88 Temple Pilgrimage or a Religious Travel Around Shikoku

Temple 62

Temple 62 ©Simon le nippon/Flickr

Shikoku Pilgrimage is also called the 88 Temple Pilgrimage (hachijūhakkasho-meguri), a very famous and important ‘travel’ around the island of Shikoku. The lenght of the pilgrimage is more than 1600 kilometers and it touches 88 Buddhist temples of the island. Besides these temples, there are the so-called bangai or the unnumbered temples, which can also be visited as part of the pilgrimage, but they are not included in the 88.

For the pilgrims it is not necessary to visit all the 88 temples. The order of these visits has no importance, everyone may decide about their order. This pilgrimage is a must for those who are interested in Buddhism and Eastern religions.

History of the Pilgrimage

Temple 44

The 44th Temple of the pilgrimage ©Simon le nippon/Flickr

A pilgrimage is a very important symbol for Japanese religious practices. Buddhist have sacred mountains in Japan as well. These traditions are believed to appear in the Heian Period (8-12th centuries).  The tradition of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage was started by Kōbō Daishi (monk and writer) who had traveled around the island of Shikoku and visited several Buddhist temples.

After his death, many people started these pilgrimages and visited the most important temples of the island. Many times, the pilgrimages were started on the birthday of Kōbō Daishi, The Grand Master Who Propagated the Buddhist Teaching.

 

Practice of the Tradition

Temple 48

Temple 48 ©Simon le nippon/Flickr

During the pilgrimage, the pilgrims take a long journey around Shikoku. This walking tour represents a journey to enlightenment. The 1-23 temples symbolize the idea of awakening (hosshin), 24-39 represent discipline (shugyo), temples 40-65 stands for enlightenment (bodai) and the last ones, 66-88 symbolize the entering in Nirvana.

Sometimes, this pilgrimage is considered old-fashioned because modern pilgrims travel by bus. This on-foot pilgrimage takes approximately 60 days. The pilgrims (o-henro-san) usually wear white clothes with a white jacket and a hat. The characters of Dōgyō Ninin (two traveling together) are usually written on their jacket.

Temple 62

Pilgrims in front of the 62nd Temple ©Simon le nippon/Flickr

Many pilgrims start and finish their routes at Mount Koya, the headquarter of the Buddhist Shingon Sect. The road to the temple, which is located on the mountain is more than 20 kilometers long. This is one of the main reasons why pilgrims should exercise a lot before starting this voyage.

If someone decides to visit all the 88 temples of the pilgrimage, they have to know that it may take several months and they have to be very persistent to finish it. Sometimes the relief of the island and the weather can be the enemies of the pilgrims.

Temples

temple 66

Temple 66 ©Simon le nippon/Flickr

88 Temple Pilgrimage includes the following Buddhist Temples: Ryōzenji (1), Gokurakuji, Konsenji, Dainichiji, Jizoji, Anrakuji, Jurakuji, Kumataniji, Horinji, Kirihataji, Fujiidera, Shozanji, Dainichiji, Jorakuji, Kokubunji, Kan’onji, Idoji, Onzanji, Tatsueji, Kakurinji, Tairyuji, Byodoji, Yakuoji, Hotsumisakiji, Shinshoji, Kongochoji, Konomineji, Dainichiji, Kokubunji, Zenrakuji, Chikurinji, Zenjibuji, Sekkeiji, Tanemaji, Kiyotakiji, Shoryuji, Iwamotoji, Kongofukuji, Enkoji, Kanjizaiji, Ryukoji, Butsumokuji, Meisekiji, Daihoji, Iwayaji, Joruriji, Yasakaji, Sairinji, Jodoji, Hantaji, Ishiteji, Taizanji, Enmyoji, Enmeiji, Nankobo, Taisanji, Eifukuji, Sen’yuji, Kokubunji, Yokomineji, Koonji, Hojuji, Kichijoji, Maegamiji, Sankakuji, Unpenji, Daikoji, Jinnein, Kan’onji, Motoyamaji, Iyadaniji, Mandaraji, Shusshakaji, Koyamaji, Zentsuji, Konzoji, Doryuji, Goshoji, Tennoji, Kokubunji, Shiromineji, Negoroji, Ichinomiyaji, Yashimaji, Yakuriji, Shidoji, Nagaoji and Ōkubo-ji.

Temple 70

Temple 70 ©Simon le nippon/Flickr

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