Shikoku Pilgrimage self guided walking tour, Japan

Admire stunning mountain scenery on a self-guided Shikoku Pilgrimage walking tour. Expertly designed holidays explore key sections of the Shikoku 88 Temples route, via remote villages and hot spring towns, staying in traditional local inns for a memorable and unique view on rural Japanese culture.
Hike the iconic 88 Temples Shikoku Pilgrimage Fully supported, self-guided holiday Finest sections of the long distance trail picked out by Japan walking experts Stay in temple lodgings and traditional inns Opportunity to dine on delicious Japanese cuisine every evening
Price
£1130To£2145excluding flights
Duration
10 Days
Type
Tailor made
Group size
4-13
Reviews
More info
Please note: 5 days from £1130, 10 days from £2145.
Prices per person based on double occupancy.
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Description of Shikoku Pilgrimage self guided walking tour, Japan

Embark on one of Japan’s most renowned long-distance walks, the Shikoku Pilgrimage, with a self-guided tour designed to show you the very best sections of a 1,200km route that many devoted pilgrims take years to complete in its entirety.

The route takes you through some of Japan’s most magnificent scenery: cloud-wreathed mountains; peaceful fishing villages; hot spring resorts and rice paddies, with simply stunning views that you can pause to drink in whenever you please. Expect vigorous hiking, with some demanding sections of ascent and descent as you follow the routes of pilgrims.

You can’t miss the Shikoku pilgrims – they dress all in white, with conical hats, staffs, and incense sticks along with prayer beads. But this fantastic walk is certainly not limited to followers of the Buddhist faith, and it offers plenty of challenge, wonder and cultural charms for anyone that chooses to set out.

In total, the Shikoku Trail encompasses 88 official and 20 non-official temples, all of them associated with Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism. A Shikoku pilgrimage walking tour will begin in either Kyoto or Osaka before you transfer to Tokushima Prefecture, where you’ll spend your first night in temple lodgings, providing a useful income to your Buddhist monk hosts.

As you continue, with daily distances usually around 11 – 15 kilometres, you’ll stay in traditional Japanese inns and occasionally local hotels or shukubo – Buddhist temple lodgings, with the opportunity at some accommodations to soak in onsen hot spring baths and dine on homecooked meals. Often these inns will have been in the same family for several generations, so as well as providing wonderfully warm hospitality they also give you a unique insight into rural Japanese culture.

As with other long distance walks in Japan, the popularity of the Shikoku Trail with tourists helps maintain the route, and discourage development in pristine natural areas. Hopefully the trail will still be enthralling walkers for many centuries to come.

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: 17km
Day 3: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: 11.4kmWalking time: Three hours Distance: 11.5km
Day 4: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: 13.5kmWalking time: Five hours Distance: 11.4km
Day 5: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 6:The 'hidden' Iya Valley lies tucked away in the mountains of Tokushima. Head onwards from Kotohira Spa by train and bus to reach Iya. Enroute to your inn, it is possible to visit iconic Kazura-bashi, a suspension bridge made of mountain vines, used by locals to bridge the steep valley. Spend the evening at one of the wonderful Onsen inns nearby.
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

Price information

£1130To£2145excluding flights
Please note: 5 days from £1130, 10 days from £2145.
Prices per person based on double occupancy.
Make enquiry

Departure information

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

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Reviews

4 Reviews of Shikoku Pilgrimage self guided walking tour, Japan

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Reviewed on 24 Jan 2020 by

The most memorable part of the holiday was the temple complex at Kota-Hira and the town itself Read full review

Reviewed on 05 Oct 2019 by

If you want to get beyond the glitz and ‘hustle and bustle’ of cities, this is a trip for you. You will see and experience rural and provincial Japan close up and personal, and hopefully, like us, come away having loved it. Read full review

Reviewed on 24 Apr 2019 by

Nachi-San and Mount Koya were the most memorable parts our holiday. It was an amazing experience ! Read full review

Reviewed on 29 Apr 2017 by

Everything was memorable: The temples, the people we met, the landscape, the food, the places we stayed at. Read full review

Responsible Travel

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.

Planet

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.

People

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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