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I love Japan their culture is very unique. I would love to visit Japan and go on hikes as I love hikes very much. Thank you for letting us know about these awesome places.
The Shikoku pilgrimage お遍路
On the way to the 88 temples
On the island of Shikoku, the pilgrimage of the 88 Buddhist temples is one of the most famous paths in the world. A Japanese version of the Route of Santiago de Compostela, which is accessible to all for a unique spiritual adventure.
The Shikoku pilgrimage, called ohenro in Japanese, consists of a circuit between 1100 km and 1400 km (depending on the path chosen) through 88 temples. The goal: to follow in the footsteps of the monk Kûkai, also named Kôbô Daishi (774-835), founder of the Shingon school. A native of Shikoku, he walked from temples to temples as he practiced sadhana, a spiritual path.
Originally, the Shikoku pilgrimage was reserved only for religious purposes. At the end of the war of the Sengoku period (mid 15th - late 16th century), with the unification and stabilization of society, a large road was built. But the path to the island, on the other side of the Seto Inland Sea, remained long and difficult and the path remained legendary in the eyes of the rest of the country. It did not become accessible to the whole population until the Edo period (1603 - 1868).
A free route
There is no rule to follow. 88 temples are spread all around the island through the villages. Depending on preference, choose your starting point, your route, and the number of temples you want to visit.
Traditionally, we follow the path by the number of temples from 1 to 88.
- From 1 to 23 in Tokushima Prefecture, called the path of awakening. From 24 to 39, the path of discipline in Kôchi.
- From 45 to 65, the path to enlightenment in Ehime.
- From 66 to 88, the path of nirvana in Kagawa.
- At the end of the journey, the pilgrim goes to the mausoleum of Kûkai, on Mount Koya, appreciation for his protection.
Even today, many people follow this path on foot, to remain as authentic as possible to the philosophy of the master. But it is possible to choose a modern path: by bike, car, or by taking public transportation.
The traditional outfit
- Byakue, the white kimono. It is an outfit linked to death because the first pilgrims of Shikoku made the path were dangerous.
- Kongôzue: the walking stick is the embodiment of Kûkai as if we were walking with him. Worshipers must be purified at the end of the day and upon entering each temple.
- Sugegasa: a flat and wide straw hat to protect from the sun and the rain.
- Osamefuda: a card on which is written the name of the pilgrim and which is shown to the people who welcome you as well as at each passage in a temple.
- Nôkyôchô: a special notebook considered as the pilgrim's passport.
A codified ritual
Arriving at the temple, you have to do the customary greetings, the purification, ringing of the bell, presentation of the osamefuda, light candles, burn incense, place an offering, recite a sutra, say a prayer, and finally, get the calligraphy stamped in your nôkyôchô notebook. These codified gestures must be respected by the pilgrim to obtain enlightenment.
The choice of accommodation
Depending on your budget, there are different types of accommodation on the road, especially near the temples: the small hut for pilgrims (from ¥ 300), camping, hostel (from ¥ 2,000 to ¥ 4,000), minshuku (the family hostel with half-board, from ¥ 3,000 to ¥ 7,000), shukubô at the monks (half-board from ¥ 5,000 to ¥ 7,000).
The locals of Shikoku live all year round with the common sight of pilgrims. The culture of settai or omotenashi (hospitality) is therefore strong in this region where the locals are particularly welcoming and friendly. It is not uncommon to meet some who offer you drinks or food. In this case, they are given the osamefuda to thank them. The solidarity and friendly gestures will give you the strength you need to continue your adventure. Note that rest areas are also available on the road with restrooms, and with modern amenities like a charging station.
The ideal seasons for making the pilgrimage are spring and autumn. Summer and winter should be avoided due to extreme temperatures and snow.
Each pilgrim has his own goal. A spiritual quest, a search for oneself, a personal challenge, a disease to be cured ... Whatever the desired goal, the Shikoku pilgrimage is an adventure rich in encounters, teachings, and in memories that mark a life.
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Un rêve à réaliser I love Japan their culture is very unique. I would love to visit Japan and go on hikes as I love hikes very much. Thank you for letting us know about these awesome places.
HELENE Thanks so much for this! It's really interesting and I loved learning about these interesting men.