Types of Accommodation
When planning your Shikoku Pilgrimage, it is important to decide where you want to stay and to make reservations. There are many different types of accommodation along the Shikoku Pilgrimage course.
- Business Hotel
Minshuku are small guesthouses run by families. Traditional minshuku have Japanese-style rooms with futon; newer guesthouses may have beds. Toilets and bathrooms are shared. Meals are home-cooked. Many minshuku run by farmers or fishermen offer dishes made with fresh ingredients. Rates range from ¥5,500 to ¥7,500 per night with two meals, though some offer the option of no meals.
Ryokan are Japanese-style hotels. Most ryokan have Japanese-style rooms with futon; however, some have western-style rooms with beds. Rooms often have en suite toilets and bathrooms. Many have public baths as well. Ryokan for pilgrims charge ¥5,500 to ¥7,500 per night with two meals, the same as minshuku. Ryokan for ordinary tourists charge around ¥7,500 to ¥20,000 (including two meals), depending on the grade of the ryokan.
Temple Lodging. Shukubō are accommodation operated by temples. Some facilities have Japanese-style rooms; some have western-style rooms. Toilets and bathrooms are often shared. After dinner or early in the morning, you can participate in sutra chanting or listen to a story by the monks (participation is optional). Shukubō are closed during the New Year holidays. Rates range from ¥6,000 to ¥8,500 (including two meals).
These hotels are mainly for business travelers, and are often located in front of railway stations. The rooms are generally smaller and less expensive than regular hotels. Most have western-style rooms with a bed, toilet, and bath. You can choose a plan with or without breakfast. Rates range from ¥3,000 to ¥8,000.
Hotels are western-style hotels. The rooms are western-style with beds, toilets, and baths. Guests can choose a plan either with or without breakfast. Rates range from ¥6,500 to ¥40,000, depending on the grade.
How to make reservations
- Hotels, business hotels, larger ryokan and temple lodgings can be easily found and booked through booking sites such as Rakuten Travel, Expedia, Booking.com, and Agoda.
- For smaller ryokan and minshuku, you should use a guidebook or Google Maps and make phone calls to obtain information. Few inns have English speakers. If they have their own website, you may be able to contact them by email. Also, check if credit cards are accepted, as many do not.
- At a ryokan, minshuku, or Shukubō (temple lodging) that offers meals, it is best to make a reservation at least one day in advance, to allow them time for meal preparation. Dinner starts around 6:30 p.m. at most inns; it is best to arrive by 5:00 p.m.
- Rooms may be fully booked on weekends or days before national holidays in high season and local events such as festivals. Please make reservations early or consider staying in a slightly more remote location.
- There are some areas along the pilgrimage course where lodging is scarce. In addition, some inns may be closed throughout the season or may close irregularly or may not be able to provide meals. Please gather up-to-date information before making your plans.
- The weather and your physical condition may prevent you from proceeding as planned. Some people do not make reservations far in advance, but only reserve accommodation a few days ahead. If you have to cancel or change your reservation, contact the inn as soon as possible. The inn will be waiting for you with meals and baths. If you are late, they may be worried and look for you. If you will be late, be sure to let them know.
- Minshuku or ryokan far from the pilgrimage course might provide transportation if you ask them.
Other Accommodation Options
Some people do the Shikoku Pilgrimage without booking accommodation, sleeping in free lodging facilities, or camping. There are many stories on websites about staying at various facilities free of charge or camping. The information is often outdated, however, and you may cause inconvenience to the locals without realizing it. The Shikoku Pilgrimage is not just an outdoor leisure activity but a cultural heritage based on the efforts and dedication of many people. To pass it on in a better condition to the next generation, we would like to share our ideas about free or low-cost accommodation along the way.
Some temples allow visitors to use space called “tsuyadō” within their premises for sleeping. Originally, tsuyadō were halls for Buddhist rituals and to help pilgrims in need. Since they are not lodging facilities like shukubō, there is no bedding, food, air conditioning, or heating, and lighting a fire is strictly prohibited. Tsuyadō should be considered as a last resource in time of trouble and should not be relied on. If you wish to use it, please ask permission from the temple and use it respectfully.
Zenkonyado are lodging spaces operated by temples or locals as hospitality for pilgrims. They are available free or at a low cost, and many have bedding, electricity, and running water; therefore, you can stay in some degree of comfort. You cannot make reservations at most zenkonyado. Some have closed due to the advanced age of the owners or other reasons. It is best to consider them as a last resource in case of trouble. When using zenkonyado, we ask that you appreciate the hospitality of the owners and follow the rules.
Pilgrim Rest Hut. These are huts built for walking pilgrims to rest and take a nap. There are various types, including those with simple roofs and no walls and those equipped with electric power and running water. All of them are maintained and managed by locals. If you wish to stay in a hut that allows overnight stays, find the manager or a neighbor to say hello if possible. Some of the huts have donation boxes. Your donation is highly appreciated. Please do not sleep in rest huts that are not for overnight stays.
- Japanese law prohibits camping outside of campgrounds.
- Sleeping in public places such as stations, parks, and schoolyards is frowned on and you may be considered homeless or suspicious. Such activity is not welcome in Japan. Sleeping in the precincts of shrines and temples is also not allowed, as they are sacred places. If you sleep on private property, the police might be called.
- Nowadays, some roadside stations (Michi no Eki), parking lots, and bus stops offer places to camp. If you wish to use such camping spots, please find the manager or a neighbor and ask for permission. As a matter of course, please take your garbage with you when you leave and be careful not to make a lot of noise or cause trouble in the neighborhood. Some rest areas forbid camping due to the inappropriate behavior of past users.
- If you plan to camp out, please bring your own tent. Some people spend the night under the eaves of pilgrim huts or stores with only a sleeping bag, but relying on the goodwill of others can lead to trouble. Since there are many campgrounds in Shikoku, please take advantage of them.