Sacred Journey - Travel the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Also known as the Shikoku Henro, it is perhaps the most famous Japanese multi-site pilgrimage, with an overall length of over 1400 kilometers and featuring an incredible 88 temples, all related to the historically significant Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi. On this journey, you will follow in his footsteps, hearkening back to some 1200 years ago, and pay visit to several significant temples as well as sites offering spectacular natural beauty and delightful tastes of local culture.

There are several traditional items that you can carry with you on your pilgrimage to further deepen the experience. While you’re free to make the journey in casual outdoor wear, why not take the opportunity and dress the part? Wearing a traditional white robe, or hakue, is sure to put you in the mood of a pilgrim of yore—and the white color is considered sacred when visiting the temples. A monk’s stole, or kesa, is an elegant yet simple garment traditionally worn when greeting the Buddha. Put on a kasa, or sedge hat, to protect yourself from sunlight, wind, and rain, and take a kongo walking stick into hand for physical and spiritual support along the way. Lastly, don’t forget your a stamp book—to collect memorable seals at each temple; a nenju, or prayer beads, to hang on your hand when offering a prayer to the Buddha; and suzu, a typical pilgrim’s bell, to ring in the event you wander on your trail.

Do you feel ready to begin your pilgrimage now? Onward to adventure!

– Prepare to embark on your pilgrimage –

Monzen-ichiban-gai is a traditional-styled shop and the perfect place to begin the Shikoku pilgrimage. Located right in the front of the first temple, Ryozenji, here you can find all variety of pilgrimage goods—including costumers to rent—as well as purchase souvenirs and ask for any necessary information regarding your forthcoming trip. If you’re looking for even more detailed instructions and tips for your journey, you might ask a sendatsu, an official guide who is experienced and well informed in the pilgrimage. Finally, before you depart, treat yourself to a piece of sweet local rice cake with a cup of tea or coffee and nourish your body and soul for your sacred tour.
Location: 29-6 Bandouaza-Nishiyamada, Ooasa-cho, Naruto City, Tokushima
Tel: +81-88-689-4388
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Open year-round

Jikuwazan Ichijouin Ryozenji
– Where the pilgrimage begins and ends –

Ryozenji Temple is the first temple in the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. According to legend, the monk Gyoki founded it here in the early 8th century. Later rebuilt during the Ooei era (1394-1428), it has served as the first temple on the pilgrimage (ichibansan) since at least 1687. You will enter through the stunning Niomon Gate, or Deva Gate, carefully watched by a pair of wooden Nio guardians. This place is very symbolic, considering that many pilgrims begin and end their sacred journey here. The temple also features a two-story pagoda enshrining the Gochi Nyorai, or Five Buddha statues, as well as a statue of Kannon, Goddess of Mercy, who is believed to bring a good fortune in love, work and health. Before moving on to your next destination, stop by the beautiful Meiji Garden with its large carp pond and waterfalls—symbolizing the start of the pilgrimage beginning—and gather your breath before your adventure begins.
Location: 126 Bando Tsukahana, Ooasa-cho, Naruto City, Tokushima
Tel: +81-88-689-1111
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Open year-round
Admission: Free

Honke Matsuura Sake Brewery
– A taste of a timeless Japanese tradition –

One of the highlights of making the pilgrimage is learning and experiencing local culture along the way. Just a stone’s throw from Ryozenji Temple you will find the Honke Matsuura Sake Brewery, more than worth a visit in its own right. Established in 1804, it stands as the oldest brewery in Tokushima Prefecture. Admire the main brewery building that dates back over 200 years, then peruse the souvenirs available in the brewery shop. If you have the time, why not take part in a brewery tour (advance reservation required) and get closer to the process of sake brewing and sake spirit? Honke Matsuura is especially known for its “Narutotai” brand, brewed with a balance of traditional and new approaches, which has become popular not only locally but around the world. Warm your body and soul with a sip of this exquisite brew, then prepare to depart for your next pilgrimage stop.
Location: 19 Yanaginomoto, Ikenotani, Ooasa-cho, Naruto-shi, Tokushima
Tel: +81-120-866-140
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. *For sake brewery tours, advance reservation is required.
Admission: Free
Holidays: Closed during the year-end and New Year holidays

No. 6
Onsenzan Anrakuji
– Rest your body and soul in a traditional shukubo guesthouse –

Anrakuji Temple is the first temple on the pilgrimage that features a shukubo, or temple guesthouse, a structure providing accommodations and meals for passing pilgrims.
The temple is also famous for its Anrakuji Onsen, a hot spring welling up just next to the Daishido hall, housing a statue of the great teacher Kobo Daishi. It was he who discovered hot springs in this land and decided that the Yakushi Nyorai, or healing Buddha, should be enshrined in this temple. Relax in traditional Japanese-style rooms, nourish yourself with a hearty meal, and wash away aches and pains in the hot spring bath, just as pilgrims have done for some 400 years. Join a Buddhist service in the beautiful main hall, and fully relish the sacred atmosphere of the temple in all its many forms.
Location: 8 Hikino-aza Terno Nishikita, Kamiita-cho, Itano-gun, Tokushima
Tel: +81-88-694-2046
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Open year-round
Admission: Free

Kawashima Sensui Bridge
– Relax surrounded by greenery in all directions –

The Kawashima Sensui Bridge is a 304m-long construction that leads directly to Zennyujito Island, the largest river island in Japan. Located between Kirihataji Temple (No. 10) and Fujiidera Temple (No. 11), the bridge is a popular spot for those making the Shikoku pilgrimage. Spectacular views of the surrounding nature, deep breaths of fresh air, and the crystal-clear waters of the Yoshino River offer a deserved rest on your long journey—not to mention a photogenic spot for any and all Shikoku travelers. You may be surprised to learn that the name Sensui Bridge literally means “flooded” bridge, as at times of heavy rain it becomes completely submerged by the river. Pick a nice sunny day, however, and you’re sure to fully enjoy this memorable pilgrimage walk.
Location: Kawashima, Kawashima-cho, Yoshinogawa-shi, Tokushima

No. 21
Shashinzan Joushuuin Tairyuji
– Enjoy spectacular vistas from high atop a mountain temple –

Located near the top of Mt. Tairyuji, some 610 meters above sea level, Tairyuji Temple has long daunted pilgrims who sought to reach its lofty heights. In olden days, the temple could be reached only on foot and was considered one of the most challenging parts of the entire pilgrimage. Fortunately for modern-day pilgrims, a ropeway was established in 1992, making the temple more accessible for the casual traveler. With a length of 2775 meters, the Tairyuji Ropeway is the longest in western Japan, and more than 100 passengers in each car can be carried on the 10-minute journey across the mountains. The temple itself is famous as one of the special head temples of the Shingon Buddhist sect, and offers visitors countless spectacular sights to behold: a beautiful main hall with magnificent carvings, a pagoda and Kannon statue, a bronze statue of Kobo Daishi (known as “The Master in Meditation”), and last but not least, a truly breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and the waters of the Kii Channel.
Location: 2 Tatsuyama, Kamo-cho, Anan-shi, Tokushima
Tel: +81-88-462-2021
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Open year-round
Admission: Free

Restaurant Bodaiju
– A hearty meal in the Michi-no-Eki, or roadside rest area, “Washi no Sato” –

If you’re looking to rest and recharge with a delicious lunch, Restaurant Bodaiju with its extensive menu is just the spot. Located at the foot of the ropeway in the roadside rest area (Michi-no-Eki) called “Washi no Sato”, it’s a perfect place to visit before or after your pilgrimage to Tairyuji Temple. The local delicacy of kakimaze-don, a bowl of vinegared sushi rice topped with ingredients such as egg, beans, ginger and vegetables, is a tasty and nutritious delight sure to sate the hungry pilgrim’s stomach. For noodle fans, there is a wide selection of udon noodles dishes from tempura udon to curry udon, as well as the popular kitsune soba—buckwheat noodles in soup topped with deep-fried tofu. Give your tastebuds a treat and fill yourself up to get ready for the next temple.
Location: 89 Aza Tano, Wajiki-go, Naka-cho, Naka-gun, Tokushima
Tel: +81-88-462-3109
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

No. 22
Hakusuizan Iouin Byoudouji
– Partake in sacred water and feel the Buddhist spirit –

Byodouji Temple is popular among pilgrims for its beautifully decorated colorful precincts. The Japanese word byoudou means “equal” and ji is a word for “temple”—signifying the wish of the master Kobo Daishi, who founded and named the temple, for the hearts and bodies of all people to be healed equally. The principal image of the temple is that of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha who cures all illnesses. Behold this magnificent wood statue, some 600 years old, traditionally lacquered and covered with gold leaves. Many pilgrims also visit the temple to receive the sacred water of Kobo Daishi, which is believed to cure all kinds of ailments. If you want to join the Buddhist service even after you leave, or perhaps to share it with someone who could make the pilgrimage with you, the temple offers live streaming on its YouTube channel. The gates of Byoudouji Temple are open at any time for one and all.
Location: 177 Akiyama, Aratano-cho, Anan-shi, Tokushima
Tel: +81-88-436-3522
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Open year-round
Admission: Free

No. 23
Iouzan Muryoujuin Yakuoji

Yakuoji Temple is the 23th temple in the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage and the last one on the journey located within Tokushima Prefecture. Well known as a yakuyoke-dera—a temple visited to ward off ill fortune and evil spirits—it remains a popular destination among pilgrims from all over Japan and abroad. According to legend, the temple was originally founded by monk Gyoki in the early 8th century. Later, in 815, the great master Kobo Daishi came here and carved the principal sculpture of Yakushi Nyorai, the healing Buddha. The temple was subsequently rebuilt in 1835, then partially renovated in 2012. These days, pilgrims can marvel at the magnificent pagoda and stunning vistas out over the sea as they have through the years. Don’t miss this last gem on this sacred journey.
Location: 285-1 Teramae, Okugawachi, Minami-cho, Kaifu-gun, Tokushima
Tel: +81-88-477-0023
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Open year-round
Admission: Free

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