Japan Pilgrimages Shikoku Tokushima

Day 2: The Walk Begins

After an exceedingly healthy breakfast, we hit the road proper at 7 am under a crisp blue sky, soon visiting Gokuraku-ji (極楽寺 – 2) and Konsen-ji (金泉寺 – 3) which are just a few kilometres from Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺 – 1).


Each temple has a similar layout with a main gate (山門 sanmon) at the entrance, a main hall (本堂 hon-dō), Daishi Hall (本堂 hon-dō) which contains a figure of Kōbō Daishi and temple office (納経所 nokyo-cho) where you receive the temple stamp.


I tried to pay close attention to how more seasoned pilgrims were conducting themselves in order to avoid looking like too much of an amateur but I doubt I was fooling anyone. Luckily Buddhists don’t seem too hung up on ritualistic adherence!

Stone Route Marker

Following the path turned out to be straightforward with small red signs or stone markers pointing the way every few hundred feet meaning I barely had to check the route guide or Google Maps.

5km later we encountered a rather grumpy monk at Dainichi-ji (大日寺 – 4) who told us off for putting our bags down in the wrong spot and signed everyone’s book with a haggard look. I guess even the holy have bad days.

Rice Fields

Passing along narrow lanes and through rice fields, it dawned on me that this was to be my life for the next six weeks or so. Given that my days are usually passed in front of a computer it suddenly felt rather unreal and my head began to swim from the bright sunlight and heat. I hope my body is able to adjust.

Henro Hut

We also spotted our first henro hut (遍路小屋) which are provided by local communities for pilgrims to stop and rest but can double as a place to stay the night. This one looked particularly modern and even had tatami mats inside.

A short distance past Jizō-ji (地蔵寺 – 5) we stopped to eat udon for lunch at a roadside restaurant. After hungrily finishing our food I called ahead to Jūraku-ji (十楽寺 – 7) in order to book a room for the night in the temple lodgings (shukubo 宿坊). Luckily my Japanese was sufficient.

Anrakuji Gate
Anrakuji Garden
Anrakuji Garden

With the temperature being around 26°C in the afternoon heat we took a more gentle pace for the rest of the day and spent a lazy hour in the shade at Anraku-ji (安楽寺 – 6) which had a particularly pretty garden in its grounds.

Arriving at Jūraku-ji a little after 3 pm we quickly completed the temple proceedings and then took a well-earned nap. I felt pretty good about completing 18km with our heavy backpacks on the first full day of walking and hope to improve on it tomorrow.


Distance walked: 18 km / 29,400 steps
Temples visited: 2–7
Overnight lodgings: Jūraku-ji (十楽寺) – Shukubo

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Originally from the UK, David is designer and wanderer currently based in Kamakura. Prior to this, he lived in China and longs to explore more of this vast and varied land. He started Randomwire in 2003 to chronicle his travels and occasional musings. Feel free to drop him a line.

7 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Margaret says:

    Glad you have made a great start and route was easy to navigate. Yes, it is quite a change of pace for you – and hopefully you will get into a new ‘rhythm’ of activity and rest 🙂 x

  2. David Abraham says:

    I’ve been following your blog since returning from my visit to Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka a little over two years ago. Japan remains the most unique and special place I have ever visited and reading your posts reminds me why. Even though I am settled with a family in the U.S., Randomwire provides me with the inspiration to continue exploring. Best of luck on your journey, and looking forward to many posts.

    1. David says:

      Thanks David – great to hear you’ve had a chance to visit already, I agree it really is a unique and special country. I hope you have a chance to return soon!

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