Today our only objective was to get from Fujii-dera (藤井寺 – 11) to Shōsan-ji (焼山寺 – 12) a distance of 12.4km over a mountain pass (we ended up walking 18km in total).

Bosatsu stone statue

The elevation chart for the climb looks like a four-humped camel such are the number of peaks and troughs to be traversed. The highest peak is around 750m.

Pine trees

There had been a strong gale the previous night and dark clouds hung ominously in the sky as we retraced our steps back to Fujii-dera at around 7.30am. The path into the mountain begins to one side of the temple and immediately begins to ascend steeply upwards.

Bamboo forest

All around us the trees seemed to be howling as they bowed and made contact in the wind. A few times I heard loud cracks and was worried one of them might fall down on us.

Water purification

Before Shōsan-ji there are three smaller unattended temples which provide the perfect place to stop and rest (Chodo-an, Ryusui-an, and Joren-an). At the second, a kind gentleman had set up a small table and was serving free coffee to all passing henro.

Kind coffee man

We stopped for 10 minutes and chatted in what broken Japanese we could muster. Perhaps unsurprisingly all this small talk is forcing me to improve!

Spring is the season for baby bamboo
Spring is the season for baby bamboo

Just below Ryusui-an was a marvellous looking henro hut that would be perfect for anyone wanting to break the pass through the mountain with an overnight camp.

Kobo Daishi under a tree

A bronze statue of Kōbō-Daishi stands beneath a giant tree at Joren-an but the rest of the temple complex seemed abandoned and falling apart.

View of the valley

Shōsan-ji cedar trees

After dipping down into a luscious valley and then making the final steep ascent we arrived at Shōsan-ji just before 1.30pm. Set among enormous cedar trees it’s one of the most beautiful temples we’ve seen so far and well worth the climb.

Shōsan-ji bell

Around 2pm we began the decent back down and it started to rain. As we trudged along the road, an Indian guy who we’d met the previous evening at Kamo no yu stopped on his bicycle to say he’d dropped a special bell from Mt. Fuji on the road somewhere and would we look out for it. As luck would happen, about 15 minutes later I spotted it by the side of the road and gave him a call so he could come pick it up.

View from Sudachi-kan

Shortly afterwards we reached our lodging for the night at Sudachi-kan which is run by an eccentric old couple who seemed in high spirits despite the torrential rain. They provided a lift down to the nearest onsen which was just the ticket after a long day of hiking.

The day ended with another delicious home-cooked meal served with grapefruit juice which they make and sell themselves. Fingers crossed that the rain lets up by morning.


Distance walked: 18 km / 32,000 steps
Temples visited: 12
Overnight lodgings: Sudachi-kan (すだち館) – Minshuku

← Day 3 Map Day 5 →


  1. Margaret says:

    Fascinating to follow your progress and what an amazing experience you’re having. M

  2. Arnold Smith says:

    Enjoy reading your blog. Thought it was wonderful you found the bell and can arrange to re-unite it. It reminds me of my first ohenro pilgrimage where I was able to re-unite a hat with another ohenro. The world is following your on your journey.

  3. oldmankk says:

    Any small talk with broken Japanese means moving mountain. One local retiree – met at T26 , knew I will be starved without any food miles and miles after T24. He drove up down 40km in four hours just to locate me next morning along the Route 55 coastline and passed me a Sushi box, Green tea and Mandarin Oranges. I forever grateful for his special blessings.

  4. Athena says:

    Glad to hear you got the ryokan + onsen treatment early on. I only discovered it half way when I was in Kochi.

    It’s funny how one finds things. I feel like a lot of what happens on Shikoku is mysteriously connected; your picking up the bell soon after the meeting being a case. Looking forward to seeing what else you discovered along the way.

  5. Iver says:

    I am on Day 4 now (kinda slow..). But I like the sentence on your sugegasa – especially the one “同行二人” 😁😁
    Did you choose what to write on it or it was something oringinally on it?

    • David says:

      Hey Iver – it was already written on there when I bought it 🙂 Good luck with your pilgrimage! Are you writing a journal anywhere?

Leave a Reply