• Main gate at Byodoji, Temple 22, Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan
  • Coastal view near Kongochoji, Temple 26, Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan
  • On the trail to Temple 22 (Byodoji), Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Japan

Shikoku Temple Trek – Part III

Kechigan – The Completion of the Vow

Printable version of trip itinerary

Shikoku Temple Trek – Part III Slide Show

Shikoku Temple Trek – Part III Slide Show for iPad and iPhone

Be sure to watch the Shikoku Pilgrimage episode of the six-part PBS documentary series, Sacred Journeys. The episode on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, which features the group from the 2013 Mountain Hiking Holidays Shikoku Pilgrimage Trek, aired on December 16, 2014 on most PBS stations in the U.S. The DVD of the Sacred Journeys series is available at the Shop PBS website. Or, you can watch the episode on iTunes; search the iTunes Store for “Sacred Journeys Shikoku.” As of April 2016, you can also watch the episode on YouTube. Consider joining us on this trip to experience the pilgrimage for yourself!

The “Shikoku Temple Trek 3” is the third component of our Shikoku Temple Trek tour series. This tour will allow those who have participated in both the original Shikoku Temple Trek and the Shikoku Temple Trek – Part 2 to complete the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, an act known as “kechigan,” or “the completion of the vow.”

Since the Shikoku Pilgrimage is a circular route, you can begin anywhere, and first time participants are welcome on any of our three Shikoku trips. You need not have been on the original Shikoku trip to enjoy this tour. The Shikoku Temple Trek 3 involves visits to the 32 pilgrimage temples not included in earlier tours using a combination of hiking, walking and bus touring. On this trip you’ll enjoy hikes along three segments of the pilgrimage route that still follow the old earthen paths–the Soemimizu Pilgrim Trail, the Kashiwazaka Trail, and the pilgrim’s route over the Matsuo Pass in southwestern Shikoku. One day will also be spent on a hike to the summit of Ishizuchi-san, the highest mountain in western Japan and the site of a thirteen hundred year old shrine where Kobo Daishi, the Shikoku Pilgrimage’s central figure, underwent ascetic training in the late eighth century. Other days will include vehicle-supported visits to pilgrimage temples in both urban and rural settings with options to walk between some of them. Visits to Takamatsu’s famous Ritsurin Garden and Kochi’s seventeenth century castle and azalea-bedecked Makino Botanical Gardens will help to round out this trip. Overnight stays at comfortable seaside and mountain hot springs resorts will enhance your “kechigan” trip along the Shikoku pilgrimage route.

Sakura (cherry blossoms) brighten a springtime journey along the pilgrimage route at Dainichiji (Temple 13).

Day 1
Overnight in Tokushima
Lunch and dinner included
Today, walk the pilgrimage route from Temple 13 (Dainichiji) to Temple 17 (Idoji) through rural and suburban landscapes west of central Tokushima. The first three temples are arrayed around the base of a wooded hill called Tatsugayama. The pilgrim’s trail then leads through a more settled area passing agricultural fields en route to the last two temples. Idoji (Temple 17) at the end of today’s walk, is a well-kept temple with a striking red gate (“niō-mon”) housing the temple’s guardian statues (known as “niō-zō” or “kongō-rikishi”). If you’re up for more walking, you can opt for an afternoon hike on the paths of Tokushima’s Mount Bizan. From the summit views extend over the Kii Channel to Awaji island and the distant mountains of Wakayama prefecture. The walk from Temple 13 to Temple 17 covers a distance of about five and half miles. The afternoon walk to the top of Mount Bizan is about two miles in length.

Idoji (Temple 17) through the temple gate (nio-mon).

Day 2
Overnight in Tokushima
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Travel by vehicle to Onzanji (Temple 18). A short walk along small lanes and paths through bamboo groves brings you to the hillside temple. After visiting Onzanji, transfer a short distance by vehicle to Tatsueji (Temple 19). Following the visit to Tatsueji another vehicle transfer brings you to the base station of the Tairyuji ropeway. Ascend to Tairyuji (Temple 21) and follow the newly restored Iwayamichi mountain path to the village of Asebi. From Asebi, the pilgrimage path continue over a wooded ridge to Byodoji (Temple 22). You can walk all the segments described or pick and choose as you desire. Walking all the segments involves a distance of about seven miles. Return by vehicle to Tokushima for a second night.

Encouragement for the pilgrim en route to Temple 22.

The trail from Asebi village to Byodoji (Temple 22).

Day 3
Overnight in Kochi
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Travel by vehicle down the eastern Shikoku coast heading toward Cape Muroto. En route, pay a visit to the temple commonly known as Saba Daishi (“saba” means mackerel). The temple’s name derives from a miraculous event involving Kobo Daishi and a fishmonger. Saba Daishi is the fourth “bangai” temple, one of twenty such temples affiliated with the Shikoku Pilgrimage but not part of the official eighty-eight. Upon reaching Cape Muroto, visit Shinshoji (Temple 25) and Kongochoji (Temple 26). A walk between these two temples is an option covering about three and a half miles. Continue by vehicle to Kochi city stopping en route to visit Dainichiji (Temple 28) out the outskirts of the city.

Gate at Shinshoji (Temple 25).

Day 4
Overnight on the Yokonami Peninsula
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Optional morning visit to Kochi Castle, one of the dozen or so castles in Japan that have a “tenshu” (tower, or keep) dating from the feudal period; it’s also the only castle in Japan that retains it original palace. Following the castle visit, travel to Chikurinji (Temple 31) set atop Mount Godai. You’ll have the choice of making the short ascent on foot. Chikurinji features a dramatic five-tier pagoda and is adjacent to the Makino Botantical Gardens which should be awash in azalea blossoms in April and May. After enjoying the temple grounds and the orchid-filled conservatory at the Makino Gardens, travel by vehicle to the temples of Zenjibuji, Sekkeiji, Tanemaji, and Kiyotakiji (Temples 32-35). Following the temple visits, travel by vehicle to a comfortable hilltop hotel on the Yokonami Peninsula offering views over the Pacific. Total walking distance for this day is about three miles.

Floral splendor near Temple 31. Dendrobium stratiotes in the conservatory of the Makino Botanical Gardens, Kochi.

The trail to Matsuo Pass.

Day 5
Overnight in Uwajima
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
This morning, travel by vehicle southward to the northern trailhead of the Soemimizu Pilgrim Trail. Enjoy a walk along a forested ridge on this three mile section of the old pilgrimage trail. Following the hike, continue by vehicle to Enkoji (Temple 39) backdropped by wooded Sekkizan (“Red Turtle Mountain”). It is said that in the year 911 a turtle emerged from the sea and brought a red bell to this temple. There is a pond on the temple grounds called Kame no Ike (“Turtle’s Pond”) where the animal is said to have lived during its stay at the temple. Following the temple visit, hike along the old mountain trail that crosses the Matsuo Pass between Sukumo and Ainan towns. The hike over the Matsuo Pass is about six miles long and is one of the few sections of the pilgrimage route in southern Ehime prefecture that does not follow paved roadways. On this day you have the option to hike either the Soemimizu or the Matsuo Pass trails, or both! At the end of the Matsuo Pass hike, travel by vehicle to Uwajima town for the evening.

View of the Shikoku coastline from the Soemimizu Pilgrim Trail.

Site of the settai-matsu on the Kashiwazaka Trail.

Day 6
Overnight in Matsuyama
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Travel by vehicle to the southern terminus of the Kashiwazaka Trail. This trail is a six and a half mile segment of the old pilgrimage route through the mountains more or less mid-way on the long fifty kilometer stretch between Kanjizaiji (Temple 40) and Ryukoji (Temple 41). Wonderful views over the contorted shoreline of the Yura Peninsula can be enjoyed from portions of this trail. Following the hike along the Kashiwazaka Trail, head north by vehicle to Taisanji (Temple 52) and Enmyoji (Temple 53) on the northern outskirts of the city of Matsuyama. Time permitting, there is an option to walk the three miles between Temple 52 and Temple 53. Overnight in Matsuyama.

Misty view of the Yura Peninsula from the Kashiwazaka Trail.

The trail between Eifukuji and Senyuji.

Day 7
Overnight in Imabari
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Today, visit Temples 54 through 59, a six-temple cluster in the vicinity of Imabari city. Temple 55 (Nankobo) sits within the urban center of Imabari, but the other temples are scattered throughout the rural countryside west and south of the city center. You can opt to walk between some of the temples. There will also be vehicle support so you can ride between temples if you desire. Within this cluster of temples, the three-mile section of the pilgrimage route between Eifukuji (Temple 57) the hillside temple of Senyuji (Temple 58) is perhaps the best for hiking. The total distance between Temples 54 and 59 is about eleven and a half miles. Spend this evening at a resort on the shores of the Seto Naikai (the Seto Inland Sea).

Clouds swirl around the peak of Ishizuchisan.

Day 8
Overnight in Imabari
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Travel by vehicle inland to the base station of the Ishizuchi ropeway (cable car). Ascend the flanks of Mount Ishizuchi (Ishizuchi-san) via ropeway to access the trailhead for today’s hikes. Ishizuchi-san (“stone hammer”), whose rocky summit rises to 6,500 feet, is the highest peak on Shikoku and in all of western Japan. The peak and surrounding area is protected within the Ishizhuchi Quasi National Park. Kōbō Daishi is said to have climbed the peak in the late eighth century and the mountain has long been known as a place of pilgrimage. Follow the trail to the summit of the mountain before retracing your steps to the upper terminal of the ropeway (about seven miles round trip). Ride the cable car back down. A shorter hiking option ascends to the Yoakashi Pass before returning to the trailhead (about four and a half miles round trip). Return to Imabari by vehicle and enjoy a second night on the shores of the Inland Sea.

Trail to Ishizuchisan.

Misty and peaceful Sankakuji.

Day 9
Overnight at Shionoe Onsen
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Travel by vehicle eastward from Imabari bound for Temple 65 (Sankakuji). After visiting Sankakuji, hike the beautiful trail over Mount Hiraishi to Senryuji, the thirteenth of twenty numbered bangai temples associated with the Shikoku Pilgrimage but not part of the official eighty-eight. The hike from Sankakuji to Senryuji covers about three miles. From Senryuji, continue by vehicle to Daikoji (Temple 67) and then to the temples of Jinnein (Temple 68) and Kanonji (Temple 69) which are located next to each other and adjacent to the lovely, seaside Kotohiki Koen (park). Kotohiki Koen features an enormous sand sculpture in the shape of a seventeenth century coin. Viewing this “sand coin” is said to bring the viewer good luck, long life and freedom from financial worry. You can then opt to walk the three miles to Motoyamaji (Temple 70) or travel there by vehicle. Following the visit to Motoyamaji, continue by vehicle to Shionoe Onsen, a hot spring resort in a mountain valley south of Takamatsu. Settle in for the next two nights.

The sand sculpture known as Kan-ei-tsuho in Kotohiki Park.

Day 10
Overnight at Shionoe Onsen
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Start this morning wandering through the spacious grounds of Takamatsu’s Ritsurin Gardens (Ritsurin Koen) containing several ponds and hills along with elegantly sculpted trees and manicured plantings. Ritsurin Koen dates from the beginning of the early seventeenth century, and is frequently recognized as one of the finest landscape gardens in Japan. Following this visit, travel to the vicinity of Ichinomiyaji (Temple 83). You’ll have the option of walking the pilgrimage route on the stretch from Iwata Jinja (shrine) to Ichinomiyaji (about five miles in distance). In the mid-afternoon, travel by vehicle to Okuboji (Temple 88) where you can symbolically complete your pilgrimage at the last temple on the route. Return to Shionoe Onsen and enjoy a farewell dinner. Your breakfast on the following morning is included.

Printable version of trip itinerary

Shikoku Temple Trek – Part III Slide Show

Shikoku Temple Trek – Part III Slide Show for iPad and iPhone

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Photos on this page are by John Osaki (© All Rights Reserved) except as otherwise credited.

Trip Dates
April 12-21, 2017

Price
$5,495

Single supplement
$450

Meeting Point
Tokushima, Japan (airport code TKS). You should plan your arrival in Tokushima (airport code TKS) for April 11 at the latest. If you will be arriving on April 10 or earlier, we will offer a pre-tour walk between Temples 1 and 3 on the morning of April 11. This will allow you to visit the shops at Temples 1 and 2 where where you can find a particularly good selection of pilgrimage accoutrements including the conical hat (sugegasa), pilgrimage vest (oizuru) or jacket (hakui), staff (kongōzue) and temple stamp book (nōkyōchō). There will be no cost for this pre-tour walk except for the cost of round trip rail fare from Tokushima (about $8).

Departure Point
Takamatsu, Japan (airport code TKS). Please note that the last evening of the tour will be spent in Shionoe Onsen in the mountains south of Takamatsu. We will offer one complimentary transfer from the hotel at Shionoe Onsen to the Takamatsu Airport (and continuing to the Takamatsu rail station) on the morning of April 22. Approximate departure time from Shionoe Onsen will be 8:15 AM. Planned arrival time at Takamatsu Airport (airport code TAK) will be 8:45 AM. Planned arrival time at Takamatsu rail station will be 9:15 AM. Please plan your air or rail departures from Takamatsu accordingly.

Accommodations
Ten nights in hotels/inns most with private bath. Bathing facilities on some nights may be in traditional Japanese-style baths. Ten breakfasts, ten lunches and ten dinners are included. Note that accommodations in Tokushima on the evening of April 11 (the day before the tour begins) are not included in the tour price, but we are happy to assist you with booking accommodations for that evening.

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