Shikoku Pilgrimage self guided walking tour, Japan

“A ten day self-guided walking holiday around the key segments of the 88 Temples Pilgrimage Trail on Shikoku Island”


Ryozen-ji temple | Gokuraku-ji temple | Konsen-ji temple | Overnight stay in temple accommodation | Fujii-dera temple | Shosan-ji temple | Kamiyama Onsen | Ichinomiya Castle | Dainichi-ji temple | Oraku-ji temple | Awa Kokubun-ji temple | Kannon-ji temple | Ido-ji temple | Tokushima | Kakurin-ji temple | Tairyu-ji temple | Negoro-ji temple | Shiromine-ji temple | Kokubun-ji temple | Kotohira Spa | Eifuku-ji temple | Senryu-ji temple | Taisan-ji temple | Imabari | Iyo Kokubun-ji temple |Matsuyama | Dogo Onsen spa | Ishite-ji temple | Iwaya-ji | Daiho-ji temple | Hoju-ji temple | Kouon-ji temple | Yokomine-ji temple

Description of Shikoku Pilgrimage self guided walking tour, Japan

This self guided walking holiday is designed as a ten day break on Shikoku island, taking in sections of the iconic 88 Temples Pilgrimage Trail. This is the 4th largest island in Japan, and hiking here not only takes you to many of these sacred sites, but also through some truly spectacular mountain scenery, remote villages, to hot spring spa towns, while staying in traditional inns along the way. You can adapt this itinerary if you have less time available, by visiting fewer sections of the trail, and staying in just one region of the island. The walking is mostly moderate along the trail, with a couple of more challenging ones thrown in.

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1:Start your walking holiday either in Kyoto or Osaka, and then travel by coach to Tokushima Prefecture. The starting point for people taking on the whole trail, which takes two months, is also the one that we recommend, visiting Temples 1, 2 and 3, Ryozen-ji, Gokuraku-ji and Konsen-ji respectively. Rather aptly, your first night’s accommodation is in a shukobo, or traditional temple rooms, with food prepared at the temple too. You can also choose to stay in a traditional ryokan inn tonight if preferred. Walking time : Two hours Distance: 5.8km
Day 2:You travel to Fujii-dera temple, a whole sacred complex on the mountainside and, from here, hike to Shosan-ji temple. One of our hardest hikes on the trip, but the mountainous scenery will make every step feel worthwhile. Sleep at traditional ryokan or minshuku, where breakfast and dinner are provided. Walking time: Six-seven hours Distance: 15.8km
Day 3:Either take a rest from hiking to soak in the Kamiyama Onsen hot spring baths, visit Ichinomiya Castle or have a gentle stroll around the local environs. Or, if you want to do another section of the Trail today, take on a route that leads you to Temples Dainichi-ji, oraku-ji, Awa Kokubun-ji, Kannon-ji and Ido-ji all within easy walking distance of each other. Stay in a traditional ryokan in Tokushima, with breakfast and dinner provided. Walking time: Three hours Distance: 9.3km
Day 4:This is one of the most eclectic and exceptional days on the 88 Temples pilgrimage trail. Hike up to Kakurin-ji temple, where you get superb panoramic views, then onto Tairyu-ji temple, finishing with an even higher climb, this time by cable car, to take in even more of the island. Stay in traditional ryokan inn in Tokushima, with breakfast and dinner prepared by your hosts. Walking time: Five hours Distance: 10.3km
Day 5:Travelling by train and bus from Tokushima, today’s hiking will take you to temples Negoro-ji, Shiromine-ji and Kokubun-ji in the Northern Kagawa Prefecture. Although this is a long day of hiking, with some challenging parts, we can adjust your itinerary if needs be. The next two nights are spent at a ryokan inn at Kotohira Spa. Walking time: Five hours Distance: 13.3km
Day 6:A day to explore the wonderful sites of Kotohira, such as the Konpira-dai-gongen shrine, at a magnificent location on the slopes of Mount Zozu. You may also wish to visit the Konpira Grand Theatre, also known as the Kanamaruza, a magnificent restoration of the oldest kabuki theatre in Japan. Kotohira is also home to Zentsu-ji, where Kobo Daishi who founded Shingon Buddhism was born.
Day 7:Today’s hike takes in three temples close together in the Ehime Prefecture, and you travel to Imabari to begin this part of the pilgrimage. Eifuku-ji temple is the first, then on through beautiful bamboo forest and quiet rural landscapes to Senryu-ji, with a chance to visit Taisan-ji depending on how much you want to take on today. Tonight’s stay is in a shukubo or temple lodging in Senryu-ji, although we can arrange more conventional hotel accommodation if preferred. Walking time : Two hours Distance: 4.4km
Day 8:Descend from Senryu-ji through traditional mountain villages to Imabari, either stopping at Iyo Kokubun-ji temple or heading straight to the station to take the train to Matsuyama. Here you will stay at the famous ancient Dogo Onsen spa town, with a wonderful public bathhouse that is more like a castle than a bathing place and was used as a model for one that featured in the famous animation “Spirited Away”. Other places to visit within Matsuyama itself include the early 17th century Castle, one of twelve in Japan to have survived from this era. Also Ishite-ji temple, on the pilgrimage trail ,which is conveniently nearby your ryokan accommodation for the next two nights. Walking time: 2 hours Distance 4.4km or 4 hours depending on options chosen.
Day 9:Today’s temple visit is Iwaya-ji, just south of Matsuyama and in a dramatic, stunning location, built into the rock face. Used by Kobo Daishi himself, this is an important spot on the pilgrimage for many, as they ascend to an elevated cave that he used for meditation near the shrine. Take a forest hike from here to Daiho-ji temple and then back to Matsuyama for another night at the same ryokan at Dogo. Walking time: Four to five hours Distance: 11.7km
Day 10:Your last hike is to take in three last magnificent temples on the eastern side of Ehime Prefecture: Hoju-ji, Kouon-ji and Yokomine-ji. After enjoying these last moments of Japanese rural serenity, with plenty of time hiking the forests and ancient paths on this last day, take a train back to Kyoto or Osaka, depending on your travel arrangements. Walking time: Four to five hours Distance: 13.7km

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Shikoku Pilgrimage self guided walking tour, Japan


1. Protection of Local environment
You will experience the ‘satoyama’ landscape of rural Japan, the border area between arable flat land where rice is grown, and the mountains. Managed sustainably over centuries, it is biologically diverse and supports a wide variety of wildlife. The presence of small-scale tourism in Shikoku has encouraged the conservation of these areas, and discouraged the development of golf-courses and other projects which have negative effects on the local biodiversity. We support conservation through the Nature Conservancy Council of Japan.

2. Wild life
We respect wildlife by avoiding quick movements, loud noises, getting too close and feeding animals.We help with the preservation of local culture by educating visitors about local traditions and crafts, and making the history and culture a central theme of their visit.

3. Waste
We follow the principles of ‘Leave no Trace’ on our walking tours. We do not leave behind any waste on our tours. On our walking tours we dispose of all waste properly to avoid contamination of water sources. We avoid as much the use of paper, and do as much of our marketing as possible on-line, using internet, email and avoid printing.

4. Transport
We organize the trips to use local public transport as much as possible where this is an option, lessening the environmental impact of extra vehicles on small country roads. We encourage our employees to walk/bike to the office.


1. A fair deal
We work only with small local businesses rather than international chains, and where possible we source goods and supplies locally, using only small, locally-owned and run accommodation and restaurants. This ensures that as much as possible of the money remains within the local economy. We promote travels to often visit the lesser-known (but equally enchanting) areas of the countries we visit, and this helps to spread the economic benefit of tourism more evenly.

You will be staying at these traditional houses, some over 200 years old. They are owned and run by several generations of one family, and all income from visitors stays in the village and brings the benefit of jobs for the younger generation. Your food will be prepared from locally-sourced fish, meat, and vegetables. Many owners also grow their own vegetables and rice. We support The Japan National Trust which helps protect the traditional buildings of rural Japan.

We believe that small group tourism encourages young people who would otherwise leave to find work in the cities to stay and start small-scale sustainable enterprises that cater to visitors. We try to avoid the destinations that cater to mass-market tourism, taking our guest to the lesser-known but if not more rewarding places that larger tour companies tend to avoid due to their unsuitability for large groups. This means our clients money will end up in small community that may have little in the way of work for its young people.

2. Local Crafts & Culture
To offer unique, engaging and educative tours which take visitors to lesser-known countries and regions, and introduce them to the culture, history and traditions of the people who live there. We provide cultural classes which help spread and preserve the culture, knowledge and traditions of the locals. We also encourage our tour leaders to have a deep knowledge of the local people and culture. They have often lived and worked locally for many years. By travelling the quieter backroads and encouraging personal contact with the local people, we reveal a side of these countries that most visitors never see.

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