Easy to Understand Even For Beginners! A Guide to Joining the Shikoku Pilgrimage
The Shikoku Pilgrimage has been increasing in popularity among non-Japanese people in recent years. There are many people that want to try it at least once. Here is information about the Shikoku Pilgrimage in case you want to try it!
This is the area where the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, practiced and performed a pilgrimage to 88 shrines and temples around the region. They all have numbers assigned to them, and you can go in order either from the top or from the bottom. The general way this pilgrimage is performed is to go to the area where the shrine issues amulets, chant a sutra or copy a sutra, then receiving a "osamefuda" (a note with your name recorded on it as proof that you visited the shrine) or receiving the temple's stamp in the "nokyocho," a book specifically for presenting hand-copied sutras.
What is the Shikoku Pilgrimage?
Pilgrims have many reasons to go on the pilgrimage. Of course, there are many people that go because they are believers, and others who go to pray for health or for the happiness in the next world for their loved ones that have passed on. There are those who are searching for themselves and for their inner peace, and many others who are looking for good luck or better relationships. It's said that performing the pilgrimage cleanses you from your worldly desires and grants your prayers. No matter what reason you have for going, it will be a trip where you can come to terms with yourself in the grand nature of Shikoku.
There are various ways to complete the pilgrimage based on the order, number, and time period that you choose.
In order: The most common method in which you just start from 1 and go up to 88.
In reverse: You start from 88 and work backwards to 1. It's said this has 3x the benefits of doing it in order.
"Toshiuchi": You complete the entire pilgrimage in one trip without stopping.
"Kugiriuchi": You complete the pilgrimages in stages.
"Ikkokumairi": You only complete the pilgrimage in one of the 4 prefectures.
Visiting all of the temples and shrines will take a lot of time. The temples are situated all over the place, from the tip of a peninsula to the summit of a mountain close to 1,000m tall. The average amount of time it takes is 40 days on foot, 20 days on bicycle, and 10 days by car. In recent years, "tour bus pilgrimages" done via large buses holding groups of pilgrims have been increasing. Please choose the perfect pilgrimage style for you.
There are no rules about what to wear and some people go in just jeans and a T-shirt, but many people wear the typical pilgrim costume. This is because it makes your purpose clear to both locals and other pilgrimages, and also to strengthen your emotions. You can find necessary goods at some of the shops available at the shrines and temples, specialty shops nearby, shops featuring Buddhist items, and more. Also, do not forget comfortable shoes and rain gear. It would also be good to carry a water bottle that you can refill.
The "byakue" (or "hakue") is the full dress worn by pilgrims. "Wagesa" is worn over the byakue when worshipping at the shrine or temple.
The Shikoku Pilgrimage has become more fun in recent years, but in order to prevent the pilgrimage from becoming just a stamp collecting sightseeing tour, there are a few manners you should adhere to. Do not litter, do not yell, and don't dirty public facilities such as bathrooms. Go through the pilgrimage in such a way that you don't bother the warm people of Shikoku who have respected the pilgrims since ancient times. If you see other pilgrims on your path, bow silently to them as a prayer that their trip is safe.
There are various ways to participate in the pilgrimage, but doing it on foot is especially taxing. Please move at your own pace without forcing yourself.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.