Japan Shikoku Travel

Day 0: Ohenro-san

ko.yaa.nis.katsi (from the Hopi language), n. 1. crazy life. 2. life in turmoil. 3. life disintegrating. 4. life out of balance. 5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.

Over the past decade, I’ve had some sort of major change in my life every two-to-three years. Most of these changes have been location/job related, with the latter usually following the former.

I’ve been in Japan for three years now but, while I’ve had a chance to explore Tokyo and its periphery thoroughly, much of the rest of the country remains a tantalising mystery.

Frankly, I’ve been feeling burnt out so have decided to take a hiatus from work and tomorrow will be embarking on a 1,200km trek on foot around the southern island of Shikoku (四国).

Shikoku Pilgrimage Map

I’ll be following the 12th century circular Shikoku Pilgrimage (八十八ヶ所巡り) trail which encompasses 88 temples associated with the revered monk and scholar Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) who was instrumental in bringing Buddhist teachings to Japan from China.

The journey through Shikoku’s four provinces is likened to a symbolic path to enlightenment, with temples 1–23 representing the idea of awakening (発心 hosshin), 24–39 austerity and discipline (修行 shugyō), 40–65 attaining enlightenment (菩提 bodai), and 66–88 entering nirvana (涅槃 nehan).

1938 Henro Postcard

Pilgrims are known as o-henro-san (お遍路さん) and traditionally wear a sedge hat, white shirt and carry a wooden staff. Upon arriving at each temple they carry out a prayer ritual and collect a stamp in a special book (納経帳 nōkyō-chō).

While most modern-day pilgrims travel by tour bus, a small minority still set out the old-fashioned way on foot, a journey which takes about six weeks to complete.

Disconnecting

While I am not Buddhist, I hope this journey to be more than a stamp rally or a long hike but instead an opportunity to step aside from everyday life and devote some quality time to quiet reflection without the usual distractions.

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.

During my pilgrimage, I’ll be disconnecting from the noise of social media and news with the exception of this blog which I hope to keep updated as a log of my progress around the island.

Depending on the weather and how well the road treats me I aim to camp ~3 nights a week and stay in various lodgings the rest of the time.

I hope you’ll join me 🙂

Map Day 1 →

Originally from the UK, David is designer and wanderer currently based in Tokyo. Prior to this, he lived in China and still returns frequently to continue exploring this vast and varied land. He started Randomwire in 2003 to chronicle his travels and occasional musings. Feel free to drop him a line.

17 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Hope you have a fantastic trip! We will certainly be following your blog closely 🙂 Isabelle certainly has an adventurous uncle!! Have a wonderful time, stay safe and hope you’ve got plenty of blister plasters!! Love from Sarah, Chris and Isabelle xx

  2. I wish you a successful pilgrimage. From what I read here you are off to a good start with the right attitude. I will be very interested your progress. Gambatte.

  3. Have a really good trip David – looking forward to following how you get on on this blog. Take care and hope it enables you to switch off and enjoy. M

  4. walk well – i will follow your blog with interest – I leave on my henro 14th October and am trying to learn as much as I can before I go

  5. Hi David,
    Enjoyed reading your above intro.
    Looking forward to following your journey, I walked the 88 + 20 pilgrimage in Autumn 2014.
    Take your time, it’s so easy to walk long distances and then look back and wish I’d stayed longer in the extraordinary spiritual places. On pilgrimage if possible stay at Bangai Temple 4, Saba-daishi. The fire ceremony is memorable. Have you read Jasbir Sandhu’s web journal with lots of helpful accommodation tips?
    Enjoy your immersion in Shikoku kindness and hospitality, James.

    1. Thanks James, definitely sound advice since I’ve already felt a bit rushed over the past five days. So much food advice on various blogs, I very much appreciate it all!

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