nakamura Station)
 Open: 8:30am - 5:30 pm
 Telephone: 0887-35-4171

Dōgō Onsen Information

(In front of Dōgō Onsen Station)
 Open: 9 am to 8 pm
 Telephone: 089-943-8342

Ehime Prefectural International Center (EPIC)

(2 min walk from Minamimachi Matsuyama City tram stop. In front of Kenminbunka-kaikan Himegin Hall)
 Open: 8:30 am – 5 pm
 Telephone: 089-917-5678
 Closed: Saturday/Sunday/Holidays/Dec 29 – Jan 3

Imabari District Sightseeing Information

(Imabari Station, 1F)
 Open: 9 am - 7 pm
 Telephone: 0898-36-1118
 Closed: Dec 29 - Jan 3

Takamatsu City Information Plaza

(In front of JR Takamatsu Station)
 Open: 9 am – 6 pm
 Telephone: 087-851-2009
 Closed: Dec 30 - Jan 3

Takamatsu Airport (TAK) Information

(Takamatsu Airport, 1F)
 Open: 8:15 am - 9:35 pm
 Telephone: 087-814-3355

Back to Contents

22.Legends and Folklore Found Along The Pilgrimage

Given the remarkable fact that Kōbō Daishi is a religious giant on Shikoku, more so than anywhere else in Japan, there is no limit to the stories we can find about him if we look for them. There is a tendency here to connect almost anything to him and his life. There are even examples of stories and legends about other people that have changed over the years so that Kōbō Daishi has become the protagonist and hero of the story.

Temple 10, Kirihata Kannon (Awa City, Tokushima Prefecture)

When Kōbō Daishi was passing through this area, he was looking for new cloth to mend his worn out robes. At Temple 10, Kirihataji, he met a young woman who was weaving cloth of the finest material, which she freely and generously gave to Kōbō Daishi. After donating the cloth to him, the young woman told him that her desire was “To serve the Buddha and save all sentient beings." Hearing this, Kōbō Daishi ordained her and she became a nun. Immediately after taking the ordination vows, she changed into Senju Kannon Bosatsu. In other words, she became a Buddha in this very life (Sokushin Jōbutsu).

Ryūsuian (Kamiyama, Tokushima)

One summer, a lone pilgrim arrived at Ryūsui Hermitage exhausted and dying of thirst. Upon arrival he collapsed. At that time, a monk happened to pass by, and using a branch from a weeping willow tree performed an incantation bestowing the Buddha’s divine blessings on all beings. With this, a spring opened on the spot, and pure spring water gushed out, thus saving the life of the pilgrim. That willow tree branch took root and grew into a large tree, and, along with the spring, has provided pilgrims a place to rest ever since.

Temple 18, Onzanji (Komatsushima City, Tokushima Prefecture)

Kūkai thinks of his mother.
Originally this temple had the policy of forbidding women entrance. While Kūkai was performing ascetic practices here, his mother, Tamayori Gozen, came all the way from Zentsūji to greet him. Because of the policy forbidding women, though, she wasn’t allowed into the temple compound, so Kōbō Daishi performed 17 days of ascetic practice chanting a secret mantra while standing under a waterfall in order to successfully lift the ban. After this, his mother was able to enter and visit him. It is said that after this incident, Kōbō Daishi’s mother shaved her head and became a nun here at Temple 18.

Temple 19, Tatsueji (Komatsushima City, Tokushima Prefecture)

The Buddha sees through someone’s wrongdoing.
A woman named Okyō, from what is now Shimane Prefecture, killed her husband and escaped to Shikoku with the man she was having an affair with. While here at Tatsueji she felt remorse for what she had done and begged forgiveness from the temple’s enshrined deity. After expressing remorse for her actions, her long hair became entangled in the rope hanging down from the temple bell and the rope pulled Okyōs hair and scalp right off her head. She managed to live and lived out her days as a nun. Tatsueji is one of the pilgrimage barrier temples so it is said that people who perform bad actions and are not worthy will not be able to pass beyond this temple.

Egret Bridge [Shirasagibashi], In front of Tatsueji (Komatsushima City, Tokushima Prefecture)

Emperor Shōmu commanded Gyōki to make a long-life Jizō Bosatsu statue and to enshrine it at this temple for Empress Kōmyō to use as a personal Buddha statue as she prayed for an easy childbirth. While he was looking for an appropriate location to place the statue, a lone egret appeared, and after dancing, stood on the bridge that spanned the Tatsue River.

The bridge has since been called Egret Bridge, or Ninth Bridge. The origin of Ninth Bridge comes from the following story: There was an emblem that displayed the positions of the nine worlds on this bridge. When people with evil points of view, or who had performed many evil deeds, stood on the bridge, they would spontaneously get disoriented and paralyzed, unable to walk even one more step. At that time, without doubt, the egret would perform its lone dance and stand on top of the bridge. It is said that people who cross the bridge without seeing the figure of the egret are pious men and women.

The legend of the windy trail where frost doesn’t fall (Katsuura Town, Tokushima Prefecture)

Kōbō Daishi was doing an all-night vigil on a large rock, but when he was unable to bear the heavy snow and cold, he asked the local villagers for somewhere to spend the night. The villagers agreed, and to warm him they broke apart a valuable loom and used the firewood to build a fire to warm him. Kōbō Daishi heard the villagers say that they were suffering from frost and a lack of drinking water, so with a bow of gratitude, he thrust his staff into the ground, opening a fresh water spring. He also chanted the Nembutsu (Namu Amida Butsu) and forbid the further occurrence of frost.

The locations of Ikuna and Sakamoto are related. Ikuna is located in a spacious basin between the mountains, making it easy to warm. When compared to Ikuna, Sakamoto is at a higher elevation and the water of Tani Stream is cold, which cools the air. Geographically, Sakamoto is located in a narrow valley. Because of the geographic differences between the two locations, an updraft blows from Ikuna in the direction of Sakamoto, making it difficult for frost to form in Sakamoto. The “Legend of falling frost" matches this natural topography perfectly.

Shashingatake (above Temple 21, Tairyūji)

When Kūkai was 24 years old, he wrote in his book Sangō Shiiki, “I climbed Mt. Tairyū in Awa Province and meditated at Cape Muroto in Tosa Province. The valley echoed my voice and the planet Venus appeared in the sky." Legends say that Kūkai performed ascetic practices here when he was 19 years old, chanting the mantra for Kokūzō Bosatsu 1,000,000 times (a practice called the Kokūzō Gumonjihō), which gives the chanter a superhuman memory.

Bekkaku Temple 4, Saba Daishi (Kaiyō Town, Tokushima Prefecture)

Gyōki was performing ascetic practices in the area (over years, this changes from Gyōki to Kūkai). One day, while resting on a hilly road, a mule driver appeared, carrying his son and some salted mackerel (saba) on an obviously tired mule. Gyōki worried about the mule, but the mule driver took no notice. In order to correct the mule driver’s behavior, he made the weak mule stronger, brought some of the salted mackerel back to life, and taught the mule driver that human’s desires are limitless. The mule driver, now awakened to the teachings of Buddhism, built a hermitage for Gyōki, which became the origin of the name Saba Daishi in this area. It is said that if you pray at this temple and abstain from eating mackerel for three years, your wishes will come true.

Mother River [Haha Gawa] (Kaiyō Town, Tokushima Prefecture)

Once upon a time, during a period where droughts continued relentlessly and a lack of drinking water was becoming a problem, a mother, in order to get water for her child to drink, set off into the mountains to find some. While bringing back the water she had found deep in the mountains, she met a monk on pilgrimage. Seeing the precious water, the monk requested it from the mother and thinking “This is for my child, but he is a pilgrim," she gave it to him. Deeply impressed, the monk said an incantation over the ground using his five-pronged Vajra (gokosho) and at once a river appeared. Since that time, the river has been called the Mother River, and the water never dries up and is always clear and clean.

Gorogoro Ishi [Scattered Stones] (Tōyō Town, Kōchi Prefecture)

Gorogoro refers to the many Japanese adjectives with the aspect of big stones. In the period when there were no paved roads, when waves washed ashore getting sections of the path wet, small, slippery boulders would fly around, hitting here and there. At these times, it was necessary to pay very careful attention when walking in these dangerous areas. Gorogoro Ishi (Scattered Stones) has become a legend in this region.

Mikurodō (Muroto City, Kōchi Prefecture)

After leaving the university in Nara, it is said that Kōbō Daishi performed ascetic practices in a cave called Mikurodō. When he was 19 years old, while he was doing those practices here, he had the mysterious experience that he later described in a book he wrote: “Venus, shining in the sky, flew into my mouth." This is the cave where that occurred.

The Seven Wonders of Muroto (Hotsumisakiji, Muroto City, Kōchi Prefecture)

  • Ichiya Konryū no Iwaya [Cavern Built in One Night] (An inner temple that Kōbō Daishi built in one night)
  • Kuwazuno-imo (described in another story below)
  • Nejiri Iwa [Twisted Rock] (In order to provide a place for his mother to take refuge in, Kōbō Daishi used the power derived from his Buddhist practices to bend this rock)
  • Kane Ishi [Bell Rock] (A rock that gives off a metallic sound when struck)
  • Myōjō Ishi [Venus Rock] (Using the power derived from Kōbō Daishi’s Buddhist practices, a rock radiated light and drove out a poisonous dragon/snake)
  • Me Arai Ido [Eye Washing Well] (A well with water that Kōbō Daishi blessed, making it effective for treating eye diseases)
  • Gyōzui no Ike [Purification Bath Pond] (While doing ascetic practices here, Kūkai bathed and purified himself in this pond)

Temple 25, Shinshōji (Muroto City, Kōchi Prefecture)

The honzon that saved the daimyō from drowning.
In the year Keichō 7 (1602), the daimyo of Tosa Province, Yamauchi Kazutoyo, had an accident while sailing in the open sea off Cape Muroto. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a monk appeared and took control of the boat and it was able to safely return to port. Once on shore, they pursued the monk but he disappeared at Shinshōji. When they worshipped the Jizō Bosatsu statue enshrined in the main hall, they saw that it was sopping wet, from top to bottom, and they realized that he had been the monk from before. The statue is considered the guardian deity of local fishermen and miraculously provides them safety and security while at sea.

The Seven Wonders of Iwamotoji, Temple 37 (Shimanto Town, Kōchi Prefecture)

  • Koyasu Sakura [Easy Childbirth Cherry Blossom Tree] (Kōbō Daishi prayed for safe childbirth under this tree)
  • Sando Guri [Three Times Chestnut] (described in another story below)
  • Kuchi Nashi Hiru [Leech Without A Mouth] (A leech that lost its mouth when Kōbō Daishi chanted an incantation)
  • Sakura Gai [Sea Shell Cherry Blossom Tree] (A sea shell on the beach changed into a cherry blossom petal
  • Fudegusa [Brush Plant] (When Kōbō Daishi buried a calligraphy brush at the beach a plant that resembled the brush sprang up)
  • Shiri Nashi Kai [A Shellfish Without a Rump] (When Kōbō Daishi performed an incantation, a sharp pointed shellfish became round)
  • To Tatezu no Shōya [The Village Headman Who Put Up A Door] (A house that thieves could not enter because of Kōbō Daishi’s Buddhist power)

Temple 38, Kongōfukuji (Tosashimizu City, Kōchi Prefecture)

It is said that Cape Ashizuri is the closest point to Fudaraku, the mountain where Kannon lives and the ideal world worshipped as Amida’s Pure Land. “Fudaraku Tokai" (Crossing the sea to Fudaraku) is when a person gets in a small boat and, aiming in the direction of Fudaraku, starts rowing towards open sea, with no intention of ever returning. It was a boat journey of both hope and despair.

The Seven Wonders of Ashizuri, Kongōfukuji, Temple 38 (Tosashimizu City, Kōchi Prefecture)

  • Jigoku no Ana [The Hell Hole] (A hole that continues to under the main hall)
  • Kōbō Daishi no Tsumebori no Ishi [Kōbō Daishi’s Fingernail Marked Rock] (Kōbo Daishi carved characters into the rock with his fingernails)
  • Kame Yobi Ba [Tortoise Calling Place] (The place where Kōbō Daishi called on tortoises to help him cross over to an offshore reef)
  • Ichi Ya Konryū Narazu Torii [The Torii That Wasn’t Built In One Night] (The remains of a torii that Kōbō Daishi was unable to build in one night)
  • Shio no Michihi Chōzubachi [The Tide’s Ebb & Flow Washbasin] (Water in a rock that goes up and down in time with the ebb and flow of the tide.
  • Kame Ishi [Tortoise Rock] (This is suited for a compass for the Kame Yobi Ba, above)
  • Yurugi Ishi [Swaying Rock] (With the movement of the rock, you can understand the good and evil in people’s hearts)
  • And others.

Temple 42, Butsumokuji (Seiyo City, Ehime Prefecture)

The temple that is friendly to animals.
On the advice of an elderly person, Kūkai was riding on the back of an ox for a while, when he saw a Buddhist wish-fulfilling jewel caught in a camphor tree with light shining out of it. It was the very same one that Kūkai had thrown into the air in an Easterly direction when he was still in China in order to choose a place suitable for the teachings of Buddhism. Because of this connection, a lot of people hold memorial services for their cattle and horses in a hall devoted to domesticated animals in the temple compound. Recently, many people stretch the meaning of this story and visit to hold memorial services here for their pets.

Temple 43, Meisekiji (Seiyo City, Ehime Prefecture)

Because a stone was raised, we say “Ageishi-san."
Long ago, a beautiful young girl, who happened to be an incarnation of the One-thousand armed Kannon Bosatsu, was transporting a large stone late at night, when, before she realized it, it was dawn. It is said that the incarnation was so surprised to see the sun rise that she disappeared. That stone is now revered as Hakuo Gongen and a small roadside shrine has been built for people to make offerings. Even today, the local people affectionately call this “Ageishi-san" (Mr. Raised-up stone).

Bekkaku Temple 8, Tōyogahashi (Ōzu City, Ehime Prefecture)

On one severely cold night, Kōbō Daishi was spending the night under this bridge. However, because of the cold and his hunger, he couldn’t sleep, and he said that this one night, waiting for dawn, had felt like ten nights, and this bridge has since then been called the Ten Nights Bridge. This story is the origin of the custom on the pilgrimage of thinking of Kōbō Daishi as you cross any bridge and not letting your walking staff touch the ground.

The Net Covered Rock [Amikake Ishi] (Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture)

There were two boulders that were a bother to all of the farmers in a certain village and they wanted to move them. But the boulders were large and would not budge, no matter what the farmers did, and they were at a complete loss on what to do. Just at that moment, Kōbō Daishi, who was doing ascetic practices all over Shikoku, happened to pass by. Deciding to help the rather slow-minded villagers, Kōbō Daishi wrapped the two boulders in a net, attached the net to a shoulder pole, and was carrying them off when the pole broke. It is said that one piece of the broken pole and one of the boulders went flying off in the direction of Ookubo, a neighboring area, but the other piece still, today, remains in this area. The boulder is still sitting there by the side of the road, with the entire surface showing the pattern of the net. From ‘he covered them with a net’ we get the story ‘amikake ishi,’ the rock covered with a net.

The Legend of Emon Saburō [The beginnings of the Shikoku Pilgrimage] (Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture)

The following took place in 824 C.E. Emon Saburō was the head of an inhumanly greedy and cruel powerful family in Ebara, Iyo Province. One day, a travelling monk (Kūkai, but Emon didn’t know this) stopped in front of Emon’s house while doing takuhatsu, but rather than donate anything, Emon beat him with a bamboo broom and drove him off. The monk’s begging bowl shattered into eight pieces and the pieces scattered all around.

From the very next day, Emon’s eight sons began dying, one after the other. As you would expect, Emon was heartbroken. One night shortly after, Kūkai appeared to Emon in a dream and said, “Because of your stupid sins, your sons have died. If you undertake the pilgrimage to the temples on Shikoku you can repent for your actions." Realizing that the travelling monk he had beat with the bamboo broom had been Kūkai, he set off on the pilgrimage around Shikoku in order to find him and express his regret–but he was never able to find him.

Never meeting Kūkai, it occurred to him to walk his next, and 21st, pilgrimage around the island in the counterclockwise direction. Arriving at the foot of the mountain below Shōsanji, what is now Temple 12, he was completely worn out, at the point of death, and collapsed. Seeing him there, Kūkai appeared and asked Emon if there was anything he wanted. Emon answered that he wanted to be reborn into the Kono Family in Iyo Province and then died on the spot. Kūkai placed a stone on which he had written “Emon Saburō Reborn" in Emon’s hand and then said a prayer for his rebirth.

Later, a son was born into the Kono Family but one of his hands would not open. Once they were able to open it, they found a stone that said “Emon Saburō Reborn." This boy was the reincarnation of Emon Saburō, and the stone is now on display in a small museum at Ishiteji, Temple 51. People say that this was the beginnings of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

The One-eyed Carp Well [Katamebuna no Ido] (Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture)

A farm family began to fry a carp from a well near their house for lunch when Kōbō Daishi happened to pass by, looking as if he was doing takuhatsu (mendicant begging practices). “How pitful. Please give me the carp," he said. “We’ve already fried one of the eyes, so there’s nothing you can do to help it," replied the farmer, but Kōbō Daishi took the one-eyed carp anyway, and throwing it into the well, it is said that after he said the nembutsu over it (Namu Amida Butsu), it came back to life. Since this time, people say that one-eyed carp come and go in this well and in the neighboring Murasaki Well, which is connected to it by a small canal.

Dog Mound Pond [Inuzuka Ike] (Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture)

Long ago, the two neighboring temples # 57 (Eifukuji) and #58 (Senyūji) kept a pet dog. At that time, because one monk served as the Head Monk at both temples, when he wanted the young monks that he entrusted the temples to when he was out to do something for him, he would ring the temple bell, which called the dog, who then got a messenger to go to the priest. But, one day, either by accident or because of the mischievousness of the young monks, both temples bells were run at exactly the same time.

Completely unable to decide which bell it should go to, the dog threw itself into the pond in front of him and perished. Since then, this pond has been called “Inuzuka Pond, “Dog Mound Pond.

Mannō Pond [Mannō Ike] (Mannō City, Kagawa Prefecture)

Kagawa Prefecture has, since long ago, gotten little rain and the local people have been tormented with a lack of water. To counter this, Mannō Ike was built on a scale that even today makes it the largest reservoir in Japan. During repair and restoration, the work was so difficult that no progress at all was being made. To resolve the problem, in 821 the government dispatched Kūkai, who was already a local hero, and using the labor of the people who idolized him and had gathered when he arrived, he completed the project in the blink of an eye.

Temple 68, Jinnein (Kannonji City, Kagawa Prefecture)

The Legend of the Origin of “Kotohiki."
In the year Taihō 3 (703), while Nisshō Shōnin, a high monk of the Hosso Sect, was practicing austerities, he discovered a small boat on the sea with an old man in it playing a koto. To his ears, Nisshō Shōnin heard a divine message from Usa Hachiman Daibosatsu. Feeling that the old man must be an incarnation of the Daibosatsu, he pulled in the divine boat and the koto and enshrined them on Kotohikiyama (Mt. Kotohiki), changing the name of the place to Kotohiki Hachimangu. When the government mandated the separation of Shintō and Buddhism in the Meiji period, Kotohiki Shrine and Jinnein separated into separate institutions.

Sutoku Jōkō (Sakaide City, Kagawa Prefecture)

Jōkō is the official rank given to retired emperors. During the Sutoku Jōkō (1119〜1164) period, the social stability of the Heian Period (from 794) continued but the imperial family followed a selfish political policy of hegemony, acquiring land repeatedly from the beginning of their reign to the very end. Because of this state of affairs, in 1123 Sutoku Jōkō became the 75th emperor, but in name only, and was forced to abdicate in 1142. After his abdication, political strife continued among several politically powerful people, culminating in civil war in 1156. Sutoku Jōkō was banished to Sakaide in what is now Kagawa Prefecture as a result of the war, imprisoned for a period of time, and finally assassinated in 1164. It was summer when he was assassinated, and in order to preserve the body while they were waiting for word from the capital (Kyōto) on what to do, they immersed the corpse in “Yasoba Water." Later, they cremated the body and buried it in the neighborhood of Temple 81, Shiromineji. Afterward, Temple 79 was given the name Tennoji, Emperor’s Temple, and a shrine to Sutoku Jōkō was erected at Shiromineji. Because of his tragic and misfortunate life, many tales, legends, and paintings have made their appearance since these times, all related to Sutoku Jōkō’s vengeful ghost.

The Pure Water of Yasoba [Yasoba no Shimizu] (Sakaide City, Kagawa Prefecture)

During the reign of Emperor Keikō, In order to eliminate a mysterious fish from the Southern Sea, the son of Yamato Takeru and eighty of his retainers went off to fight it, only to be swallowed whole by the fish. They started a fire while in the fish’s belly and escaped, with the fish dying at the same time. However, even though they had escaped, the soldiers then apparently died of asphyxiation because of the poisonous air inside the fish. A boy appeared and forced them to drink some Yasoba water, which brought the soldiers back to life. After these events, Yamato Takeru’s son began to rule the entire region under the name Sarureō.

The Bell of Temple 80, Kokubunji (Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture)

Long ago, the ruler of Takamatsu liked the temple bell at Kokubunji so much that he took it back to his home, but after doing so disasters struck continuously. Because the bell started to sing “get back to Kokubu" at this time, he decided to return it to Kokubunji. Carrying it to Takamatsu had required fifty men to carry it for many days, but for the return trip it only required 8 men carrying it for one day. The bell became known as the bell that softened people hearts and we still hear it referred to as that today.

Becoming a Monk at Bishamon’s Cave [Bishamon Kutsu no Shashin] (Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture)

Unshiki was a believer in Kōbō Daishi living in Bingo Province, and at the age of 18 he had a dream in which he received a divine message that said, “Go on pilgrimage and look for Chigogatake at Shiromineji in Sanuki." In the summer of 1681 he set off on his pilgrimage from Marugame, and when he arrived at Chigogatake, he tried to climb the cliff but got caught in the rocks. When he was even failing on his second attempt, a monk appeared out of nowhere and saved him.

The Legend of the Cow Devil at Goshikidai Mt. Aomineyama [Goshikidai Aomineyama no Ushioni] (Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture)

This story involves a monster cow devil that appeared in a village and was doing wicked and evil deeds. On the orders of the local ruler, Yamada Kuroda Takakiyo, a master of the bow and arrow, went out and killed it. Fearing a curse from the dead cow devil, he cut off both horns and offered them to Negoroji, along with 15 bags of rice, and then performed a memorial service for the cow.

The Legend of the Female Diver Who Took The Jewel [Ama no Tamatori Densetsu] Shidoji, (Sanuki City, Kagawa Prefecture)

Putting your life on the line for the love of your child.
When Fujiwara Fuhito built Kōfukuji Temple in Nara, his younger sister, who had married in China, sent him three treasured items. However, the boat sank In Shido Bay and a dragon king snatched one of the treasures, a wish-fulfilling jewel. Fuhito went to Shido in order to get it back. He married a local woman diver and they had one son, Fusasaki. The legend goes on to say that the diver then made an arrangement with Fuhito and the son was installed as an heir in the Fujiwara family, after which she sacrificed her own life in getting the wish-fulfilling jewel back from the dragon king. This sad legend is depicted in a painting called “Shidoji Engi Ezu," a painting depicting the origin story of Shidoji Temple. To ensure his mother’s happiness in the next world, Fujiwara Fusasaki built 1,000 stone pagodas at Shidoji Temple. The relics remain today and are called “Ama no Haka," the female diver’s grave.

Three Mountains of Mizushi [Mizushi Sanzan] (Higashikagawa City, Kagawa Prefecture)

Based on the Three Mountains of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan) in Wakayama Prefecture, the three mountains in Mizushi are organized around Mizushi Shrine at their center. It is said that Zōun (1366—1449) of Yodaji Temple divided the deity from a shrine in Kumano and brought it here to Mizushi Shrine. The shrine was opened in the later-half of the 8th century and the Akai well that was dug by Kūkai is found there. In the northeastern Bath District, there are stone baths that are used by worshippers to purify their bodies.

Kuwazuno-imo, Kuwazuno-kai, Kuwazuno-nashi, Kuwazuno-kuri

This type of legend is rather common. People say that when Kūkai was walking the pilgrimage he would ask the local people for potatoes (imo), shellfish (kai), pears (nashi), and chestnuts (kuri), but the people were reluctant and untruthfully responded “Their quality is very bad and they are inedible." Kūkai, realizing this, then chanted the nembutsu (Namu Amida Butsu) and all the items truly became unsafe and inedible. There is also a story along these lines about a peach tree that had withered.

As a general rule, these sorts of stories are superstitions. These types of stories were already being published in books in 1683, but it can be surmised that perhaps these were mistaken stories of belief in Kōbō Daishi that were spread by Kōya Hijiri in the areas around Mt. Kōya. First, it is difficult to imagine Kūkai, as a saint and practitioner of ascetic practices, asking for living things. From the standpoint of donations, it is also difficult to imagine Kūkai requesting the local people for charity. It is good to think of these types of legends as superstitious beliefs.

[We find similar descriptions in Jakuhon’s book, Shikoku Henro Kudoku Ki (1703)].

Sando-guri, Yondo-kuri, Nanado-kuri

Because children wanted chestnuts, Kōbō Daishi performed an incantation and made the chestnut trees bear fruit many times each year.

Sando-guri (Three-times Chestnuts) stories can be found in:

  • Kannoji Temple, Susaki City
  • Kanonji Temple
  • Iwamotoji Temple
  • Izutazaka (a long tunnel section near Nakamura City)
  • Saifukuji Temple in Ueno section of Doi Town, Shikoku Chūō City
  • Kinokawa section of Doi Town, Shikoku Chūō City

Yondo-kuri (Four times Chestnuts) or Nanado-kuri (Seven-times Chestnuts) stories can be found at Mado Tōge Daishido, Tafukuin (Daishi Hall in Tafuku Temple at Mado Pass, near Temple 41, Ryūkōji).

Stories about diseases that have been cured:

  • Zenzaburo of Kishū Kōyasan was cured of stuttering by undertaking a pilgrimage.
  • Eight people from Kishū Ito-gun, together, stayed at the house of Kanshichi, a deeply pious believer at the foot of the mountain below Shōsanji Temple. Kanshichi asked the eight people to pray for his wife’s recovery from a disease. Immediately after they entreated the deity at Shōsanji Temple, the wife recovered.
  • The daughter of Amachiya Hichiemon, a deeply pious believer from Aki-gun Noneura, had a tumor on her neck when she was 15 years old, but recovered when she and her parents went on a pilgrimage.
  • The daughter of Matajuro, a deeply pious believer from Kaifu-gun Hiwasaura, had some sort of mental derangement. Her parents took her on a pilgrimage and after about the 30th day, the daughter’s mind calmed and they returned home.
  • A leper from Izumi went on a pilgrimage and was cured.
  • A young woman from Takamatsu, with no hope of surviving, was cured after entreating a deity. Therefore, it is not suitable to have someone visit the temple on your behalf, even with an impure body, complete the visit yourself.
  • Similarly, an old woman with a distended belly since birth, entreated the deities at Zentsūji and was cured. To show her gratitude, she completed the pilgrimage.
  • Shobei, of Uwajima Shimomura, had a weak constitution, but by offering free lodging in a zenkonyado, his disease was cured.

Back to Contents

Copyright©Tokushima prefecture Tourism Association. All Rights Reserved.