Spend four days exploring the historic Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail in Ehime Prefecture on this self-guided tour. You'll meet white-clad pilgrims dedicated to walking the entire trail as you visit several of Ehime's iconic Buddhist temples and discover Shikoku's pilgrimage traditions. Relax in a hot spring bath after a visit to Matsuyama Castle and enjoy local hospitality in shukubo (pilgrim lodgings) and ryokan (traditional inns).

Highlights

  • Hike through towns and forests to explore temples on the Pilgrimage Trail
  • Climb to the meditation spot used by Kōbō Daishi, Shingon Buddhism's founder
  • Explore historic Matsuyama Castle
  • Enjoy a relaxing soak in a natural hot spring bath at Dogo Onsen

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Ehime - Imabari to Senyū-Ji (Temples 57 and 58) Imabari
Day 2 Ehime - Senyū-Ji to Matsuyama (Temple 58) Matsuyama
Day 3 Ehime - Matsuyama (Temples 44 and 45) Matsuyama
Day 4 Ehime - Matsuyama to Saijo (Temples 60 to 62)  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Ehime - Imabari to Senyū-Ji (Temples 57 and 58)

Eifuku-ji, Temple 57 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail, Photo Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0
Eifuku-ji, Temple 57 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail, Photo Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0

Depart from Kyoto or Osaka by train and head to Imabari in northern Ehime Prefecture. Here you'll begin your hike to Temple 57, Eifuku-ji. From there, you'll walk from Imabari's urban landscape through rural farming communities, then head into a forest to climb to Temple 58, Senyū-ji. You can spend the night at Senyū-ji, which offers shukubo (pilgrims' lodgings) or stay in a western-style hotel in Imabari.

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 2: Ehime - Senyū-Ji to Matsuyama (Temple 58)

Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama
Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama

Today your hike continues with a gentle walk down the mountain from Senyū-ji. You'll have time to explore small villages along the way. Return to the town of Imabari, with an optional hike on a paved trail to Temple 59, Iyo Kokubun-ji, and continue to Matsuyama by train. Tonight you'll stay in Dogo Onsen, a historic hot spring area in Matsuyama.

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) will, if taken, extend the hike by 1.5 hours.

Day 3: Ehime - Matsuyama (Temples 45 to 44)

Buddha Wall at Daiho-Ji, Temple 44, Photo Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0
Buddha Wall at Daiho-Ji, Temple 44, Photo Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0

This morning you'll take a bus from Matsuyama to Temple 45, Iwaya-ji. Kōbō Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and the temple complex at Mount Koya, spent time at this temple. Climb the iconic wooden ladder to Kōbō Daishi's meditation spot with its spectacular views. From Iwaya-ji you'll hike through the forest to Temple 44, Daiho-ji, with its colorful banners and wall of Buddhas, 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 4: Ehime - Matsuyama to Saijo (Temples 60 to 62)

Temple 60, Yokomine-ji, on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail, Photo Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0
Temple 60, Yokomine-ji, Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail, Photo Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0

Your tour ends today with a rewarding hike in eastern Ehime Prefecture. You'll travel via bus and pre-paid taxi from Matsuyama to the trail. Your first stop will be Temple 60, Yokomine-ji. You'll continue to the surprisingly modern-looking Temple 61, Kōon-ji, and then proceed to your final stop on the Pilgrimage Trail, Temple 62, Hoju-ji.  After the hike, you'll travel by train to the Kansai area, arriving in the mid-evening.

You can reduce the hike by about one hour and avoid the hike's first uphill section by paying locally to extend the taxi ride to Temple 60, Yokomine-ji, instead of getting out of the taxi at the beginning of the trail.

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

Map

Map of Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Self-Guided Walking Tour - 4 days
Map of Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Self-Guided Walking Tour - 4 days