The Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrimage

At 1200 years and 1200 kilometers, the Shikoku pilgrimage is one of the worlds oldest and longest spiritual pilgrimages.  Consisting of eighty eight temples and numerous other sacred sites the pilgrimage roughly rings the perimeter of Shikoku island.  Established by Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, in the early 9th century, Kobo Daishi (as he is known posthumously) continues to play a central role in the pilgrimage today.  To learn, more about the history of the pilgrimage, click here.

Discover Shikoku provides customized pilgrim experiences tailored to our clients’ individual goals and needs. From an afternoon of temple highlights to extended walking experiences, anything can be arranged.  Accommodations vary from simple temple retreats to luxurious ryokan and natural hotsprings, while meals include everything from local handmade noodles to sumptuous kaiseki courses.  

Some interesting facts you may not know about our pilgrimage...

The standard walking course for the entire pilgrimage generally takes between 40 and 60 days. 

The pilgrim's journey through these four provinces during the Shikoku Pilgrimage is likened to a symbolic path to enlightenment, with temples 1–23 in Tokushima prefecture represent the idea of awakening, temples 24–39 of Kochi prefecture represents austerity and discipline, temples 40–65 of Ehime prefecture represents the attaining of enlightenment, and temples 66–88 of Kagawa prefecture represents entering nirvana. 

There are pilgrims called “substitute pilgrims” who do the trek for a fee on behalf of clients who contact them through the Internet.

Pilgrims, also known as henro, are treated with great reverence and hospitality in Shikoku, often given osettai (money and food) and free lodging by random people they meet along the way. 

It is said that white is worn during the pilgrimage because long ago some pilgrims would collapse from physical exertion and die during the pilgrimage and the white robes could serve as their burial clothes.  The color white also carries the meaning that all pilgrims are equal in front of the Buddha. 

A Shikoku pilgrim’s conical hat has dōgyō ninon (two traveling together) written on it. This basically means that even if you are traveling alone the spirit of Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, is always with you, protecting you and guiding your way. 

There is an anecdote stating that during his pilgrimage in Shikoku, one night Kobo Daishi had to spend the night under a bridge. For that reason, when coming to a bridge, Shikoku pilgrims are often reminded that Kobo Daishi may be sleeping under this bridge, and to walk carefully across it without using their walking stick so as not to wake him. 

The Shikoku pilgrimage is the only known pilgrimage going in a circular direction. And it doesn’t need to becompleted in numerical order. In fact, it is believed that going in reverse will bring you three times the divine favor than going in standard order will. 

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