How to Walk the Shikoku Pilgrimage
There are no rules on how to walk the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Some people walk the entire course, others walk only on days when they have time off work, and others walk where they wish, taking buses or taxis from their hotels. Here are some of the main walking courses. Please use them as reference when making your plans according to your length of stay, physical fitness, and sightseeing plans.
Walking the entire course in one go (Through hiking)
Suppose you want to go round all 88 temples and return to the first one in a complete circle. In that case, the total distance of the standard course is approximately 1,142 kilometers, generally taking 40-60 days when walking an average of 20-30 kilometers a day. The daily walking distance varies depending on the season, weather, your physical condition, and where you stay. If you want to visit the Bekkaku 20 temples, local events, or tourist attractions, you will need more days. The following are sample itineraries for you to use as reference. If you are unfamiliar with the geography of Shikoku, we recommend that you walk in a clockwise direction and visit the temples in numerical order. There are course markers at every turn in this direction, so you should be able to avoid getting lost.
Walking in several trips (Section hiking)
Many pilgrims in Japan divide the course into sections and walk round the temples in each section at different times. Some complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage by repeating a 1-2 week trip several times, while others divide it into one prefecture at a time. Some just visit the places they want on weekends, and others walk randomly regardless of the numerical order of the temples. Even if you walk only part of the course, you can still enjoy the culture of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. You can try it out first and then decide whether you want to continue; you will never know what it feels like unless you try. There are bus stops and train stations at various points along the pilgrimage course, so you can stop and restart your journey at your own pace.
Walking the highlights in 3-4 days
If you want to stop a while in Shikoku while traveling around Japan and get a feel for the Shikoku Pilgrimage, the Shikoku Trails is a great way to do so. We have carefully selected courses with stunning scenery, easy or challenging walking trails, easy access, and attractive tourist spots nearby. Each trail takes about three to five days.
In addition, the section from Temples 71 to 78 in Kagawa has historical significance and calls itself the “Nanakasho Mairi” or “7-Temple Pilgrimage.” You can also make a partial pilgrimage by walking the “Agarigokasho Mairi” or “5-Temple Pilgrimage” from Temples 84 to 88, the last five temples in the pilgrimage. Each course takes one or two days.
Elevation and Distance Map and Sample Itineraries
The following are sample itineraries for a person of average physical fitness walking the most standard pilgrimage course at a speed of 3.5 km/h (about 2.0 km/h on unpaved roads in the mountains). We set a daily activity time from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., including time for lunch, resting, temple visits, and heading to your accommodation. Based on this, you can make changes according to the season and your physical fitness or have side trips or rest days.