Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrimage Tour | Anabuki-travel Japan

Ohenro is the term for the Buddhist pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku, Japan.

About Shikoku

Shikoku (Shikoku, literally “four countries”) is Japan’s fourth largest island southwest of the main island, Honshu. Including such places as the island of Naoshima, well-known for its art exhibits, and the beautiful parks along the Inland Sea and Pacific Ocean, the Shikoku pilgrimage has recently become a popular travel destination.
At Anabuki Travel, we offer tours that focus on the Ohenro allowing people to experience all of Shikoku’s unique aspects.

What’s “Ohenro”?

Origin of the Ohenro

On Ohenro, the journey, not the goal, is most important. Experiencing the warm hearts of people you will meet along with the beautiful nature surrounding you will provide the perfect complement to your journey through Shikoku.

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The Shikoku pilgrimage (also called “Ohenro”) consists of eighty-eight “official” temples and numerous other sacred sites located around the island of Shikoku. It is believed that the founder of Shingon (Esoteric) Buddhism in Japan, Kobo-Daishi (Kukai) (774-835CE) trained or spent time at many of these places, thus he plays a central role in this pilgrimage. Although there are references to people making this pilgrimage from around the 12th Century, it did not become popular among the general public until the first guidebooks were published in the late 17th Century. Today, hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world make this pilgrimage by bus, car, bicycle, and on foot. Each comes for a different reason. Some come to remember a relative or friend who has passed away, others to get away from the stress of modern life, while others still, come to enjoy nature or simply have some time to themselves. Whatever their motives, all people--regardless of nationality, gender, religion, etc.—are welcome to walk the paths of Shikoku. However, it is important to remember this is a special journey, not just a stamp-rally or backpacking trail. The path, sites, objects and people that you encounter on the pilgrimage should be treated with respect. As you follow the footsteps of those who have made the pilgrimage before you, please consider those who come after you. If you are thinking of embarking on some or all of this pilgrimage, do not worry because other pilgrims, temple staff and even the local people will support you on your journey.

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About Kukai

Kobo Daishi (Kukai) (774-835)

Kukai is one of the most well-known figures in Japanese history and is accredited with many great deeds. Throughout Japan, one often hears his name and one can visit the many places that he is said to have visited during his lifetime.

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Kukai became the 8th Patriarch of Shingon Buddhism and actively spread the teachings of this new form of Buddhism in Japan. Furthermore, he is accredited with founding the Shikoku pilgrimage and so, people today believe that this route is a journey which follows in his footsteps. People also believe that Kobo Daishi accompanies pilgrims as they do the pilgrimage as shown by the phrase, dogyo ninin or “same practice, two people”.

Biography

774
Born into the Saeki clan, a declining aristocratic family, at Temple no. 75, Zentsuji in Kagawa prefecture.
788
Began study of Chinese classics under the direction of his uncle.
791
Entered university in Nara but about two years later he left school, became a monk, and spent time as a wandering ascetic.
797
Committed himself to Buddhism and wrote Indications of the Goals of the Three Teachings (Sango-Shiki) in which he compares Buddhism with Confucianism and Taoism. He argues for the superiority of Buddhism.
797-804
It is assumed that he lived as a traveling ascetic. During this time, he might have visited Mt. Koya for the first time and may have spent time in training at Temple no. 21, Tairyu-Ji and in a cave (Mikurado) at Cape Muroto in Shikoku.
804
Left for China planning to stay for 20 years to study Esoteric Buddhism.
806
Returned to Japan after having become the 8th Patriarch of Shingon Buddhism. During his time in China, he studied under the previous Patriarch, Keika (Hui-kuo) at a temple called Shoryuji.
809
Was allowed to leave Kyushu and come to Kyoto to reside at Takaosan-Ji (later known as Jingo-Ji). He stayed here until 823.
810
Was appointed as an administrative head of Todai-Ji in Nara and acted as such until 813.
816
Received permission from the Emperor to use Mt. Koya as his main temple.
819
The formal consecration of Mt. Koya.
821
Directed the reconstruction of the Manno-ike reservoir.
823
Moved his Headquarters to Toji Temple in Kyoto.
824
Was officially appointed administrative head in charge of the construction of Toji Temple in Kyoto.
828
Opened the School of Arts and Sciences (Shugei-Shuchi-In) in Kyoto open to all students, regardless of their social status or economic means.
835
Entered eternal meditation at Mt. Koya.
921
Received the honorary name of Kobo-Daishi from Emperor Daigo (885-930)

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How to “Ohenro

At the Temples

The following steps describe the traditional—but optional—actions performed by pilgrims at each temple.

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1 Main Gate

To ward off evil spirits.
First, in front of the gate bow once facing the Main Hall.

2 Wash basin

To purify oneself.
This is a place to wash one’s hands and mouth, as well as putting on the wagesa and juzu.

3 Bell tower

Rung to mark one’s arrival.
Ring the bell upon arrival. It is considered bad luck to ring when leaving. Some temples have limited hours for ringing the bell. Please adhere to such a rule.

4 Main Hall

The main deity can be seen here.
First, light incense and a candle. Ring the bell once and declare to the main deity that you have come to worship. Place the name-slip (osame-fuda) and copied sutra (shakyo) in the box. Place a donation in the offertory box, put your hands together and recite the sutras. At the Main Hall, it is common to begin reciting in staring with the Heart Sutra, then continuing with the Gohonzon Shingon and Goho go sutras. However, it is all right to pray silently. Later on, you might start reciting the sutras when you get used to hearing them. In the 5th Century before Buddhism was brought to Japan, a Chinese high priest, Hsuan Chuang, visited India and received the Heart Sutra (Hannya Shingyo) which is used in Japan even now. Chuang Selected Chinese characters which have the same sound as the original Sanskrit, so it is said that in Japan, the Hannya Shingyo is an all-encompassing sutra that gives no regard to the religious affiliation of the person reciting it.

5 Daishi Hall

A figure of Kobo Daishi can be seen here.
Worship in the same way as at the Main Hall.

6 Stamp office

Administration Office.
Receive the temple stamp in your stampbook (for a fee)

7 Main gate

Face the Main gate and bow once.

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Pilgrim Accessories

Pilgrims on Ohnero are free to wear whatever they please while on their journey. However, by choosing to don the traditional white vest or jacket and carrying the designated walking stick, you will be identified and respected as a pilgrim by those you meet along the way. Your guide will provide you with all accessories prior to departure.

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Your Customized Pilgrimage

There are as many ways to experience "Ohenro" as there are temples to visit.
During an initial consultation, we’ll discuss all of the possibilities with you,
explain about the different regions and attractions, and work with you to plan the perfect pilgrimage.

  • You can travel at ease knowing a professional and authorized Ohenro guide will accompany the tour.

  • For those interested in a truly authentic experience, it is recommended that part of the journey be done on foot.

  • All aspects of making the pilgrimage, such as worshipping at the temple etc, will be taught by the guide.

  • Participants will travel by taxi from one section to the other. If you are not feeling confident about walking on a certain day, it is possible to rest in the taxi.

  • You can keep any excess baggage on the taxi, however, we recommend that you carry important personal affects (wallet, passport etc.) with you at all times.

  • You can focus on enjoying the temple because a staff member or guide will take care of getting the pilgrimage books stamped and signed for you.

Click HERE
to read an account of a customized pilgrimage

Inside a Pilgrimage

You would spend the weekend at Ryokan Kurashiki (a traditional Japanese inn) in a beautiful suite, feeling the history surrounding you. There are two wonderfully prepared meals; on at the Ryokan and the other at a nearby restaurant arranged by Ritsuko-san, the lovely manager. She would also arranges for you to visit a local family-run sake brewery and meet a wonderful ceramic artist in addition to a scenic walking tour of Kurashiki. Next morning, after a nourishing breakfast it’s time to begin your pilgrimage.

Your personal driver-guide and interpreter would pick you up and drive you across the beautiful Seto-Sea bridge to Shikoku Island. Your “Ohenro” experience starts with a series of temples located about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Takamatsu. Your guide will provide you with the traditional Ohenro white jacket, walking stick, and neck sash used for Ohenro and shows you the bound books you will use to collect the stamps and calligraphy at each temple. As you approach the first temple, Iyadani, your guide shows you how to bow at the main gate, and then walks you through the suggested steps to be a proper pilgrim.

You visit several more temples within walking distance, repeat the gestures and chants at each and enjoy a stroll through the villages and rice fields separating them from each other. You arrive at the final temple, Zentsu-Ji, after 5pm. Of the dozen or so temples you’ll visit over the next few days, Zentsuji is the most important as it’s the birthplace of Kobo Daishi, the monk who originally brought Shingon Buddhism to Japan. That night, you stay at the humble but comfortable Shukubo lodging provided only to pilgrims by the temple. After the luxurious nights in Kurashiki it feels basic indeed, but is also an entirely authentic experience as you are served a simple healthy meal in the dining hall surrounded by fellow pilgrims. An early night awaits so you can rise early to join the special morning chanting service with the head abbot and his monks open only to temple guests.

After breakfast, you set off to explore several temples in a heavily forested part of the island. You hike through dense pines and alongside rushing rivers and waterfalls, passing by small shrines and Jizo statues, all of which remind you where you are. The walking is strenuous but never dangerous. You stop for an incredible lunch at a restored farmhouse in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Thoroughly satiated, you can welcome the afternoon’s walking and visit several more scenic mountain temples.

That night, to offset the simplicity of the night before, you are able to stay at the gorgeous Kotohira Kadan, a sprawling ryokan with natural hot springs and several private “villas”. You’re given the largest in which to stay and await an incredible experience. Here you can feel like Japanese royalty, surrounded by a fabulous art collection, a huge private soaking bath, wonderful views, and the most delicious dinner so far.

Over the next two days you continue to walk through pastoral scenes, visit temples large and small, and are free to spend the nights at welcoming and charming inns, including one with a private Noh theater where you meet the master and learn the history of this mysterious art form. Each day brings new sights, new people, and a deeper understanding of both nature and Buddhism. When the pilgrimage comes to an end, you seriously consider extending your stay... but settle for the promise of a return trip in the future, and the lure of an entirely different pilgrimage in another part of this unforgettable island.

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88 Temple Pilgrimage

Tokushima

  • 01 Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺)
  • 02 Gokuraku-ji (極楽寺)
  • 03 Konsen-ji (金泉寺)
  • 04 Dainichi-ji (大日寺)
  • 05 Jizō-ji (地蔵寺)
  • 06 Anraku-ji (安楽寺)
  • 07 Jūraku-ji (十楽寺)
  • 08 Kumadani-ji (熊谷寺)
  • 09 Hōrin-ji (法輪寺)
  • 10 Kirihata-ji (切幡寺)
  • 11 Fujii-dera (藤井寺)
  • 12 Shōsan-ji (焼山寺)
  • 13 Dainichi-ji (大日寺)
  • 14 Jōraku-ji (常楽寺)
  • 15 Awa Kokubun-ji (阿波国分寺)
  • 16 Kannon-ji (観音寺)
  • 17 Ido-ji (井戸寺)
  • 18 Onzan-ji (恩山寺)
  • 19 Tatsue-ji (立江寺)
  • 20 Kakurin-ji (鶴林寺)
  • 21 Tairyūji (太竜寺)
  • 22 Byōdō-ji (平等寺)
  • 23 Yakuō-ji (薬王寺)

Kochi

  • 24 Hotsumisaki-ji (最御崎寺)
  • 25 Shinshō-ji (津照寺)
  • 26 Kongōchō-ji (金剛頂寺)
  • 27 Kōnomine-ji (神峰寺)
  • 28 Dainichi-ji (大日寺)
  • 29 Tosa Kokubun-ji (土佐国分寺)
  • 30 Zenrakuji (善楽寺)
  • 31 Chikurin-ji (竹林寺)
  • 32 Zenjibu-ji (禅師峰寺)
  • 33 Sekkei-ji (雪蹊寺)
  • 34 Tanema-ji (種間寺)
  • 35 Kiyotaki-ji (清滝寺)
  • 36 Shōryū-ji (青竜寺)
  • 37 Iwamoto-ji (岩本寺)
  • 38 Kongōfuku-ji (金剛福寺)
  • 39 Enkō-ji (延光寺)

Ehime

  • 40 Kanjizai-ji (観自在寺)
  • 41 Ryūkōji (竜光寺)
  • 42 Butsumoku-ji (佛木寺)
  • 43 Meiseki-ji (明石寺)
  • 44 Daihō-ji (大宝寺)
  • 45 Iwaya-ji (岩屋寺)
  • 46 Jōruri-ji (浄瑠璃寺)
  • 47 Yasaka-ji (八坂寺)
  • 48 Sairin-ji (西林寺)
  • 49 Jōdo-ji (浄土寺)
  • 50 Hanta-ji (繁多寺)
  • 51 Ishite-ji (石手寺)
  • 52 Taisan-ji (太山寺)
  • 53 Enmyō-ji (圓明寺)
  • 54 Enmei-ji (延命寺)
  • 55 Nankōbō (南光坊)
  • 56 Taisan-ji (泰山寺)
  • 57 Eifuku-ji (栄福寺)
  • 58 Senyū-ji (仙遊寺)
  • 59 Iyo Kokubun-ji (伊予国分寺)
  • 60 Yokomine-ji (横峰寺)
  • 61 Kōon-ji (香園寺)
  • 62 Hōju-ji (宝寿寺)
  • 63 Kichijō-ji (吉祥寺)
  • 64 Maegami-ji (前神寺)
  • 65 Sankaku-ji (三角寺)

Kagawa

  • 66 Unpen-ji (雲辺寺)
  • 67 Daikō-ji (大興寺)
  • 68 Jinne-in (神恵院)
  • 69 Kannon-ji (観音寺)
  • 70 Motoyama-ji (本山寺)
  • 71 Iyadani-ji (弥谷寺)
  • 72 Mandara-ji (曼荼羅寺)
  • 73 Shusshakaji (出釈迦寺)
  • 74 Kōyama-ji (甲山寺)
  • 75 Zentsū-ji (善通寺)
  • 76 Konzō-ji (金倉寺)
  • 77 Dōryū-ji (道隆寺)
  • 78 Gōshō-ji (郷照寺)
  • 79 Tennō-ji (天皇寺)
  • 80 Sanuki Kokubun-ji (讃岐国分寺)
  • 81 Shiromine-ji (白峯寺)
  • 82 Negoro-ji (根香寺)
  • 83 Ichinomiya-ji (一宮寺)
  • 84 Yashima-ji (屋島寺)
  • 85 Yakuri-ji (八栗寺)
  • 86 Shido-ji (志度寺)
  • 87 Nagao-ji (長尾寺)
  • 88 Ōkubo-ji (大窪寺)

About
Anabuki Travel

As locally based experts on Shikoku Island,
we’re ideally situated to create
your customized Ohenro Pilgrimage experience.

We’re also happy to incorporate other areas of Shikoku into your trip,
such as the spectacular Iya Valley,
the culture-rich cities of Takamatsu and Matsuyama,
and the nearby islands of Naoshima, Teshima, and Shodoshima.

Let us show you the many wonders of Shikoku!

Access to Shikoku

From Tokyo to Shikoku

Getting Here by Airplane / From Haneda Airport

Getting Here by Airplane / From Narita Airport

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From Osaka / Kyoto to Shikoku

Getting Here by Train

Getting Here by Bus

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