Study Trip

The Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage

Sunday, 21 to Wednesday, 31 October 2018
Leader: Ms. Keiko Kimura, Member of The Siam Society



The Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage trip takes us to Japan’s fourth main island to explore Shikoku, a sparsely populated and beautiful, rural region. We traverse it by following part of the 1,200 year old 88 Temple Pilgrimage dedicated to Kūkai (774-835AD) - a.k.a Kōbō Daishi, a salient and still greatly revered figure in Japanese Buddhism. The 88 Temple Pilgrimage, one of the oldest pilgrimages in the world, is completed by journeying from one charming temple to the next strung out along its circular route. The whole Pilgrimage stopping at each temple takes 40 days or more. During our 11-day tour, we visit 23 temples on a route that leads us to the rugged, cliff-lined shores facing the Pacific Ocean, to Shikoku’s interior of towering mountains and deep valleys, and to the coastal plains abutting the Seto Inland Sea.

Our physical journey covers over 1,000km (622 miles) but it is also a quest into the extramundane, into a metaphysical world eons old. In the words of Kūkai, 'On the way of the 88 Temples, anyone that you meet, anyone that you hear, anyone that you see; they are all manifestations of Buddha. Learn from their strengths and reform your own shortcomings. Whether sick or healthy, rich or poor, you will be saved through Buddha’s compassion and through the practice of faith and asceticism.

Kūkai founded the Shingon Buddhist sect, which has its spiritual centre at Kōyasan near the old capital of Nara. After his death in 835AD, Shingon adherents created the 88 Temple Pilgrimage by linking temples and other sites related to their spiritual leader, who was born on Shikoku. Since then many tens of thousands of pilgrims, known locally as Ohenro-san, have made the journey. Distinctive in their garb of white clothes and sedge hat with walking staff in hand, they are a familiar sight in Shikoku to this day and an inseparable part of the local society and culture.

Whether making the pilgrimage for ascetic, pious or tourist reasons, as a matter of course townspeople and villagers provide a warm welcome to all walkers, proffering a plentiful supply of tea and food as sustenance. Today, the Pilgrimage is made by many different modes of transport including car, bus, taxi, motorcycle and bicycle. We combine some of these with the traditional method on foot as we join pilgrims on their journeys.

The Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage trip follows some of the most scenic, best-preserved and enjoyable sections of the famous 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Daily walking distances vary between an easy 5km through to a moderate 12.6km following mountain trails and pavement. There are several passes, some steep and long but these, as with all the walking, are climbed at a comfortable pace. If required, onward transport can usually be arranged for those who desire a more relaxed time. Each day our main baggage is sent ahead by vehicle so we need only take what we need each day in a small back pack.


The tentative programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Sunday, 21 October 2018 : Tokushima

Total walking: N/A
Meal provided: Dinner
Internet: WiFi access available
After check in at Hotel Clement Tokushima, meet in the lobby of Hotel Sunroute Tokushima (across from JR Tokushima Station and Hotel Clement Tokushima) at 4:30 pm for a briefing on the trip. We then move to a small meeting room in the same hotel for a presentation on “Shikoku Pilgrimage” by Mr. David C. Moreton, Associate Professor, Liberal Arts and Science, Tokushima University. It will be followed by dinner at nearby “izakaya”, a hospitable and popular restaurant, which provides an atmospheric venue to begin our trip together.
Accommodation: Hotel Clement Tokushima http://www-a.global.hankyuhotel.com/clement-tokushima/

Day 2: Monday, 22 October 2018 : Tokushima-Bandō-Anraku-ji

Total walking: Approx. 10.6km (6.6 miles), 4.5 – 5 hours.
Elevation: Start at 21m (69ft) and end at 12m (39ft)
Highest elevation: 81m (266ft)
Total ascent: 5m (16ft)
Temples to visit: Ryōzen-ji (No. 1), Gokuraku-ji (No. 2), Konsen-ji (No. 3), Dainichi-ji (No. 4), Jizō-ji (No. 5) & Anraku-ji (No. 6)
Meals provided: Breakfast and dinner
Internet: Internet access not available

After breakfast in our hotel, we start our journey through open countryside aside the Yoshino-kawa River. After arrival at Bandō a short stroll brings us to Ryōzen-ji, the first temple of the Pilgrimage’s 88 temples. In preparation for their journey, here many new arrivals acquire the distinctive pilgrims’ accoutrements of white garb, sedge hat, walking staff and praying beads. We may also add to our walking gear if we wish before setting out on the first leg of our pilgrimage. A generally flat route today, we wend our way past paddy fields, plum orchards and market gardens. An ancient, towering kusunoki camphor tree guides us on our way.

We stop for lunch near Konsen-ji, the third of the 88 temples. Lunch options include udon wheat noodles, a popular Shikoku speciality, and dining al fresco with morsels bought in the local shops. Replete, we continue on to Anraku-ji, the sixth temple. We stay here tonight in the temple’s shukubō pilgrims' lodging, which boasts onsen thermal hot spring baths. Onsen are a lovely way to relax and refresh ourselves before a delicious dinner.
Accommodation: Anraku-ji Shukubō http://www.shikoku6.or.jp/index2.html

Day 3: Tuesday, 23 October 2018 : Anraku-ji – Shōsan-ji – Kamiyama Onsen

Total walking: Approx. 5.2km (3.2 miles), 3-3.5 hours
Elevation: Start at 500m (1640ft) and end at 674m (2,211ft)
Highest elevation: 756m (2480ft)
Total ascent: 533m (1748ft)
Temples to visit: Fujii-dera (No. 11) & Shōsan-ji (No. 12)
Meals to be provided: Breakfast and dinner
Internet: WiFi access available

We breakfast in our accommodation before transferring by taxi to Fujii-dera, 11th of the 88 temples. En route, we buy items for a picnic lunch to eat later on our route. After visiting Fujii-dera, we transfer to the start of our walk, which today is through forests and includes part of a section that is colloquially known as henro-korogashi, the pilgrim tumbler. Small shrines, placed on either side of the path, guide us on our way.

Ipponsugi-an, a huge and ancient sugi cedar tree, under which serenely stands a statue of Kōbō Daishi, Kūkai’s posthumous deified form, is another marker on our route. We pass through a delightful farming hamlet before finally arriving at Shōsan-ji, the 12th temple. Shōsan-ji is in a spectacular setting surrounded by old and venerable sugi trees. From here, we transfer by vehicle to Kamiyama, a beautiful village surrounded by mountains. Suitably inspired by its setting the village’s name means ‘Mountains of the Gods’. We spend the night here in a comfortable, small onsen resort that combines both Japanese and western style accommodation. Dinner is a traditional Japanese kaiseki banquet, composed of many sumptuous dishes.
Accommodation: Hotel Shiki no Sato http://kamiyama-spa.com

Day 4: Wednesday, 24 October 2018 : Kamiyama Onsen-Hiwasa-Cape Muroto

Total walking: Approx. 5.9km (3.67miles), 4 hours
Total ascent: 480m (1,575ft)
Temples to visit: Kakurin-ji (No. 20), Tairyū-ji (No. 21) & Yakuō-ji (No. 23)
Meals to be provided: Breakfast and dinner
Internet: WiFi access available in the lobby
Breakfast followed by vehicle transfer to Kakurin-ji, or the Crane Forest Temple, the 20th temple. The crane is considered a symbol of longevity and good fortune and its appearance is considered an auspicious sign. After a downhill walk from this mountaintop temple and crossing a river, we begin a stiff climb over the next mountain to Tairyū-ji, the 21st temple. In Kūkai's first literary work "Sango Shiki," we discover that it was at this temple that Kūkai underwent the Gumonjiho, a form of training where he recited the Kokuzo mantra one million times. A cable car saves our energy and legs and brings us down the mountain as we enjoy splendid vistas on our descent. We rejoin our vehicle for onward transfer to Cape Muroto via Hiwasa, a small, sleepy harbour town on the Pacific Ocean coast. We visit the 23rd temple, Yakuō-ji. Within the temple precincts is a striking red and white pagoda and we are also provided with views over the town and beyond to the Pacific. Following this, we drive to our accommodation. Dinner is a feast of seafood.
Accommodation: Hotel Geopark Muroto

Day 5: Thursday, 25 October 2018 : Cape Muroto-Kiragawa-Muroto

Total walking: Approx. 12.6km (7.8 miles), 4 – 5 hours
Elevation: Start at 10m (33ft) and end at 149m (161ft)
Highest elevation: 157m (515ft)
Total ascent: 353m (1,158ft)
Temples to be visited: Hotsumisaki-ji (No. 24), Shinshō-ji (No. 25) & Kongōchō-ji (No. 26)
Meals to be provided: Breakfast and dinner
Internet: WiFi access available in the lobby
We set out walking from our accommodation for Mikuro-do, a cave where Kūkai meditated for three years as a young man. Here he also derived for himself his name Kūkai, the Chinese characters of which read Sky(空) and Sea (海); all he could see from where he sat. From here we follow the Pilgrimage over a lava rock coast of the Cape before climbing to Hotsumisaki-ji, the 24th temple. Great views to the Pacific’s horizon open up before us we descend back to coast and the town of Muroto. Entering a quiet residential area we approach the 25th temple, Shinshō-ji.  Following this, a private transfer to Kongōchō-ji, number 26, takes the strain off our legs. We then return to Muroto for a second night at our delightful accommodation.
Accommodation: Hotel Geopark Muroto

Day 6: Friday, 26 October 2018 : Muroto – Konomine-ji – Iya Valley

Total walking: Approx. 5km (3.1 miles), 1.5 - 2 hours
Elevation: Start at 50m (164ft) and end at 450m (1,476ft)
Highest elevation: 450m (1,476ft)
Total ascent: 400m (1,312ft)
Temples to be visited:  Konomine-ji (No. 27)
Meals to be provided: Breakfast and dinner
Internet: WiFi access available

Today we begin with a drive to Kiragawa, a once-prosperous charcoal-making town. The town is known for its distinctive sturdy stone wall and multi-roofed buildings that protect against the typhoon rains that blow through the area from time to time.

Another 30-minute drive takes us to the starting point of our walk, and from here, it is a short walk from the foothills below to the 27th temple, Konomine-ji. Our walking is light today but here we do negotiate a steep climb, taking about 90 minutes, which leads us up 400m to the temple.

Our vehicle is waiting for us at the top for our onward journey into the interior of Shikoku to Iya-dani, a remote valley set deep in high mountains. We lunch at an excellent udon noodle specialist restaurant en route to Iya-dani, where we visit Kazura-bashi, a bridge made of vines. Our accommodation, a delightful Japanese inn with onsen baths, for the night is nearby.
Accommodation: Hotel Kazura-bashi http://www.kazurabashi.co.jp

Day 7: Saturday, 27 October 2018 : Iya Valley – Kuma Kōgen – Dōgō Onsen

Total walking: Approx. 5.1km (3.17miles) 3-4 hours
Elevation: Start at 577m (1,893ft) and end at 451m (1,480ft)
Highest elevation: 754m (2,473ft)
Total ascent: 264m (866ft)
Temple to be visited: Daihō-ji (No. 44) & Iwaya-ji (No. 45)
Meals to be provided: Breakfast and dinner

A longer vehicle transfer this morning to Daihō-ji, the 44th temple. Located in the town of Kuma at an elevation of 1,600 ft., it is nestled in a calm, quiet forest of cedar trees. A shorter vehicle transfer takes us to the starting point of our next walk, Kawai, a hamlet that used to provide accommodation to pilgrims of old. We negotiate Hatchozaka, a steep climb and descent on narrow paths before arriving at at Iwaya-ji, temple 45. The temple is in a spectacular setting crowded in by towering cliffs with views across valleys to neighbouring mountains.

Finally, an hour-long drive to Dōgō Onsen, one of the oldest onsen towns in Japan. Its hot baths are a heavenly welcome as we relax before dinner in our lovely accommodation, a traditional Japanese inn. We spend two nights here.
Accommodation: Dōgō-kan http://www.dogokan.co.jp/

Day 8: Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Dōgō Onsen – Uchiko – Dōgō Onsen

Total walking: Approx. 5km (3.1 miles)
Meals: Breakfast and dinner

A more relaxing day after the previous day's exertions. Today our walk takes us on mostly flat terrain, for a total of around 5km. We set out on today's journey to Uchiko Town. Once a prosperous center of wax and paper production, today we can still see vestiges of old Japan from over a 100 years hence. We enjoy a delicious local lunch here before driving on to Oda-Miyama Valley, where, weather willing, we will enjoy some spectacular autumn foliage on our walk today.

Our private bus takes us back to Dōgō Onsen and our accommodation of the previous night. Tonight we bathe at the famous Dōgō baths housed in a spectacular period building before going on into town for dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: Dogo-kan http://www.dogokan.co.jp/

Day 9: Monday, 29 October 2018 : Dogo-Onsen – Zentsū-ji - Takamatsu

Total walking: Approx. 8.8km (5.5 miles), 3 - 3.5 hours
Elevation: Start at 115m (380ft) and end at 20m (65ft)
Highest elevation: 190m (620ft)
Total ascent: 120m (390ft)
Temples to be visited: Iyadani-ji (No. 71), Mandala-ji (No. 72), Shussaka-ji (No. 73), Koyama-ji (No. 74) & Zentsū-ji (No. 75)
Meals to  be provided: Breakfast and dinner
Internet: WiFi access available

This morning we travel by vehicle to Zentsū-ji, the birthplace of Kūkai. The town developed around and took its name from temple, Zentsū-ji, the last of five temples we visit today.

Our private vehicle takes us up to Iyadani-ji, temple 71, from which we enjoy spectacular views back across the surrounding countryside. Mandara-ji, temple 72, follows before we walk to Shutsushaka-ji, temple 73, and Shashin-ga-take Zenjo, a precipice. Here legend has it that at the age of seven, Kūkai climbed these cliffs and, avowing to save all beings he leapt from the top saying, ‘If my desire is fulfilled, the Buddha will save me. If not, I will die.’ Saved, Kūkai went on to live for another 54 years.

We enjoy our picnic lunch in the precincts before walking on via Koyama-ji, temple 74, to Zentsū-ji, temple 75. As the birthplace of Kūkai Zentsū-ji is now, unsurprisingly, a huge temple precinct dotted with many buildings and ancient trees. Shops lining the route to the main gate sell katapan biscuits, a local delicacy. From here a short journey in our vehicle brings us to Kotohira, a small town known in Japan for its onsen and “Konpira-san”, Shikoku’s largest Shintō shrine complex. Returning to our private vehicle, we transfer to Takamatsu, a city on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. We stay here for two nights.
Accommodation: Hotel Clement Takamatsu http://www.jrclement.co.jp/en/

Day 10: Tuesday, 30 October 2018 : Takamatsu – Ōkubo-ji – Takamatsu

Total walking: Approx. 7km (4.3 miles), 4 - 4.5 hours
Elevation: Start at 155m (508ft) and end at 450m (1,476ft)
Highest elevation: 738m (2,421ft)
Total ascent: 710m (2,329ft)
Temple to visit: Ōkubo-ji (No. 88)
Meals to be provided: Breakfast and dinner
Internet: WiFi access available
We transfer by vehicle to the last leg of our tour, a mountain path leading up to Ōkubo-ji, the final temple of the Pilgrimage. Upon completion, our vehicle takes us back to the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, where we stay a second night. Our final dinner of the tour together is a celebration of the completion of our pilgrimage and trip.
Accommodation: Hotel Clement Takamatsu http://www.jrclement.co.jp/en/

Day 11: Wednesday, 31 October 2018 : Takamatsu

Total walking: N/A
Meal to be provided: Breakfast
After breakfast together, the tour ends. Upon request, assistance will be provided to make necessary arrangements for train or bus tickets for onward journeys within Japan or to your departure airport.

How to get to Tokushima and to leave from Takamatsu:

We meet in Tokushima, on Shikoku’s Pacific coast, then travel through the rural heart of Shikoku, before finishing our journey in Takamatsu on the placid Seto Inland Sea. All participants must arrive in Tokushima on Sunday, 21 October 2018. Information on how to get to Tokushima from Kansai International Airport (KIX) will be provided to each participant. Our first night accommodation, Hotel Clement Tokushima is located right next to JR Tokushima Station. Domestic flights are also available from KIX to Tokushima Awa Airport. Shuttle bus services are available from Tokushima Awa Airport to JR Tokushima Station. From Takamatsu, where we complete our trip, air, rail and limousine bus connections are available to KIX as well as Narita International Airport and Haneda International Airport.


Our accommodations vary from a simple temple inn (known as “Shukubō”), where we have private sleeping rooms with shared bath and toilet facilities, to a traditional Japanese inn (known as “Ryokan”) with outdoor hot spring baths. We have secured, where possible, rooms for six singles and 4 doubles.

On Days 7 & 8, double occupancy is required by Dogo Onsen, therefore, there will be no single rooms available and two participants will share a 10 tatami-mat room.

Physical level and recommended equipment/clothing:

This trip is suitable for everyone in good health and able to handle their own luggage, climb stairs and walk between three to four hours each day. Japan is a hilly country and being in reasonable shape will help you maximize your enjoyment. The best way to get fit is to start exercise gradually and build up over a period of time. Regular walking, including some ups and downs, should be sufficient practice for our tour. The walking pace is set at about 80% of the speed most people stroll around town. This is to accommodate less experienced walkers and also to allow everyone to thoroughly enjoy the countryside we walk through. We will be accompanied by an experienced guide, who may provide additional walking to those who want it. Sometimes it is possible to reduce the amount of walking – by travelling onwards by a backup van. Good trail shoes that have ankle support and are at least water resistant, ideally waterproof, are recommended. Walking poles are also recommended. It is not compulsory to wear white clothes. Ordinary hiking clothes in subdued colour are sufficient. If one wishes to wear the white pilgrim vest, it can be purchased at Temple No. 1 and at many temples and stores along the route.


Bt. 218,000 (Bt. 221,000 for non-members). Single room surcharge Bt. 17,000. Please note that single room surcharge applies to the accommodations on Days 1-6 & 9. On Days 7 & 8, double occupancy is required by Dogo Onsen, as earlier stated.

October is one of the best months for Shikoku pilgrimage. Early deposit payment is required to secure rooms and local transport supports to make this tour possible. Therefore, a deposit of Baht 80,000 should be made to secure your seat by Wednesday, 21 February 2018 and photocopy of passport must accompany booking.

Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the deposit has been made. Payment in full is required by Thursday, 6 September 2018.

Please pay by cash or cheque payable to “The Siam Society”. There is a 4% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Alternatively, you can deposit/transfer the money to the Siam Society travel account at the Thai Military Bank, Asoke Branch saving account no. 053-2-18000-7. Please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us. In case the trip has to be cancelled due to insufficient participants, a full refund of the deposit will be made.


The contribution includes accommodations for 10 nights, local travel from tour meeting point to finishing point, 10 breakfasts and 10 evening meals, baggage transfers from accommodation to accommodation on walking days, travel insurance, emergency support from our local team, all taxes, entrance fees and gratuities for the guides.

It excludes international airfares on Bangkok-Osaka-Bangkok, airport transfers, lunches and drinks, personal expenses.

Cancellation charge:

Cancellation after booking:                                                                      Deposit forfeited
25 days before the start of the trip:                                                          60% of the tour cost
19-15 days before the start of the trip:                                                     80% of the tour cost
Less than 20 days or cancellation without notice:                                       No refund

Booking details:

Please book your place by Wednesday, 21 February 2018 and supply a copy of your passport with a deposit of Baht 80,000 with your booking. For further information and bookings, please contact Khun Prasert or Khun Supanut Tel: (02)661-6470 up to 3, Fax: (02)258-3491 or e-mail: supanut@siam-society.org The Society office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary. Seats are limited. Please book your place as soon as possible. For further information and bookings please contact Khun Prasert or Khun Supanut.