Shikoku Pilgrimage is a circular shaped pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku in
Japan. There are 88
“official” sacred Temples and numerous other sacred sites where Kukai
(known as Kobo Daishi) is believed to have trained during the 9th
April 07 2009, we set off to walk the 1200 kilometres of this Pilgrimage
without knowing any Japanese or where we were going to sleep each night.
Jeff, recently retired at 60, was carrying a 19 kilo pack. Pam at 55 was carrying a 17 kilo pack. We had a tent and a stove with us.
reminded ourselves of the pilgrim’s oath number 2 – “I will not complain
if things do not go well while on the pilgrimage, but consider such
experiences to be part of aesthetic training”.
revere Kobo Daishi, founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and his presence
is felt throughout Shikoku. Spirituality
is fundamental to the pilgrimage, but others have better dealt this with
aspect. The following are our
day-to-day experiences, recorded as we walked.
position (Latitude and Longitude) is shown for each night.
1 : 07 April 2009
arriving at Temple 1 Ryozenji (Spirit Mountain Temple) we were
confronted by chaos as two bus loads of henro arrived at the same time as we
did and we were all in the tiny little shop trying to buy our outfits at once.
We purchased a stamp book and name slips to fill out and drop at the
various Temples as well as a walking stick and sedge hat to look the part. The hats had to go back to the shop, as they did not work
with our large packs.
typical Temple compound usually consists of an entry gate, a place to wash
hands, a bell tower, a Main Hall, a Daishi Hall and various other buildings.
had made it in time to see the cherry blossoms, which were especially
beautiful amongst the buildings of the Temples.
2 Gokurakuji (Temple of the Pure Land)
was reached by following red way marks of a walking pilgrim.
3 Konsenji (Golden Spring Temple) was
a short walk away.
decided that was enough for day 1 as it was getting late and we still had to
buy food and find a place to sleep. After
a bit of searching we were directed to a sports park where we spread out our
sleeping bags on benches in a shelter shed, cooked our dinner and slept well.
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2 : 08 April 2009
have seen a few walking henro (single Japanese men).
Most people do the pilgrimage by bus and it was very calming to sit and
listen to large groups chanting together.
each Temple we had our book stamped with 3 red stamps then overwritten with
in the day we came across a group of people working in the cemetery of an
unnamed Temple who invited us to join them in a cup of tea and something to
eat. They sent us away with a
bottle of tea and some biscuits as our first osettai (gifts given to pilgrims)
visited Temple 4 Dainichiji (Temple of the Great Sun)
5 Jizoji (The Earthbearer’s Temple)
6 Anrakuji (Temple of Everlasting Joy)
7 Jurakuji (Temple of Ten Joys)
Opposite the Temple is a lovely little udon restaurant where the noodles are
served in large wooden bowls of hot water.
We stopped there for lunch and had to be shown how to dip the noodles
into a separate bowl of stock before eating.
The owner came back a little while later to make sure we were doing it
8 Kumadaniji (Bear Valley Temple) where
we were given permission to sleep in a little hut in the parking lot reserved
for walking henro. We
had it to ourselves.
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received more osettai of 2 bottles of water from a tour bus driver, a big
block of jelly from a deliveryman and some delicate sweets (wagasi) from the
Temple stamp office.
3 : 09 April 2009
woke up to 6 degrees but our shed was warm and cosy.
9 Horinji (The Dharma Wheel Temple) where
many straw sandals can be seen in the main hall, hung by people wishing to
cure leg problems.
are 333 steps leading up to Temple 10 Kirihataji (Cut Cloth Temple) a
taste of what was to come.
had been walking along a wide valley dotted with small fields and farmhouses
with their traditional tiled rooves, curved at the ends.
In front are beautifully sculptured trees of varying sizes making it
quite a picture. It was flat and
off the main road with very little traffic.
We were amazed at the number of vending machines selling all kinds of
beverages, even beer.
stopped to buy supplies for the next 2 days at a little family run grocery
store. Jeff was waiting outside
guarding the packs while I was followed around and offered advice as I tried
to choose things with Japanese labels. Before
I could pay, the ladies called Jeff in to the shop and we all sat down for
tea, wishing we could understand what they were saying to us.
We left with 2 fresh carrots as osettai.
we crossed over to the other side of the valley we met a lady who gave us a
packet of tissues and a can of drink. It
was so thoughtful of her as the day was starting to heat up.
Later we were given 2 oranges.
Temple 11 Fujiidera (Wisteria Temple) the wisteria was just starting to
appear. After this the path
headed steeply upwards into forest.
stopped for the night near a small Temple in a little wooden henro hut with
tatami mats on the floor and blankets. There
were 3 other henro. David from
Australia stayed up late to take amazing photos of the full moon.
We were to cross paths with him many times more in the strangest of
places and he was always cold.
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4 : 010 April 2009
day began with an hour of climbing followed by an hour of descending only to
climb again to reach Temple 12 Shosanji (Burning Mountain Temple).
regular intervals along the forest path are small stone statues, each with a
colourful apron and a bowl at their feet for offerings.
the afternoon we were in for a big surprise, another steep descent, climb and
finally a descent into another valley.
osettai today we were given a free cup of tea at a teahouse, 10 mandarins and
Jeff was given another cup of tea and 100 yen.
camped on the banks of a river for the night halfway to the next Temple, going
to bed at 6pm exhausted. We
should have done a bit more training before leaving home.
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5 :11 April 2009
following the picturesque Akuigawa River, we arrived at Temple 13
Dainichiji (Temple of the Great Sun).
next 4 Temples were all close together on the outskirts of Tokushima.
14 Jorakuji (Temple of Everlasting Peace)
15 Kokubunji (The Official State Temple)
16 Kanonji (Avalokitesvera Temple)
17 Idoji (Well Temple)
decided on a hotel in Tokushima city for a hot bath, a cold beer and to wash
our clothes. Sakuraso is a
minshuku near the railway station with lovely Japanese tatami rooms and a kind
lady who washed our dirty clothes for us.
After a feed of Awa Adori Chicken, we moved on to the restaurant next
door and had a big bowl of Tokushima Ramen (one of our favourites).
We encountered 2 female henro we had met earlier at the first
restaurant and another young henro at the second.
It was like greeting old friends.
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6 : 12April 2009
a stroll around Tokushima without our packs and a delicious hand made udon
breakfast, we set off late morning for Temple 18 Onzanji (Temple of
tried to refill our MSR stove with unleaded petrol at a service station but
the attendant refused to sell it to us (maybe these types of stoves are
uncommon in Japan). There was
just enough to get by for the night.
were given permission to put up our tent in the parking lot of the Temple.
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7 : 13 April 2009
began with a shortcut through a dense bamboo forest where we watched a man
harvesting bamboo shoots. The
path then wove between small rice plots where trays of bright green rice
seedlings lay ready for planting.
found ourselves a bit lost having overshot our corner but were soon informed
of our mistake by a nice couple in a van.
When we arrived back at the corner, they were waiting there patiently
to make sure we got it right, handed us a can of drink each and drove off.
Temple 19 Tatsueji (Temple of the Arising Bay) we were given another
drink each and some strawberries. The
same lady came back a little while later with 2 more cans of drink and an
offer of a bath at her house. We
declined as we were as we were not used to such kindness.
Further down the road she returned again with a lucky dragon charm.
met Taku, another walking henro who spoke English well and had lived in
Australia for a while. We
explained our problem getting petrol and asked him to write in Japanese that
it was for our stove. Whatever he
wrote worked, as the next refill was free as osettai and we had no more
followed a river valley then turned steeply uphill to arrive at Temple 20
Kakurinji (Temple of the Crane Forest)
downhill that followed was just as steep but shorter.
The first of many blisters began to appear.
had another pleasant night camping on a river bank.
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8 : 14 April 2009
began to rain during the night and continued drizzling as we climbed again
through dense forest beside a rushing stream to Temple 21 Tairyuji (Big
the time we reached the Temple it was raining quite hard and continued into
22 Byodoji (Temple of Equality)
was next where we received some sweets as osettai fro a bicycle henro.
put up our tent beside a rest hut away from the busy road.
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9 : 15 April 2009
thunderstorm of the night before didn’t bother us, we were warm and dry in
our tent. The day dawned bright
and sunny. Before setting off we
took advantage of spring water do some washing.
(A good washing machine is a dry bag filled with water, detergent and
dirty clothes, sealed up and shaken a few times - works great).
We set off with our wet washing hanging off the back of our packs with
we reached a crossroads on Route 55 where there was a choice in paths, another
henro came by and told us the quieter but slightly longer Highway 25 via the
coast was more beautiful. He was
in a hurry so chose the quicker route but we opted for the scenic one.
(For safety while walking on the roads, we had cut up a bright yellow
safety vest using the armhole over our heads forming a bib that could easily
be slipped on as well as a piece of the same material with elastic straps to
fit over our packs at the back).
were not disappointed as we headed past the white sand beach of Tainohama
Beach. There are many little huts
along the way for resting.
Kiki Town, a little fishing village, we encountered an old lady sitting under
a plastic shelter just waiting for henro to pass.
She had little packets of 10 x 5 yen pieces to give as osettai.
She handed us each one, which we offered at the next Temple.
23 Yakuoji (Medicine King Temple)
walked on to Yamagawachi train station in the hope of camping nearby but were
refused permission. A lovely lady
invited us to stay at her house but we felt uncomfortable doing this and did
not want to inconvenience her. Instead she arranged for us to camp in a sports park nearby.
A short while later she returned with a delicious dinner, beer and
fruit. We would like to thank her
very much for this generosity.
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10 : 16 April 2009
fit by now, we set off on Highway 55 between pine covered hills.
Any flat land is filled up with houses and rice paddies.
A loud chorus of croaks from the frogs could be heard as we passed.
coloured manhole covers are a real work of art depicting rice plants in this
Mugi Town we stopped for a big bowl of udon with octopus balls then set off
again, only to be stopped 300 metres later by 2 ladies in a tent waiting for
the next henro to walk by. We had
a choice of tea or coffee. We
chose coffee, which arrived promptly with bright purple sweets made out of
sweet potato, some steamed sweet potato and orange segments, which was then
followed by tea. It was all so good we forced ourselves to eat it.
We all laughed as both ladies tried to lift our heavy packs and failed.
a rest hut further on we received a welcoming can of drink and a tomato from
the owner’s garden.
on the coast again, we found a quiet little beach away from the road to set up
camp for the night.
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11 : 17 April 2009
walked on Highway 55 all day. We
felt safe when walking on the roads because of the wide footpaths beside most
of them even in the many tunnels.
the first few kilometres we took advantage of some clean toilets with a big
sink to have a wash and change clothes before continuing on our way feeling
a high bridge we watched sea eagles soaring then diving amongst the fishing
boats in the clear water below.
received another offer for a bath, but felt clean enough.
were a few more henro walking in both directions, one doing it tough in bare
feet, carrying only a plastic bag.
crossed from Tokushima Prefecture into Kochi Prefecture.
Whales visit the coast here.
a hill beside the highway we passed 2 ladies selling citrus fruit but big bags
of them, too heavy for us to carry. We
were called over by the first who gave us as osettai a large bag of oranges.
The other one then gave us some yellow oranges with thick white pith
and told us something we did not understand.
Around the corner we sat down to eat all the fruit so as not to have to
waddled past the surfing beach of Itani where many people were surfing.
5 minutes down the road, a little bent over lady called to us from across the
road to try her fruit. She
upturned 3 orange crates for us to sit on and proceeded to show us how to eat
the yellow oranges by peeling off only the skin and eating the soft white pith
as well as the delicious sweet orange. After we had eaten 2 (already full from the previous lot) she
began on the grapefruit and got quite a laugh as we tried to eat that pith.
Setting off again, we didn’t get very far when another walking henro
crossed the road to give us 2 more oranges (we suspect he did not want to
having lunch, a car henro also having his, came over to us with 2 bottles of
drink and 2 plastic cups. He
thought we were quite a sight and took our photo.
were so thankful for everything we had received.
put up the tent out of sight on a black sand beach and went to sleep with the
waves crashing onto the shore.
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12 : 18 April 2009
on Highway 55, we headed towards Cape Muroto along the coastline.
We had to stop at a little village to buy supplies and while waiting
for the shop to open we sampled some grilled chicken from a stall across the
road. We were given as osettai a
fat pancake filled with sweet red bean paste, still warm.
the shop we bought a prepared rice box for our lunch later, the rice, prawns
and shredded egg artfully arranged.
the coat we saw some large rocks, two of which were joined by thick rope.
They are known as the Married Couple Rocks.
had both developed more blisters and the tedium of 3 days walking on the same
highway was beginning to tire us. Finally
a short, steep climb through forest right at the end of Cape Muroto bought us
to Temple 24 Hotsumisakiji (Cape Temple).
around the cape to the west, we plodded on, looking for somewhere to camp.
It took a while, but we found a wonderful place with toilets, shelter
shed, lots of grassy area and a new enclosed bus depot.
Spoiled for choice, we opted for the bus shelter not realising that a
bus was due late that night. Nevertheless,
we soon went back to sleep.
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13 : 19 April 2009
didn’t have very far to walk to Temple 25 Shinshoji (Temple of the
get to Temple 26 Kongochoji (Vajra Temple) there was another short but
is not much flat land between the mountains and the sea, so the towns along
the coastline are long and thin.
stopped for lunch in the antique street of Kiragawa Village, where there are
well-preserved homes from the late 19th century, built to withstand
the harsh coastal weather. Our
restaurant was in one of these homes, the food delicate and delicious.
and tired, we sat down to rest. Soon
a lady came out of her house, she said we could fill our water bottles from
her hose, went inside and returned with a cold jug of ice tea and 2 oranges
put the tent up in a park in Nahari.
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14 : 20 April 2009
way marks took us off the main road to meander through the quieter streets of
the fishing ports.
soon started uphill to Temple 27 Konomineji (God Summit Temple) where
there is a spring coming out of the mountain said to have healing powers.
We both drank from it in the hope of healing our blisters.
stamp office of the Temple gave us as osettai a set of old black and white
was a 3.5 kilometre walk up and back. We
decided to hide our packs in the forest, locked together around a tree and
hidden away while we visited the Temple.
We laughed at our caution when we saw a bicycle henro had left his bike
with all his gear, locked by the roadside, but with the key still in it.
started to rain (our raincoats safely locked away in our packs at the bottom
of the hill).
we retrieved our packs, we stopped at a roadside stall for takoyaki (octopus
balls). Fascinated, we watched as
batter was poured into small half circle moulds.
A small piece of octopus is added, then with a needle thin stick they
are constantly turned until they are perfectly round and golden.
Delicious. The cook came
out with tea as we were eating.
camped in a park by the sea in Aki City.
Because of the strong wind, we had to cook our dinner under the
overhang of the toilets.
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15 : 21 April 2009
rained heavily all night and continued as we packed up our tent and set off.
walked many kilometres on a cycle road away from traffic and at times along
the coast, stopping at a welcoming henro hut for a rest.
lady ran after us out of breath, worried that we had missed the rest hut.
She told us to pick up some oranges that had fallen from a laden tree.
She even washed them off for us, before stuffing them into the back of
rain had stopped by the time we reached Temple 28 Dainichiji (The Great Sun
Temple) where another walking henro gave us a small bun each.
Temple office gave us permission to put up our tent in the parking lot.
We were soon joined by a car henro who put his tent up next to ours.
We shared some of our cooked potatoes and he reciprocated with some
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16 : 22 April 2009
tent neighbour brought over 2 packets of coffee for us in the morning.
We reciprocated with a boiled egg.
began by zigzagging across a wide fertile flat valley, the air crisp and fresh
after the rain of the day before.
arrived at Temple 29 Kokubunji (The Official State Temple) partly
hidden amongst pines and weeping trees.
it was Temple 30 Zenrakuji (Temple of Everlasting Joy) and the Shinto
shrine across the road.
was then into Kochi City, our second hotel, for a welcome bath after 11 days
of camping. We chose a Japanese
minshuku, Tosa Bekkan, a friendly family run hotel with tatami rooms and an
onsen (hot bath) we could use together. We
made use of the coin washer and dryer before going out to try okonomiyaki (a
huge pancake of cabbage, noodles and egg in batter, cooked at the table and
eaten by cutting off little piece).
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17 : 23 April 2009
perfect early morning to set off through the quiet streets of Kochi and into
the countryside again, through forest and past a Botanical Gardens to Temple
31 Chikurinji (Bamboo Forest Temple) where a man handed us his gold name
card, which meant that he had done the pilgrimage between 50 and 99 times.
The shady grounds were covered with a bright green moss.
We were given a sweet by another walking henro and were on our way.
was a bit of panic when I looked back and Jeff was nowhere to be seen.
I had turned down some steps while he had walked straight on with his
head down. We eventually found
Sejido-ike Pond was a little shed where a lady was making lunch boxes.
We indicated that we wanted 2 and she let us try everything before
adding it to the box. When she
found out we were from Australia, she began screaming with delight, telling us
something we didn’t understand and added a bit more food, as well as giving
us 2 pieces of fried fish. We
gave her one of our name cards for the Temples, which she put on a different
wall of her shop than all the other name cards already there.
The lunch was delicious, enough for dinner as well.
was another climb to Temple 32 Zenjibuji (Temple of Chan Masters Peak).
was a free ferry ride across Urado-wan Bay, then a short walk to Temple 33
Sekkeiji (Snowy Cliff Temple) where we were given permission to sleep the
night in the free accommodation in the Temple grounds.
the Temple closed, a few locals came to prey.
We chatted with Fumie Kachi, a 76 year old lady who spoke perfect
English and had been in Nebraska USA where I had gone to school.
dusk, a 74 year old walking henro arrived looking for somewhere to sleep but
was hesitant to use the free place as we were there.
Jeff assured him it was big enough for us all and received a big hug in
return. We shared our food at
dinner and again at breakfast. He
was very fit and said he had walked the Camino Santiago in Spain.
He was doing the 1200 kilometres in 45 days (we took 56).
He was putting up way marking stickers as he went along.
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18 : 24 April 2009
henro friend, after doing his morning exercises was off before we had packed
walked on minor roads through picturesque countryside, the farms with their
rice paddies bigger now.
34 Tanemaji (Sowing Seed Temple)
35 Kiyotakiji (Clean Waterfall Temple)
is located high up on a hill, so we had the usual steep climb through shady
forest to reach it. On
arrival a fruit seller gave us some oranges.
We chatted with and had our photo taken with people visiting the
Temple, including a retired English teacher and his wife who walk up to the
Temple every day for exercise.
soon found ourselves back on the coast and stopped at a beautiful park by a
sandy beach under the Usa-Ohashi Bridge to put up the tent for the night (a
favourite). As we ate our dinner,
we watched the fishing boats going out for the night.
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19 : 25 April 2009
was another very wet day. We
packed up in the rain and set off early.
It didn’t look like the rain was going to stop any time soon.
were very close to Temple 36 Shoryuji (Temple of the Blue Green Dragon)
walked for many kilometres high above the ocean on a cliff top road through
the lush vegetation of the Yokonami Peninsula; at times we could see the
dramatic coastline on both sides. There
was no place to stop for a rest out of the rain so we walked and walked and
the time we reached Susaki City, the rain had stopped.
We could not find anywhere to camp in the long, spread out city so
opted for the Business Hotel Marutomi (near the Tosa-Shinjo railway station).
The hot bath was a luxury before we went out to sample the local
Nabeyaki Ramen, served in a stoneware bowl with a raw egg on top, delicious.
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20 : 26 April 2009
an hour we were climbing steeply through shady pines and bamboo.
When we reached the pass, an icy wind forced us to cut our rest short. A wide path meandered down the other side, soft underfoot
from the fallen leaves.
Tosa-Kure, we made a detour to the lively fish market.
the afternoon we had another steep climb and it took some time looking for
somewhere to sleep. We enquired
at a convenience store. They gave
us a bottle of ice tea and told us to go on to the next town.
we put up our tent on a little piece of flat ground beside a railway station
that smelled of urine, a cold wind blowing forced us to eat and go to bed
early. The station would have
also been suitable as the doors could be closed, but trains arrived and left
through the night and we wouldn’t have had much sleep.
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21 : 27 April 2009
woke up to 4 degrees, got into our thermal underwear and had our coffee in the
37 Iwamotoji (Rocky Root Temple)
where we were given 2 cans of hot coffee by the stamp office, which we were
very grateful for. Jeff
had a lesson in chanting the Heart Sutra.
we were resting near a house with many statues and shrines, the owner emerged
with 2 bananas and a cold 2 litre bottle of ice tea for us.
We filled our small bottle, choosing not to carry the lot.
Highway 56, we wound down through the mountains to the coast once more and set
up camp in a lovely park near Saga-Koen Railway Station, high above the sea
with picnic table and toilets nearby - a lovely spot.
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22 : 28 April 2009
a brilliant sunrise, we walked all morning along the scenic coastline.
stopped early in the afternoon at the Hotel Kokomo near Nakamura Railway
Station in Shimanto City. Here we sampled a different type of okonomiyaki.
N 132.9452 E)
23 : 29 April 2009
a delicious Japanese breakfast at the hotel we left the city, heading south
along the banks of the Shimantogawa River on a grassy path.
way marks then took us inland and through a 1620 metre long tunnel, eerily
dark in places where the lights were out, then down into a narrow valley,
bright green with rice plants.
on the coast again, we arrived at a long, wide surf beach where we camped next
to some surfers. The icy cold water felt wonderful on our tired, sore feet.
We enjoyed freshly shelled peas, bought earlier at a roadside stall
with our ramen dinner.
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24 : 30 April 2009
down towards Cape Ashizurimisaki, we were pleasantly surprised that our way
marks took us off the car road to walk along the waters edge at times, then
into dense forest to cross many streams by log bridges.
enjoyed a rest at a comfortable stop that someone had set up beside the road.
arrived at Temple 38 Kongofukuji (Temple of Everlasting Happiness)
early in the afternoon, a very large Temple complex with a pond in the centre.
The trees are stunted from the wind and weather of the cape.
the stamp office Jeff was given a lucky henro charm.
He had lost his lucky frog the day before.
A thoughtful man seeing me sitting further away bought the same charm
and came over to give it to me as well as 2 packets of biscuits.
Ashizurimisaki Lighthouse nearby stands 70 metres above the ocean.
decided to continue around the cape via the longer route instead of
backtracking as those on limited time were doing, we were in no hurry and
wanted to see all of Shikoku that we could.
were setting up our tent in a grassy park near a rest hut high above the ocean
when henro David arrived. He had
found Jeff’s lucky frog and returned it.
had a prime position for sunset viewing.
N 132.9972 E)
25 : 01 May 2009
the coast, we passed many little fishing ports.
stopped at one of the few official camping grounds at Tatsukushi, where the
coastline has amazing rock formations.
N 132.8593 E)
26 : 02 May 2009
the southwest coast, we had more dramatic ocean views, passing another
lighthouse and more fishing ports.
one of the villages, squid was being dried along the roadside.
A lady grilling some cut off a small piece for each of us to try.
saw men with dogs fishing from barren rocks offshore and wondered how they got
then turned north onto an old, shaded path, passing some Hyoseki-ancient
stones that marked the route. Jeff became very excited as they still bore old inscriptions.
only other henro we saw was a disabled man on this very difficult section.
found a disused sports ground behind a michi no eki to put up our tent.
N 132.7101 E)
27 : 03 May 2009
took advantage of small bags of grapefruit at a roadside stall and quickly
devoured all 4 of them. Normally the bags are too big for us to manage.
A little later we received 2 more as osettai and some oranges.
of the rest huts was a reconstruction of a hamada no tomariya - a raised
wooden hut from early 1900.
had intended to get a hotel room so we could walk up to the next Temple and
back without packs but it was golden week, the week everyone has holidays so
every hotel in town was full.
mind. Packs on, we set off for Temple
39 Enkoji (Emitting Light Temple) scanning for a place to camp on the way
back. We reached this Temple via
a bamboo forest. At the Temple 2 ladies were handing out tea and biscuits to
found a lovely spot on a riverbank with a nearby bridge for shelter just
before re entering the city.
N 132.7325 E)
28 : 04 May 2009
woke to the sound of rain on the tent. Luckily
we were near the bridge and could cook breakfast and pack up out of the rain.
soon found ourselves on a path, high above the town, walking in heavy rain
gear through dark forest. The path became steeper and by the time we reached the top of
the hill we were saturated from sweat, not rain.
the top we entered Ehime Prefecture.
40 Kanjizaiji (Temple of the Kannon).
We were given oranges and some postcards of the Temple.
found a park a short way from the Temple to put up the tent.
It had a table under a pergola covered with flowering wisteria.
Jeff, taking advantage of a nearby shop and not having to carry heavy
food, came back with dumplings, udon and a massive jug of beer.
N 132.5519 E)
29 : 05 May 2009
first 10 kilometres were on the road but we were rewarded at the end by
stunning views of the offshore islands, the many coastal inlets and the fish
farming of picturesque Uchiumi Village where we stopped for a second breakfast
of ramen at a small restaurant.
pain at the bottom of our feet from constant pounding on the road soon
disappeared when we began the climb, through forest to 470 metres, thankfully
more gentle than the day before.
had seen a lot more walking henro in this golden week.
Many people walk part of the pilgrimage each year on their annual
holiday and over the years complete the circuit.
the top we stopped to talk to 3 people doing maintenance work on the path.
rest of the day was off the road, descending into a narrow valley where we saw
old rice terraces made of dry stonewalls.
stopped at Tsushima Rest Hut and with the table on its side to block out the
wind; we spent a comfortable night on the benches.
N 132.516 E)
30 : 06 May 2009
began the day on a pleasant pathway beside a river, separated from the road by
trees. We were surprised that the
time went by so quickly.
made a detour to walk through the prettiest little village of Tsushima on the
other side of the river with its old wooden houses, built with first floor
balconies and unusual windows. We appreciated it so much more being fresh in the early
morning, as in the afternoon, tired we may have bypassed it.
the road reached a long tunnel through the mountain, our path took us off to
the left 200 metres over the top, passing a henro hut.
Why take the easy way when you can take the hard one?
did not regret it as we were once again plunged into cool, inviting forest,
climbing beside a stream with a small waterfall.
The leaf-strewn path was dappled with light filtering through the trees
and wild irises were just starting to flower.
arrived in Uwajima early. Being
Golden Week, the only hotel we could get, Hotel Clement at the railway
station, was expensive.
an hours soak in the bath, we set off to find the laundry, which consisted of
coin washers and dryers in someone’s garage.
We were finding that we didn’t sleep as good in a bed any more as on
are not very adventurous as far as Japanese meals go so it was okonomiyaki
again for dinner.
N 132.5677 E)
31 : 07 May 2009
stayed in Uwajima to do a bit of sightseeing without packs.
The castle is 400 years old and still original.
has bullfights, but here the bulls fight each other.
slowly ascended to Temple 41 Ryukoji (Dragon’s Ray Temple) at 210
42 Butsumokuji (Temple of Buddha’s Tree)
was close by.
decided to stop here for the night and save the climbing for the next day.
We found that we could put up the tent inside a shelter shed; there was
no other flat ground.
N 132.5814 E)
32 : 08 May 2009
were congratulating ourselves for not getting lost so far when we somehow
misread the map and found ourselves walking west uphill instead of north
were following signposts in Japanese, thinking we would still end up at the
right place. How wrong we were.
After an hour we turned around, only to find the correct way marks a
little further on. It was a
lovely mountain path with stunning views so the extra 8 kilometres was not so
stopped for lunch at a restaurant where we had to cook our own udon before Temple
43 Meisekiji (Brilliant Stone Temple).
tent went up for the night in a sports field in Seiyo City.
N 132.5052 E)
33 : 09 May 2009
was surprised by a 10 cm centipede in his boot that morning.
admired the beautifully kept gardens in front of the old houses as walked
past, but the highlight of the day was the 200 metre ascent and descent on old
footpath, through shady woods. No
tunnel for us. We were passed by another happy henro, singing.
Ozu City, a man on a bicycle stopped to give us osettai of Y1000.
We are humbled by such generosity.
man, walking in the same direction, crossed the road to a convenience store
where he purchased 2 bottles of cold water and returned to give them to us.
spent the night in the free accommodation of Toyogahashi Temple.
is a statue under a bridge here of Kobo Daishi sleeping.
It is believed that he is asleep under bridges so pilgrims must not use
their walking sticks when crossing in case of waking him.
other young henro arrived to share the room.
N 132.5747 E)
34 : 10 May 2009
shared coffee and breakfast with Masa and Araki before setting off.
Masa’s shoes were falling apart and held together with tape.
Araki had bad blisters but both were determined and planned to walk a
lot further than us that day.
rice in this area hadn’t been planted yet.
We passed a large group of men and women of all ages, clearing out the
water channels in preparation.
lovely, grassy path led us into Uchiko where there are many antique buildings.
Yasukuki and Sanae Onishi invited us into their 150 year old home which
was also a shop selling hand made kimonos for a look around and a cup of tea.
the afternoon we followed beside the Oda-gawa River, which looked cool and
inviting. A man was grilling fish
beside the road.
we were resting, a car stopped and a lady purchased 2 bottles if ice tea from
a vending machine then crossed the road to give them to us.
We are thankful for all we receive.
villages hug the hillsides of this narrow valley.
We could not find un occupied flat ground to put up the tent so opted
for a bus shelter, a cute little log cabin, open at the front.
There was no bus due till lat the following morning so we closed the
entrance with a ground sheet and slept on the floor.
had a call from Katie and Chantelle for Mother’s Day and enjoyed a bottle of
Japanese wine (Tokachi) that we had carried all day.
N 132.7258 E)
35 : 11 May 2009
were sitting in our bus stop having breakfast when a car henro stopped to
chat. He left us with oranges and
some hand painted post cards of henro walking.
continued, snaking up the ever-narrowing valley beside the river, ascending
had been told we could go to Temple 45 first, then Temple 44 but a woman came
out of her house while we were resting and was adamant that we go to number 44
first, making closed gestures with her arms.
Thinking she meant the road was closed ahead, we followed her advice.
She gave us Y400 each as osettai.
the gradient got steeper our pace slowed, eventually to 2 kph to cross a
descended to Kuma-kogen Town, where we put the tent up in a park opposite the
Kuma Museum of Art.
N 132.9076 E)
36 : 12 May 2009
thing in the morning we visited Temple 44 Daihoji (Temple of Great
Treasure), built on a steep slope among huge, old trees.
It has huge straw sandals in front that are re made every 100 years.
continued on minor roads and shady forest paths with the inevitable climbing
and descending. We saw many
little statues on the way.
huge, fierce red statue stood guard near a tall split rock.
entered Temple 45 Iwayaji (Temple of the Rocky Cave) by descending
through the old, original entrance gate.
The Temple is partially built into a cliff face.
followed a narrow, shady path away from the Temple, beside a stream and among
huge rock formations to rejoin our route of the morning, only to camp in the
same spot as the night before.
N 132.9076 E)
37 : 13 May 2009
a height of 500 metres we continued up a wide fertile valley, passing farmers
planting their rice with little machines.
left the road to climb over a pass of 710 metres in thick cloud, followed by
hours of steep downhill to below 100 metres and the outskirts of Matsuyama.
46 Joruriji (Pure Emerald Temple)
is one of the smaller Temples.
In the grounds is a tree said to be more than 1000 years old as well as
a hand and footprint stone of Buddha.
was Temple 47 Yasakaji (Temple of Eight Slopes).
48 Sairinji (West Forest Temple).
young girl insisted I take her crucifix pendant and gave us bottles of holy
water from Jonofuchi Park. Another henro camping at the park, as we did, gave us lucky
N 132.8107 E)
38 : 14 May 2009
can buy anything from vending machines, even fresh eggs.
only had a short walk into Matsuyama, visiting Temple 49 Jodoji (Pure Land
Temple) set in bamboo forest.
50 Hantaji (Temple of Great Prosperity).
Its bell was made in 1696.
51 Ishiteji (Stone Hand Temple),
is a very large complex, and second busiest of the 88 Temples.
newly married couple emerged as we passed.
stayed at the Matsuyama Youth Hostel on a hill near Dogo Onsen in a large
tatami room. It was a good
N 132.7904 E)
39 : 15 May 2009
had a rest day in Matsuyama with its castle on the hill.
streets of Dogo, around the onsen are full of tourist in their brightly
coloured bathrobes and wooden sandals from the various hotels in the area,
just out their bath and doing a bit of shopping.
specialty here is a dish with 5 different coloured noodles.
We chose ramen, twice at the same little restaurant.
We spent a second night at the Matsuyama Youth Hostel.
N 132.7904 E)
40 : 16 May 2009
3 hours walking we arrived at Temple 52 Taisanji (Big Mountain Temple)
in a lofty setting on a hill. The
main Temple was built in 1305.
were soon at Temple 53 Enmyoji (Temple of Circular Illumination), with
its pretty buildings of brown timber and contrasting white panelling.
is a carved statue of Mary, disguised, which was secretly worshipped by
the north west coast, we turned inland and camped for the night at Bunka-no-mori
N 132.779 E)
41 : 17 May 2009
followed the coastline around to the east on this wet, dreary day.
There was nowhere to sit out of the rain, so we had to eat our lunch
sitting on the curb outside a supermarket at 10am during a break in the rain.
henro gave us some chocolates, which cheered us up.
we were plodding along, heads down, a car approached us from behind.
A kind lady handed us home made sushi and a bottle of warm tea. It was very much appreciated and lifted our spirits.
passed a procession, which apparently included acrobatic performances - a
festival to celebrate of the spring.
stopped for the night at a park right on the beach just before Onishi.
The rain continued with strong winds into the night.
noisy procession passed. Many men
dressed in white, were carrying a large, brightly coloured, heavy shrine.
They appeared quite drunk, weaving in and out of the traffic on the
N 132.9092 E)
42 : 18 May 2009
bell at Temple 54 Enmeiji (Temple of Long Life) dates back to 1704.
group of bus henro walked ahead of us to the next Temple.
55 Nankobo (Temple of Southern Lights)
is a large Temple complex in the middle of Imabari City.
56 Taisanji (Peace Mountain Temple)
57 Eifukuji (Temple of Good Luck)
car pulled up behind us as we were leaving a Temple and handed us each a hand
towel (blue for Jeff and pink for me). One
of the rare walking female henro made us a little origami swan and we received
a ginger sweet from another henro.
group on bus henro was fascinated by us and wanted their photo taken with us.
made a short but very steep climb up to Temple 58 Senyuji (Hermit in
Seclusion Temple), where we received a lovely post card.
spent the night in the free Temple accommodation with 2 other henro.
N 132.9769 E)
43 : 19 May 2009
attended the 6am chanting service at the Temple, after which we shared coffee
with Taku and Yoshi. (Taku was the henro who had written the note for us to be
able to buy petrol for our stove many weeks ago)
downhill we arrived at Temple 59 Kokubunji (Official State Temple)
where there is a statue of Kobo Daishi that one can shake hands with.
We received a washcloth each as osettai.
to stretch out our walking time, we stopped early at a beautiful quiet beach a
few kilometres off our route in Seto Naikai National Park.
We had quite a hike downhill, only to find that we were supposed to pay
for a campsite at the hotel up top. A
kind man drove Jeff back up.
a lovely spot and not another person around.
N 133.0632 E)
44 : 20 May 2009
emerged from the tent in the morning to see the red sun slowly rising over the
Seto Inland Sea.
through the flat farmland on the outskirts of Saijo City, we grew ever nearer
to the high mountain range, which was to be the next day’s target.
stopped for the night at a henro hut on the way to the next Temple and slept
on the benches. No other henro
sited all day.
N 133.0792 E)
45 : 21 May 2009
70 metres to 780 metres we went. When
the road ran out, our path continued into the forest, more steeply, beside a
stream, crossing it many times on little bridges.
We were glad that we had slept at the base of the mountain; being fresh
we could appreciate the beauty more.
a couple of hours we reached Temple 60 Yokomineji (Peak Temple), the
most difficult to reach. The
slopes surrounding the Temple grounds were covered in pink flowering
descent was more gradual. At
Shirataki Okunoin Shrine, we saw 3 statues in a creek, guarding a waterfall.
were surprised at Temple 61 Kouonji (Temple of the Incense Garden) to
see large modern concrete buildings as opposed to the traditional wooden
62 Hojuji (Temple of Wealth and Happiness)
has the oldest stone monument of the whole pilgrimage, but we couldn’t ask
anyone which one it was.
63 Kichijoji (Temple of Mahasri).
the way we received some biscuits from a lady on a motorbike, a small cake
each from another henro, and 2 more cakes further on.
also stopped at a little rest area set up outside a shop and made ourselves a
coffee there. Nearby a henro
rested after having climbed the highest mountain in western Japan, considered
that was enough for the day, we headed for Saijo Seibu Park.
Before we could set up our tent, an official looking man arrived to
tell us we could not camp there.
caught the train into Saijo City to find somewhere to sleep, as it was windy
and threatening to rain. Another henro waiting for his train bought us a soft drink
from a vending machine. As the
wind and rain pelted the windows of the Saijo City Station Hotel, we were glad
of our decision.
N 133.1864 E)
46 : 22 May 2009
a delicious Japanese breakfast we caught the train back to where we ended the
walked on to Temple 64 Maegamiji (The Front God Temple).
path skirted Saijo City and Niihama City parallel to the main road on flat
farming land close to the mountains.
resting we were given 2 oranges and sweet by a bike rider.
were not many resting huts any more but one, which was made out of bits of
everything and looked like a home handyman job, was very welcoming.
stopped at Yamane Park, where we met Sarah who was teaching English at a
school nearby. We were told there
was no camping in the park but found a grassy spot down river with a clean
portable toilet and picnic table nearby.
N 133.3108 E)
47 : 23 May 2009
walking through farmlands, where rice was sometimes planted by hand, our pace
slowed as we plodded along the suburban streets in the heat of the day.
met a bike henro today.
stopped at Togawa Park for the night and found a nice flat spot for the tent.
Beer is available in all sizes from vending machines.
N 133.5664 E)
48 : 24 May 2009
began climbing from the very start through dark, steamy forest to Temple 65
Sankakuji (Triangular Temple) in a beautiful lush setting.
meandered downhill passing terraced fields, stoping a Bangai Temple where we
saw a happy little statue with the biggest penis.
the way we were given a packet of little cakes at a shop and some chocolate
buns by a passing motorist.
was a long slow ascent to910 metres, the highest of the Temples, Temple 66
Unpenji (Temple of Hovering Clouds).
It can also be reached by cable car.
There are 500 strange, life size statues in the Temple surrounds.
met another female henro who was continuing on that day.
stayed in the free Temple accommodation, a large comfortable room with tatami
mats for sleeping and an adjoining area with tables and chairs for eating.
4.30pm the Temple staff left the mountain on the last cable car of the day and
by 5pm a thick fog rolled in. The
strange figures looked weirder in the mist, their eyes seemed to be following
a fit 68 year old henro, arrived late to share the tsuyado.
There were no lights so we all went to bed at 6pm.
N 133.7243 E)
49 : 25 May 2009
mountain was still covered in cloud as we began the slow, steep descent.
We soon entered Kagawa prefecture.
Temple 67 Daikoji (Temple of the Great Growth) there is a tree said to
have been planted by Kobo Daishi in 822.
Kagawa Town is Temple 68 Jinnein (Temple of God’s Grace) and Temple
69 Kanonji (The Temple of the Kannon), both in the same grounds.
were given permission to put up our tent there in front of a little shop once
the Temple closed for the day.
N 133.6478 E)
50 : 26 May 2009
day began with a pleasant early morning walk along the banks of the Saitagawa
River, overgrown in parts to Temple 70 Motoyamaji (Headquarters Temple).
Its pagoda was visible many kilometres away. The main hall is a national treasure.
reached Temple 71 Iyadaniji (Eight Valley Temple) by climbing many
steps. The main Temple is built
into the hillside with a cave containing statues.
The other buildings occupy different levels.
72 Mandaraji (Mandala Temple)
73 Shusshakaji (Temple of Shaka Nyorai’s Appearance)
74 Koyamaji (Armor Mountain Temple)
75 Zentsuji (Right Path Temple).
This is the largest of the Temples, a vast complex of buildings with a
were given a loaf of bread as osettai from a bread shop.
camped out of sight in a little park near the Temple parking lot for the
N 133.7717 E)
51 : 27 May 2009
had another stroll around Temple 75 in the early morning before the crowds.
76 Konzoji (Golden Storehouse Temple)
77 Doryuji (Temple of the Arising Way)
We were given a can of juice as osettai here and biscuits from a group of bus
78 Goshoji (Temple of Illuminating Local Site)
79 Tennoji (Emperor’s Temple) has
a shrine next to it.
walked on back lanes, passing people going about their daily life on the farms
and city streets.
were planning to use a rest hut up ahead to sleep.
It turned out to be a most welcoming place for henro to rest, but in
some ones back yard, complete with outdoor toilet and a fridge full of cold
ice tea and oranges. This man
must have been a henro himself. He
had even places 3 tatami mats under a nearby bridge for henro to sleep on.
is where we camped.
N 133.9107 E)
52 : 28 May 2009
gusts of wind during the night blew over our tent twice.
We had to use pipes from a nearby construction site to secure it.
80 Kokubunji (The Official State Temple)
was a nice jungle path that led us to Temple 81 Shiromineji (White Peak
82 Negoroji (Fragrant Root Temple)
a plateau high above Takamatsu we made our way downhill in the rain.
camped under another bridge just outside the city.
Cold and wet, we crawled into the tent for an early night.
N 134.012 E)
53 : 29 May 2009
arrived at Temple 83 Ichinomiyaji (First Shrine Temple), a small
compact Temple complex, as it opened. The
Y300 stamp fee was waived for us as osettai.
was then on to Takamatsu City and the Dormy Inn Hotel for a much needed bath.
We enjoyed the 11th floor onsen while the clothes were
N 134.0502 E)
54 : 30 May 2009
took a rest day in Takamatsu.
Udon is the specialty here and we ate it at every opportunity, not quite
mastering the slurp everyone around us was doing.
ate okonomiyaki again at a tiny diner so busy that cabbage and batter was
flying everywhere. That one was
N 134.0501 E)
55 : 31 May 2009
on the road again, all clean and rested, we soon found ourselves climbing
again to Temple 84 Yashimaji (Roof Island Temple).
It has 2 gates leading to the main hall, which is a national treasure.
85 Yakuriji (Eight Chestnuts Temple) is
set among dramatic cliffs.
again, we arrived at Temple 86 Shidoji (Temple of Fulfilling One’s Wish).
Our wish was not fulfilled, they would not let us camp in the parking
lot of the Temple, instead told us to go back 2.5 kilometres and camp at the
Michi no eki.
did this, set up our tent and were cooking dinner, when an official arrived to
tell us we could not camp. Maybe
that is what the sign in Japanese says. We
hastily packed everything up and caught a train back into Takamatsu and the
Dormy Inn Hotel for another night.
N 134.0477 E)
56 : 01 June 2009
an early morning train we returned to Temple 86, walking on to Temple 87
Nagaoji (Long Tail Temple).
was then on to our final Temple. We
stopped at a very friendly henro information centre and museum where we
received a certificate for walking and a badge in the form of a waymark.
We were given a cup of tea and various other goodies to take with us.
is a large relief model of the island of Shikoku, which shows how mountainous
it really is.
headed steeply up hill. It was a relief to once again be in forest after many weeks
of urban walking.
88 Okuboji (Temple of the Large Hollow)
is set among rugged hills, its old gardens lush and green.
are many walking sticks, left here by henro who have finished their long
journey. We were walking back to
Temple 1 to complete the circle so chose to keep ours for a while longer.
received a large box of red bean filled cakes near the Temple.
Temple office gave us permission .to camp at the bus stop outside.
We asked the shop owners nearby as well just to make sure.
It was ok with them as well. One
shop owner brought over a bowl of sweet beans, which strangely enough went
well with beer.
5pm when the shops shut, we set up the tent under the bus shelter.
N 134.2064 E)
57 : 02 June 2009
lady arrived at 6am to clean the toilets.
We borrowed her broom to sweep up our area.
We were about to give her some of our sweet cakes when she gave us
road was deserted as we wound downhill in the quiet early morning, the silence
only broken by a group of screeching monkeys.
entered Tokushima prefecture once more, heading south out of the mountains,
then east towards Temple 10. A
lady came out of her house with an ice tea for us.
Temple 10 we followed our path of 2 months before in reverse order.
At Temple 9 we stopped for handmade udon in a little restaurant and
were given some steamed sweet potato as osettai.
resting at the Temple Jeff was boasting to 3 women about how far his walking
stick had worn down. With that they each produced theirs, which were much shorter.
They had done the pilgrimage 2 times.
We all laughed.
Temple 8 we stayed in the same little hut in the parking lot.
N 134.339 E)
58 : 03 June 2009
sad that it was the last day of our journey, we set off in the rain walking in
arrived back at Temple 1 Ryozenji (Spirit Mountain Temple) after
walking almost 1200 kilometres.
last entry in our book.
will always remember the kindness of the Shikoku people, their warm friendly
smiles and polite bowing, from the little bent up old ladies in the fields,
the school children, the other henro to ordinary people in the street.
Temple 1, we returned by train to Tokushima where we spent a few days staying
in the Toyoko Inn business hotel relaxing and contemplating our pilgrimage.
is famous for its puppet theatre, which we enjoyed.
last okonomiyaki – do it yourself.
wanted to continue Koyasan, on Honshu, the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism
and resting place of Kobo Daishi. Traditionally
henro go to Koyasan to give thanks for a safe pilgrimage.
had heard that the Kumano Kodo would lead from the coast on Honshu to Koyasan,
so full of blissful ignorance we took the ferry from Tokushima to Wakayama,
then a train to Kii Tanabe on the western coast of the Kii peninsula, then a
bus to Takijiri-oji and started walking.
slowly dawned on us that this was not really the way to Koyasan, although such
a walk would be possible, it would be very difficult and one would need to
carry food and water for 4 days.
it turned out to be a World Heritage walk of considerable cultural and
spiritual significance and perhaps the most beautiful walk we have done, hard
too. So we walked for 4 days via
Kumano Hongu Taisha to Kii Katsuura the eastern coast.
Here is a slide show of the walk (sorry - pictures only, no story).
can find out more about Kumano Kodo here:
there is a way that you can walk at least part of the way from Wakayama to
Koyasan. It is via the
Koyasan’s Choishi Stupa Route. However
we finished the Kumano Kodo exhausted and wet, not feeling much like another
day’s climb so we took the train instead.
The train runs up a pretty valley and then a cable car takes you to
Koyasan. Here’s a slide show Koyasan
(again pictures only)
more information on Koyasan and maps: http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/)
you are interested in Nara (Japan’s original capital) or Kyoto: