Hiker's Journey to Shikoku

Across a Sacred Temple Route in the Footsteps of Kobo Daishi

Hiker's Journey to Shikoku route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $6395  
Length: 13 days
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 11 nights in hotels or inns, 1 night temple lodging
Meals: All meals included except 2 dinners
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level: Easy to moderate hikes, 2-5 hours a day on hiking days, walking tours, many temple stairs


  • Day hikes 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
  • Kochi Castle and Matsuyama-jo, two of the most famous original castles in Japan

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Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

For 1200 years, o-henro (pilgrims) have walked temple to temple across Shikoku Island, following in the footsteps of the great 8th century Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi. On our unique journey, we capture the essence of pilgrimage with a Trip Leader who literally wrote the book on hiking in Japan! We follow trails between venerated temples (there are 88 temples on the classic circuit, but we won’t be visiting them all), hike up Shikoku’s two highest peaks, and learn the ancient ways of this lushly rural and traditional island. Cultural adventures abound as well, from a special overnight in a temple lodging and a soak in the thousand-year-old Dogo Onsen (hot spring) to a visit to the remote Iya Valley, a vestige of old Japan with its vine bridges and 300-year-old thatched farmhouses. Shikoku’s regional cuisine, a range of accommodations from hotels and inns to a night at a simple temple lodging, and the chance to meet hikers from all walks of life make this is a marvelous immersion in “hidden Japan.” We’ve planned our trip for October, a time to enjoy the colors of Japan’s famed autumn foliage.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-5
Osaka / Koyasan Monastery / Temple Hikes / Kochi

Our journey begins with an overnight at mountaintop Koyasan, the monastery where Kobo Daishi is buried. Pilgrims traditionally come here to ask for his “support” before starting their hikes and we do the same. We then arrive by boat on Shikoku, the traditional way, and begin our journey at Temple 1 of the pilgrim circuit, walking on mountain paths between small temples as we make a wide arc around Tosa Bay, including a visit to a “lucky” temple where pilgrims pray for good fortune. We also visit Kochi’s medieval castle, one of the most authentic left in Japan.

Days 6-10
Iya Valley / Tsurugi-san / Matsuyama / Dogo Onsen / Ishizuchi

We explore the Iya Valley, whose high peaks and deep gorges made it a safe haven for the Heike Clan during civil wars of the 12th century, and hike up sacred Tsurugi-san (6,412'), a peak shrouded in mystery and legend. After a visit to the famed Taga-jinja Fertility Shrine, we hike to cliff-perched Iwaya-ji Temple, soak in Matsuyama’s ancient Dogo Onsen hot baths, then take the cable car partway up Ishizuchi-san (6,500'), western Japan’s highest peak and one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains, for an optional hike to its airy summit.

Days 11-13

We visit Zentsu-ji Temple, where Kobo Daishi was born, walking through an underground tunnel that pilgrims must “feel” their way through to reach, climb the 1,368 steps of the Kompira-san Temple, visit the  Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, and finally arrive back at Temple 1, where we celebrate our completion of “the circle of Shikoku.” Depart on Day 13 via Osaka.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

The trip is Level 3, Easy to Moderate according to our trip grading system. Our activities center on exploring cultural sites and mingling with the local people. Road travel on some days is long. Our day hikes are moderate and suitable for people in good shape who enjoy mountain hiking. The longest hike is about four hours. Although you carry only a daypack, there are some steep ascents and descents, and the hikes are at moderate altitude, which can make them feel strenuous. As with any hiking trip, you should have good wet-weather gear. Because our trip is in October, we have a good chance of enjoying the colors of Japan’s famous autumn foliage.

For your own enjoyment, we recommend that you make a special effort to be in good physical condition. Daily brisk walking is an excellent preparatory exercise. Hiking poles are not necessary, although some people like to use them. Driving and hiking times are noted, but on first departures, and with full groups, these can vary, sometimes dramatically, from the anticipated times. Road conditions and the group’s level of fitness also affect the travel and hiking times.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Oct 13-25, 2014  Craig McLachlan

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$6395 (11-12 members)
$6695 (9-10 members)
$6995 (7-8 members)
Single supplement: $460
Forced single supplement: $230
more on pricing

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader
  • Accommodations in comfortable hotels
  • All meals included except 2 dinners
  • Entrance fees for museums and sites as part of the itinerary
  • All ground transportation including chairlifts as needed

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, airport transfers, any meals not specified after each itinerary day, optional gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors; pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20%
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Minimum fee: None per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport

Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport

Day 1 (1 night), Osaka, Japan

This hotel couldn’t be more convenient for travelers transiting Osaka—it’s located just a short walk from the passenger terminal ...
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Rengejo-in Monastery

Rengejo-in Monastery

Day 2 (1 night), Koyasan, Japan

With its lovely gardens, this traditional Buddhist temple perched on a mountaintop offers Japanese-style guest rooms in a serene setting—a ...
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Hotel Clement Tokushima

Hotel Clement Tokushima

Day 3 (1 night),
Day 12 (1 night), Tokushima, Japan

The Clement is in the center of Tokushima, within walking distance of many shops and dining spots.
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Hotel Akenohoshi

Hotel Akenohoshi

Day 4 (1 night), Muroto-Misaki, Japan

Located on a hill on the southern tip of Cape Muroto, the Akenohoshi offers comfortable rooms and great sunrise views over the Pacific.
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Hotel Nikko Kochi Asahi Royal

Hotel Nikko Kochi Asahi Royal

Days 5 to 6 (2 nights), Kochi, Japan

This hotel has panoramic views across the river and hills of Kochi and a very convenient location near the city center.
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Shimanto Iyashi No Sato

Shimanto Iyashi No Sato

Day 7 (1 night), Shimanto River Area, Japan

Scenically set in the hills above the Shimanto River,  this Japanese-style onsen lodge is one of our best finds. It’s always a pleasure ...
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Hotel Tsubakikan

Hotel Tsubakikan

Days 8 to 10 (3 nights), Matsumaya, Japan

We stay in Western-style rooms at this onsen hotel that’s close to the famed Dogo Onsen and an easy streetcar ride to downtown Matsuyama. ...
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JR Hotel Clement

JR Hotel Clement

Day 11 (1 night), Takamatsu, Japan

The JR Hotel Clement is well situated at the main Takamatsu train station close to the ferry piers. Guest rooms are spacious and well appointed, ...
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Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Craig McLachlan

Craig McLachlan, of New Zealand, graduated from Auckland University with a degree in Management Studies and Japanese in 1985, then earned his MBA from the University of Hawaii. He’s the ultimate guide for the Japanese Alps, having climbed the 100 Famous Mountains, hiked the 88 Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage, and hiked from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific, climbing all 21 of Japan’s 3,000-meter peaks along the way. In 1997, Craig approached Lonely Planet about writing a Hiking in Japan guidebook, and since that time he has authored 10 titles for Lonely Planet, covering everything from the Greek Islands to a South Pacific guide. During the winters, Craig leads hiking tours for Japanese hikers in New Zealand, and in summers, he brings hiking groups to Japan. Craig met and married his Japanese wife, Yuriko, in New Zealand in 1990, and they spend part of the year in Japan and part of the year in New Zealand with their two sons, Riki and Ben (both of whom are now attending the University of California at Berkeley on tennis scholarships). Craig holds a 4th Dan Black Belt in Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate.

Upcoming Trips:

Hiker's Journey to Shikoku, October 13-25, 2014

Client Testimonials:

Craig was great. He was efficient, sensitive to the individual needs of his group participants, and at the same time an easy-going fellow who made a great travel companion. Marc N., Washington, DC
Japan: Shikoku Island
Craig's enthusiasm, attention to detail, and concern for each member of the group were notable plusses. Julien L., Washington, DC
Japan: Shikoku Island