After a restless night in the tent, I awoke to find my head, neck, arm and hand covered in mosquito bites from a little monster that I thought I had knocked off before going to sleep but clearly not.
I started packing up at 6 am and, after a light bite to eat, was on the road by 7.30 am. I was excited to finish the walk, so didn’t want to waste any time.
The first part of the morning involved a 30-minute walk to Shyaka-do (釈迦堂 – 36) and Myouou-ji (明王寺 – 37) which I reached via the inland road instead of going around the coast. From here it was a long slog over the mountain road to Jyodo-ji (浄土寺 – 43) and Jizoji-do (地蔵寺堂 – 45) in the adjacent valley.
It was here that the Nakayama Senmaida (中山千枚田) terraced rice fields began to reveal themselves. You can get a particularly good view from Yufune-san (湯舟山 – 44) – it was a real highlight of the pilgrimage and a great finale to the walk.
From here the trail makes its way down one side of the valley, stopping by numerous temples along the way. Toganoo-san (栂尾山 – 47) stood out for being entirely inside a cave.
The large white Kannon statue that I passed on Day 2 while walking east along the top of the mountain could be clearly seen watching over the valley. Honestly speaking it looks a bit gaudy but it does provide a good point to locate yourself by.
As can be seen from the position of Enman-ji (圓満寺 – 74), the original route would have taken Henro down to the bottom of the valley before heading back up. The route today is a bit more logical based on the roads that exist now and requires less up and down.
Hosho-In (宝生院 – 54) had an enormous 1500-year-old juniper tree in the attached Shinto shrine (宝生院のシンパク). According to legend, this tree was planted by Emperor Ōjin (応神天皇).
Here I received my final stamps with a smile and a spring in my step.
The final two Temples, Kannon-do (観音堂 – 55) and Gyoja-do (行者堂 – 56) necessitated a short hike back into the forested mountainside, with a nice view over Tonosho (土庄町) to complete things. Since Gyoja-do is a minor temple, there’s no big fanfare but it was nice to be outside the town somewhere quiet for this moment.
It was now close to noon, and I walked down into Tonosho and stopped at a fantastic little restaurant serving amazing curry soup with braised pork (sadly since closed). For dessert, I had delicious soft-serve ice cream with assorted fruits.
Afterwards, I walked back to the temple HQ and found that I was missing a stamp from Saikkou-ji (西光寺 – 58) (visited on Day 0). Luckily it was just 10 minutes away so I walked there to complete my nokyocho. The friendly lady at the HQ stamped the last page of the book to confirm that I had completed the Shodoshima 88 Pilgrimage. She also gave me an energy drink since I must have looked exhausted!
With my pilgrimage at an end, I caught the 2.20 pm high-speed ferry back to Takamatsu then went to my hotel for a good scrub down! I had dinner then went to bed happy but exhausted. The next day I flew back to Tokyo.
There’s no doubt that the hike had been a tough one, made even more difficult by the 10 kg I was carrying on my back and the remoteness of the north side of the island in particular.
Compared to Shikoku, following the route is more difficult due to the scarcity of markers however there is a certain pride that comes with being one of the only very few people to walk the Shodoshima Pilgrimage each year. I suspect over the coming years with Shikoku becoming more popular that this will spill over into Shodoshima.
Living in a Tokyo, surrounded by people most of the time, there is nothing I enjoy more than escaping it all by myself once in a while. A walking pilgrimage is something deeply meditative by itself and a chance to shake your body and mind free from their daily routines. I can’t recommend it enough.
- Distance walked: 20.8km / 24,696 steps
- Temples visited: 16
- Total pilgrimage distance: 183.6km total
- Frequently asked questions