A Pilgrimage around Shikoku Island (Ohenro)

A Pilgrimage around Shikoku Island (Ohenro)

Some 1200 years ago, Kobo Daishi established 88 holy places(temples) scattered around Shikoku Island to free people from their suffering. Going on a pilgrimage to these temples is said to remove earthly desires and answer prayers, which is why many pilgrims visit these sacred locations.

A pilgrimage around Shikoku Island, also known as Ohenro, is a sacred and spiritual journey in Japan. It involves visiting a series of 88 Buddhist temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi, who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism. This pilgrimage is a unique and profound experience, allowing pilgrims to immerse themselves in the rich cultural and religious heritage of Japan. Here are some special points about the Ohenro pilgrimage and how to reach Shikoku Island:

Special Points about Ohenro (Shikoku Pilgrimage):

  1. Sacred Temples: The pilgrimage covers 88 temples, each with its own unique history and significance. Pilgrims walk the island in a clockwise direction, starting and ending at the same temple, traditionally Temple 1, Ryozenji, in Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture.

  2. Walking the Henro Trail: The journey typically involves walking, but some pilgrims also cycle or drive. The entire route is approximately 1,200 kilometers (about 745 miles) long and can take several weeks to complete.

  3. Pilgrim Attire: Pilgrims often wear traditional white robes and conical hats, carrying a staff and a sedge hat. The attire represents humility and detachment from material desires during the pilgrimage.

  4. Osettai: Along the trail, pilgrims may receive osettai, offerings of food, shelter, or encouragement from local people, which demonstrates the spirit of hospitality and support for the pilgrims.

  5. Spiritual Reflection: The pilgrimage is not just a physical journey but also an opportunity for spiritual reflection, self-discovery, and seeking enlightenment.

  6. Pilgrim’s Book: Pilgrims carry a special book called “Nokyocho” to collect temple stamps (shu-in) as a record of their visits to each temple.

How to Reach Shikoku Island:

Shikoku Island is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, and it is connected to the main Honshu island by bridges and ferries. Here’s how to reach Shikoku to start your Ohenro pilgrimage:

  1. By Air: Shikoku has four main airports: Takamatsu Airport (TAK) in Kagawa Prefecture, Tokushima Airport (TKS) in Tokushima Prefecture, Matsuyama Airport (MYJ) in Ehime Prefecture, and Kochi Ryoma Airport (KCZ) in Kochi Prefecture. You can fly to any of these airports from major cities in Japan.

  2. By Train: Shikoku is accessible by train from Honshu through the Seto-Ohashi Bridge or the Nishiseto Expressway. Train services connect cities like Okayama on Honshu with Takamatsu in Kagawa Prefecture.

  3. By Ferry: There are also ferry services connecting Shikoku with various ports in Honshu, Kyushu, and other nearby islands.

Once you reach Shikoku, you can make your way to the starting temple, Ryozenji, in Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture, to begin your Ohenro pilgrimage. Many pilgrims choose to follow the trail on foot or by public transportation, enjoying the scenic beauty and spiritual encounters along the way.