- Hike to tranquil Buddhists temples that are surrounded by natural beauty
- Visit the meditation spot (Temple 45) of Shingon Buddhism's founder, Kōbō Daishi
- Explore the town of Kotohira Spa, home of Japan's oldest Kabuki theater
- Relax in a hot spring bath at Japan's oldest onsen resort, Dogo Onsen
- Taste handmade udon noodles, Mikan oranges, and other local specialties
|Day 1||Tokushima (Temples 1 - 3)||Tokushima|
|Day 2||Tokushima (Temples 11 and 12)||Tokushima|
|Day 3||Tokushima (Temples 13 - 17)||Tokushima|
|Day 4||Tokushima (Temples 20 and 21)||Tokushima|
|Day 5||Kagawa (Temples 82 - 80)||Kotohira|
|Day 6||Kagawa (Kotohira Spa)||Kotohira|
|Day 7||Ehime (Temples 57 and 58)||Ehime|
|Day 8||Ehime (Temple 58 and Onward)||Matsuyama|
|Day 9||Ehime (Temples 45 and 44)||Matsuyama|
|Day 10||Ehime (Temples 60 - 62)|
Day 1: Tokushima (Temples 1 - 3)
Your pilgrimage begins with a long-distance bus trip from Kyoto or Osaka to Tokushima Prefecture. You'll get a gentle introduction to the Pilgrimage Trail as you walk through the quiet neighborhoods of Tokushima. Today you'll visit three of the most eye-catching temples on the whole trail, Temple 1, Ryozen-ji, Temple 2, Gokuraku-ji, and Temple 3, Konsen-ji. Spend your first night as all pilgrims should - with a stay in a shukubo ("pilgrims' lodge"). Alternatively, you can stay at a city-center ryokan ("traditional inn") tonight.
Walking distance: 3.6 miles/5.8 km
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and descent
Time required: About 2 hours
An optional walk along paved roads to Temple 7, Juraku-ji, will extend the day by 1.9 miles/3 km and add around 45 minutes to your walking time.
Day 2: Tokushima (Temples 11 and 12)
This morning, you'll travel south by pre-booked, prepaid taxi to Temple 11, Fujii-dera, a fascinating hillside temple complex. After you explore Fujii-dera, your taxi driver will take you to Ryusuian Temple, which is located partway up Mount Shosan-ji. From there, you'll hike up the mountain to Temple 12, Shosan-ji, then head down the mountain toward the east. The walk is fairly strenuous, but the scenic views are very rewarding.
You can reduce the walk to four or five hours (6.5 miles/10.4 km) and avoid the first half of the strenuous ascent up Mount Shosan-ji by paying locally to extend the taxi ride.
Walking distance: 10.6 miles/17 km
Elevation gain: 3,890 feet/1,185m of ascent and 3,265 feet/995 m of descent
Time required: 6 to 7 hours
Day 3: Tokushima (Temples 13 - 17)
Today you have your choice of three itineraries. The least strenuous option includes time to explore the ruins of Ichinomiya Castle, near Temple 13, Dainichi-ji, and a bus ride to Kamiyama, a small onsen ("hot spring bath") village. If you prefer to walk, you can take a moderate rural forest trail with some paved mountain roads. This moderate trail option offers lovely valley views. A more challenging walk combines this forest trail with a cultural walk that takes you to Temple 13, Dainichi-ji, and passes four other temples along mostly flat, paved paths that pass through suburban areas. At the end of either trail, you'll board a bus to reach Kamiyama and your inn.
Walking distance: 7.1 miles/11.5 km (moderate trail option)
Elevation gain: 1,100 feet/335 m of ascent and 1,660 feet/505 m of descent
Time required: About 3.5 hours
The more challenging trail option begins with the 3.5-hour moderate rural trail described above and adds the urban cultural temple walk of 5.7 miles/9.2 km.
Day 4: Tokushima (Temples 20 and 21)
Today you'll travel by prepaid taxi to the start of one of the most beautiful and varied hikes on the entire 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail. From Temple 20, Kakurin-ji, the trail descends to the tiny village of Anan, crosses the Nakagawa River, and climbs uphill again to Temple 21, Tairyu-ji. You'll take a cable car ride that offers wonderful views of the cedar forest and the small town below. Finally, you'll travel by bus to your accommodation for the evening.
Walking distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
Elevation gain: 1,510 feet/460 m ascent and 1,540 feet/470 m descent
Time required: 3 to 4 hours
Today's walk can be extended to about 5 hours if you prefer to spend more time on the trail.
Day 5: Kagawa (Temples 82 - 80)
Leaving Tokushima, you'll travel by bus and prepaid taxi to northern Kagawa Prefecture. This rewarding hike will take you past lovely scenery and allow you to visit three temples: Temple 82, Negoro-ji, Temple 81, Shiromine-ji, and Temple 80, Kokubun-ji. After your hike, you'll travel by train to the old hot spring town of Kotohira Spa, where you'll spend the night.
Walking distance: 8.4 miles/13.5 km
Elevation gain: 1100 feet/335 m ascent and 2,150 feet/655 m descent
Time required: About 5 hours
The walk can be shortened by 1.5 hours (3.4 miles/5.4 km) by omitting the round-trip hike to Temple 81, Shiromine-ji.
Day 6: Kagawa (Kotohira Spa)
Today you have a full day to explore Kotohira Spa. You can visit the Shinto shrine complex, Konpira-Daigongen, located halfway up Mount Zōzu at an elevation of 1,709 feet (521 m). Consider trying the famous local delicacy, delicious, handmade, thick udon noodles. You may also wish to visit the Konpira Grand Theatre Kanamaruza Kabuki Hall, the oldest original Kabuki theatre in Japan, or Temple 75, Zentsū- ji, the birthplace of Kōbō Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism.
Day 7: Ehime (Temples 57 and 58)
Today you'll head by train to Imabari in northern Ehime Prefecture and begin your hike to Temple 57, Eifuku-ji. The scenery changes from urban townscape to rural farmland. You'll then hike through a forest, climbing steadily up to Temple 58, Senyū-ji. If you like, you can also detour to Temple 56, Taisan-ji. You'll spend the night either in the shukubo at Senyū-ji or in a western-style hotel in Imabari City.
Walking distance: 2.7 miles/4.4 km
Elevation gain: 820 feet/250 m ascent and negligible descent
Time required: About 1.5 hours
Day 8: Ehime (Temple 58 and Onward)
Your day begins with a gentle walk down the mountain from Senyū-ji. You'll be able to explore small village settlements along the way. The trail returns you to the town of Imabari, with an optional paved town hike to Temple 59, Iyo Kokubun-ji. Next, you'll head to Matsuyama by train. You will have time to visit the famous Dogo bathhouse in Dogo Onsen and try sweet Mikan oranges, the popular local fruit. You can also explore the hillside grounds of Matsuyama Castle and walk to Temple 51, Ishite-ji, which is close to your accommodation for this evening.
Walking distance: 2.7 miles/4.4 km
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and 820 feet/250 m descent
Time required: About 1 hour
An optional paved walk of 2.5 miles/4.1 km can extend your hike by 1.5 hours.
Day 9: Ehime (Temples 45 and 44)
This morning you'll travel south by bus and prepaid taxi from Matsuyama to Temple 45, Iwaya-ji, a temple closely linked to Kōbō Daishi, the priest who founded Shingon Buddhism and established the temple settlement at Mount Koya. You can climb a wooden ladder to Kōbō Daishi's meditation spot and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding region. From Iwaya-ji, you'll enjoy a lovely forest hike to Temple 44, Daiho-ji, before returning by bus to Matsuyama.
Walking distance: 7.3 miles/11.7 km
Elevation gain: 2,130 feet/650 m ascent and 1,900 feet/580 m descent
Time required: About 4 hours
Day 10: Ehime (Temples 60 - 62)
Your journey along the Pilgrimage Trail ends with a rewarding hike in eastern Ehime Prefecture. You'll travel by bus and prepaid taxi from Matsuyama to the trail and walk to Temple 60, Yokomine-ji. From there, you'll continue to Temple 61, Kōon-ji, and Temple 62, Hoju-ji. The trail passes through a rural area of Shikoku. After the hike, you'll head to the Kansai area by train, arriving mid-evening.
Walking distance: 8.5 miles/13.7 km
Elevation gain: 2,050 feet/620 m ascent and 3,850 feet/870 m descent
Time required: 4-5 hours
You can reduce the hike by about one hour to 7 miles/11.3 km and avoid the first uphill section by paying locally to extend the taxi ride to Temple 60, Yokomine-ji.