Osaka / Koyasan Monastery / Temple Hikes
Our journey begins at Koyasan, the monastery where Kobo Daishi is buried. Pilgrims traditionally come here to ask for his “support” before starting their hikes and we’ll do the same. After getting our pilgrim’s “passport” (to be stamped at each temple), we boat to Shikoku and begin our pilgrimage at Ryozen-ji, the first temple on the circuit. We’ll also visit Kakurin-ji, a mountain temple 1,500 feet above the sea, and a temple where pilgrims touch an ancient tree said to have been planted by Kobo Daishi.
Iya Valley / Matsuyama / Dogo Onsen
In the Iya Valley, whose high peaks and deep gorges made it a safe haven for the Heike Clan during the civil wars of the 12th century, our hike brings us up sacred Tsurugi-san (6,412'), a peak steeped in legend. After a visit to the famed Taga-jinja Fertility Shrine, we hike to Iwaya-ji Temple, perched on a cliffside above the valley floor. In Matsuyama, explore Matsuyama-jo, a castle with bird’s-eye views of the Seto Inland Sea, and soak in Matsuyama’s Dogo Onsen hot springs, one of the oldest public bath houses in Japan, with a history dating back a thousand years.
Kompira-san / Okubo-ji / Awaji Island / Osaka
We visit Zentsu-ji Temple, where Kobo Daishi was born, walk through an underground tunnel that pilgrims must “feel” their way through, then climb the 1,368 steps to the Shinto shrines of Kompira-san, dedicated to sailors and seafarers. Our final stop is Okubo-ji, or Temple 88, the last temple on the pilgrimage trail and a must-see for us. After an overnight on Awaji Island, known in Japanese folklore as the birthplace of Japan, we depart on Day 11 via Osaka.