Across a Sacred Temple Route In the Footsteps of Kobo Daishi

Overview

For 1,200 years, o-henro-san (pilgrims) have walked the 88-temple pilgrimage route across Shikoku Island, following in the footsteps of the great 8th century Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi, the most revered figure in Japanese Buddhism. We’ve selected the most beautiful temples—and hikes—to create a captivating journey across this legendary isle. You’ll follow trails between venerated temples, climb one of Shikoku’s highest peaks, and discover the remote Iya Valley, a vestige of old Japan with its kazura-bashi (vine bridges) and 300-year-old thatched farmhouses. Cultural adventures abound, from a soak in the thousand-year-old Dogo Onsen (hot spring) to stays at a temple lodging and a welcoming family-run ryokan in the mountains.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
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.

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Days 5-8
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.

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Days 9-11
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.

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Highlights

Highlights

Hike pilgrim paths to the legendary temples of Shikoku
Explore the traditional Iya Valley, with its thatched houses and vine bridges
Meet pilgrims and hikers, sample Shikoku’s delicious fresh seafood
Visit Matsuyama-jo, one of the most famous original castles in Japan

Details

Length: 11 days
Cost From: $6695  
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 9 nights hotels, inns, and ryokans, 1 night temple lodging
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Easy to moderate hikes, 2-5 hours a day on hiking days, walking tours, many temple stairs

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