88 Temple Pilgrimage Travel
The Shikoku Pilgrimage or Shikoku Junrei is a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with
the Buddhist monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) on the island of Shikoku, Japan. Kūkai was born in 774 at the
temple called Zentsū-ji (Temple 75). He studied in China and on his return he had a great impact on
the promotion of esoteric Buddhism in Japan. It is said he founded the sacred sites when he was forty-two
years of age in 815. After Kukai’s death the faith in Kobo Daishi spread to around the end of the Heian
period and it came to be widely practiced by Buddhist monks to travel to the places associated with him.
The 88 temples were also visited as dojo (a training hall) for their Buddhist training.
In the Edo period the pilgrimage spread to the general public. They were known as “ohenro-san”
and were warmly welcomed. Until today the 88 temple pilgrimage has become more and more
popular as it combines religious faith with recreation. The walking distance is approximately
1200-1400 km long and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete on foot. However
modern pilgrims travel by bus or use cars, taxis, motorcycles, and bicycles, but it still takes around
10 days to complete. Shikoku literally means four provinces consisting of the prefectures of Tokushima,
Kōchi, Ehime, and Kagawa, which were reorganised during the Meiji period. The pilgrim's journey
through these four prefectures is likened to a symbolic path to enlightenment, with temples 1-23 located
in Tokushima representing the idea of awakening (hosshin), 24-39 in Kochi for austerity and
discipline (shugyō), 40-65 in Ehime for attaining enlightenment (bodai), and 66-88 in Kagawa
for entering nirvana (nehan).