In the Footsteps of kobo daishi


For 1,200 years, o-henro-san (pilgrims) have walked the 88-temple pilgrimage route across Shikoku Island, following in the footsteps of the 8th century Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi, the most revered figure in Japanese Buddhism. We’ve selected the most beautiful temples—and hikes—to create our unique journey across this legendary isle. Arriving in Shikoku by boat, as pilgrims did in centuries past, we’ll hike trails between venerated temples, climb one of Shikoku’s highest peaks, and discover the remote Iya Valley, a vestige of old Japan with its 300-year-old farmhouses. Cultural adventures abound, including meeting fellow pilgrims, relaxing in the thousand-year-old Dogo Onsen (hot springs), and an overnight in a temple lodging.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
Osaka / Koyasan Monastery / Temple Hikes

At the Koyasan Monastery where Kobo Daishi is buried, pilgrims traditionally request his “support” and we’ll do the same. After getting our pilgrim’s passport (which is stamped at each temple), we boat to Shikoku and begin our pilgrimage at 8th century Ryozen-ji, the first temple of the circuit. We also visit Kakurin-ji, a mountain temple perched 1,500 feet above the sea.

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Days 5-10
Iya Valley / Kochi / 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, we hike up sacred Tsurugi-san (6,412') and to cliff-perched Iwaya-ji Temple, and explore seaside Kochi on foot. In Matsuyama, we visit its feudal-era castle and soak in Dogo Onsen hot springs, dating back a thousand years.

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Days 11-13
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 Temple 88, the last temple on the pilgrimage trail, known as the Temple of the Completion of the Vow. The stone in front of the temple is said to be where Kobo Daishi left his walking staff. After an overnight on Awaji Island, known in Japanese folklore as the birthplace of Japan, we depart on Day 13 via Osaka.

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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 atmospheric Matsuyama-jo, a feudal castle completed in 1627 and still in its original state


Length: 13 days
Cost From: $7895  
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 11 nights hotels, inns, and ryokans, 1 night temple lodge
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=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