To Enjoy the Shikoku Trails
The Shikoku Trails are based on the Shikoku Pilgrimage course. Most of the trails are paved, with some sections on unpaved paths or nature paths, with occasional steep slopes, high elevations, and rocky terrain. Although it depends on your itinerary, usually you do not need full mountaineering gear and standard hiking gear is suitable. There are many mountainous areas without stores or lighting, so be sure to prepare well in advance for a safe and pleasant walk.
Essential Equipment for the Trails
Generally speaking, the maximum weight of luggage that can be carried without discomfort when walking is about one-eighth of your body weight. The ideal weight for long walks is about 4-5 kg for men and 3-4 kg for women. The amount of luggage required will vary depending on conditions such as the season and the walking distance, but too much weight will drain your strength. Choose items that are sturdy, lightweight, and easy to use, and do not take anything that you can do without. In some cases, luggage can be sent ahead along the course. For details, please see the Baggage delivery services page.
Hiking shoes or walking shoes for long distances. Use a good combination of insoles and socks, and break them in before you set off.
|Clothing appropriate for the season|
Light, quick-drying clothing is recommended. You should have at least one item with long sleeves and one pair of long pants to protect against UV rays and insects.
About 25L size is recommended. A waist pouch for cash and other small items is also useful.
Rainwear and umbrellas are essential, especially in spring and autumn when the weather tends to be unpredictable. It is also a good idea to have a rain cover for your backpack.
For UV protection in summer and protection from the cold in winter. There are many options available, including water repellent and quick-drying hats, so choose the one that best suits your needs.
|Maps and guidebooks|
Prepare offline maps and a guidebook in case you cannot access Wi-Fi.
You can see the courses of the Shikoku Trails on Google Maps. Don’t forget your charger!
You may not be able to charge your phone during the day until you reach your lodgings. Please take a portable battery with you!
|Drinks or water bottle|
There are no convenience stores or vending machines in many areas, so you must carry enough water for the whole day.
To provide energy to keep you from getting exhausted. Choose well-preserved food that will not be damaged by the temperature.
|First aid kit|
Disinfectants, plasters, painkillers, compresses, gauze, etc.
Insect repellent spray, insect repellent clothing, etc.
|Sunscreen and sunglasses|
On unshaded roads or along the coast, UV rays and sunlight can make you feel fatigued. Bring your regular sunscreen and sunglasses.
Do not throw away paper, plastic, food, or drinks on the ground or in the rivers.
Many small lodgings and stores do not accept credit cards, so be prepared to carry cash (Japanese yen). Coins for monetary offerings may also be necessary.
Health insurance or travel insurance card and contact information
Writing utensils, toiletries, towels, tissues, trekking poles if necessary, headlamp, gloves, tent, etc.
The Shikoku Pilgrimage does not have strict rules regarding what pilgrims must wear and carry with them. However, if you wear the typical pilgrim outfit, people along the course will recognize and welcome you as a pilgrim, will go out of their way to make sure you stay on the correct road, and will warmly exchange greetings with you. Furthermore, wearing the white hakui (overjacket) will enhance your experience of the solemnity of what you are doing.
There is a wide variety of pilgrimage supplies, so some typical items are listed below. If you are interested, why not start with a temple stamp book, a pilgrim’s walking stick, and a cotton overjacket? You can get these items at the henro store located near the first or tenth temple, at the online stores of Buddhist goods stores, or from Rakuten Ichiba online marketplace.
|金剛杖 (Kongōzue) Pilgrim’s Walking stick|
This is the pilgrim’s most sacred item as it represents Kobo Daishi. Naturally, the walking stick is used for the practical purposes of supporting yourself as you walk and protecting yourself from snakes and other wild animals, but keep in mind that since it represents Kobo Daishi himself, the walking stick should never be treated poorly. Traditionally, the standard way to use your walking stick is to put your hands together in prayer (gassho) and greet your walking stick as you set out from your lodging each morning. Then, in the evening, when you check into your lodging for the night, the first thing to do upon arrival is to wash the tip of the walking stick and put your hands together (gassho) in thanks as another day of walking finishes. Prices range from ¥1,000 and up.
|白衣 (Hakue) Cotton Overjackets|
The overjacket with sleeves is called hakue and the one with no sleeves is called oizuru. The hakue and oizuru show the purity of the pilgrim to everyone who sees them. Formerly, their meaning was to show the pilgrim’s readiness to die while walking the trail and never to return home. The official style is to wear an oizuru over a hakue. In addition, some people get their temple stamps on a hakue and, therefore, carry a second, extra one for just that purpose. Prices for hakue range from ¥2,100 and up; for oizuru, prices range from ¥1,700 and up.
|納経帳 (Nōkyōcho) Stamp Book|
As proof of having worshipped at a pilgrimage temple, you can get a temple stamp in your stamp book. The stamps consist of calligraphy in black India ink and a vermillion colored stamp.
|菅笠 (Sugegasa) Sedge Hat|
The sedge hat is ideal for use as both a sunshade and a rain hat given its wide brim and vinyl cover that can be stretched over the top. It is not necessary to remove your hat when worshipping at a temple, when you are inside the temple hall, or when talking with the temple priest. When you wear a sedge hat, be sure that the large Sanskrit character is facing the front. The chin strap that comes with the sedge hat is not strong enough to withstand the wind so you should consider reinforcing it to your liking. Prices range from ¥1,500 and up.
|数珠 (Juzu) Mala|
Styles vary depending on the religious sect, but on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, people use beads of the Shingon sect. When you hold the mala with your hands together in gasshō while facing the Buddha, this helps eliminate the worldly desires that block the path on your spiritual journey. Hold the mala with the tasseled end looped over the middle finger of your right hand and the index finger of your left hand (the middle finger is also OK). Then, with the main loop of the mala held between the palms of your hands, rub your hands together vigorously (while still in gasshō style) so that the beads make a noise as they rub together. This will dispel vexations. Prices range from ¥2,000 and up.
|輪袈裟 (Wagesa) Monk’s Stole|
The wagesa is a simplified version of a kesa, a monk’s full robes. It is the formal attire worn on the pilgrimage. It must be removed when eating or going to the restroom. Prices range from ¥1,200 and up.
|経本 (Kyōhon) Sutra Book|
The sutra book contains the Heart Sutra and all of the mantras that are chanted at the 88 temples. On the Shikoku Pilgrimage, the Heart Sutra and Thirteen Buddhist Sermons are recited. Prices range from ¥300 and up.
|納札 (Osamefuda) Name Slips|
Osamefuda are the name slips that pilgrims leave in special collection bins at both of the halls in each of the temples. Write your name, address, and a wish on each name slip in advance and deposit one in the box provided in front of each Main Hall and each Daishi Hall. Name slips are also given to people who give you gifts (osettai) and to fellow pilgrims as a sort of business card. Name slips come in six different colors. The colors refer to the number of times a pilgrim has completed the entire pilgrimage. Price range from ¥100 for a pack of 100 slips.
Candles, incense sticks, a bell (jirei), a bag for name slips (fudabasami), and so on.