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The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (八十八ヶ所巡り hachijūhakkasho-meguri) is Japan's most famous pilgrimage route, a 1,200-km loop around the island of Shikoku.


Statue of 'Kōbō Daishi(Kūkai)in Motoyamaji temple(No.70), Kagawa.

Many of the temples are said to have been founded or restored by the revered monk and scholar Kūkai (空海), better known by his posthumous title Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師). Among his many achievements, he is said to have created the kana syllabary, brought the tantric teachings of Esoteric Buddhism from China, developed it into the uniquely Japanese Shingon sect, and founded Shingon's headquarters on Mount Koya near Osaka.

While most modern-day pilgrims (an estimated 100,000 yearly) travel by tour bus, a small minority still set out the old-fashioned way on foot, a journey which takes about six weeks to complete. Pilgrims, known as o-henro-san (お遍路さん), can be spotted in the temples and roadsides of Shikoku clad in a white jacket emblazoned with the characters Dōgyō Ninin (同行二人), meaning "two traveling together"—the other traveler being the spirit of Kobo Daishi.

Locals will be excited to see someone making the journey on foot, and priests will be relieved that you are not showing up with 100 of your close friends. Make sure that your Japanese is good enough to communicate your feelings to both groups!


Pilgrim traveling on foot, Kubokawa

Completing the course the traditional way on foot is a serious undertaking that demands several weeks. Good physical fitness and stamina are required to endure the stress of constant walking up and down the hills of Shikoku, in the burning sun and the pouring rain.

Many pilgrims choose to dress up in traditional white attire:

  • byakue – the white coat of a pilgrim
  • wagesa – scarf worn around the neck, usually purple, to indicate that you are on a religious pilgrimage
  • sugegasa – conical straw hat
  • kongōtsue – walking stick, and the one indispensable sign that identifies you as a pilgrim

In addition, most pilgrims carry a book called nōkyōchō or shuincho, to collect a red ink stamp (shu-in) by each temple you visit, and hundreds of osame fuda (long slips of paper with your name and explanation of your pilgrimmage, to be left at each temple and given to each person who helps you; for your first trip, the paper should be white). All of these items can be purchased (in a formal sense) at Mount Koya or at Ryozenji, the first temple.

Many pilgrims who begin the pilgrimage on foot do not finish it. Many pilgrims also split up their trips over multiple years. It is common to hear of people giving up in Kochi, traditionally known as "devil's land" because of its hot temperature, intense rain, and infrequent contact with civilization. (This means you must either camp, sleep in a rest stop, or precisely time your journey to only hit towns and be willing to pay up for a hotel room.) Pilgrims who intend to walk the pilgrimage should ensure they have packed adequate supplies, such as rain gear, in addition to pilgrimage gear.

It is also important to factor costs. Costs include larger expenses, such as nightly lodging, as well as frequent smaller expenses, like the small charge at each temple to stamp your record book. Former pilgrims that have walked the Shikoku Pilgrimage have shared cost calculators:



Get in


It is traditional to prepare by visiting Mount Koya, but the route itself starts at Ryōzenji, near Tokushima, and you have to return here in order to complete your pilgrimage. It is not necessary to start at temple #1 as long as you visit them all, but this is by far the most popular starting point for pilgrims from outside Shikoku, because it is also the closest to people coming from Mt. Koya. 

The temples are usually visited in clockwise order, although this too, is just a convention—in practice, as all signs are oriented for pilgrims going clockwise, it's easier to get lost if you try to go against the flow.


Shikoku Pilgrimage all 88 temples map

Most pilgrims walking on foot average around 25 km daily and complete the trip in five to seven weeks.

The canonical list of temples is as follows:

No. Temple City Prefecture Notes
1 Ryōzenji (霊山寺) Naruto Tokushima
2 Gokurakuji (極楽寺) Naruto Tokushima
3 Konsenji (金泉寺) Itano Tokushima
4 Dainichiji (大日寺) Itano Tokushima
5 Jizōji (地蔵寺) Itano Tokushima
6 Anrakuji (安楽寺) Kamiita Tokushima
7 Jūrakuji (十楽寺) Awa Tokushima
8 Kumataniji (熊谷寺) Awa Tokushima
9 Hōrinji (法輪寺) Awa Tokushima
10 Kirihataji (切幡寺) Awa Tokushima
11 Fujiidera (藤井寺) Yoshinogawa Tokushima
12 Shōzanji (焼山寺) Kamiyama Tokushima The climb from 11 to 12 is notoriously tough!
13 Dainichiji (大日寺) Tokushima Tokushima
14 Jōrakuji (常楽寺) Tokushima Tokushima
15 Kokubunji (国分寺) Tokushima Tokushima
16 Kan'onji (観音寺) Tokushima Tokushima
17 Idoji (井戸寺) Tokushima Tokushima
18 Onzanji (恩山寺) Komatsushima Tokushima
19 Tatsueji (立江寺) Komatsushima Tokushima
20 Kakurinji (鶴林寺) Katsuura Tokushima
21 Tairyūji (太竜寺) Anan Tokushima Tough mountain temple
22 Byōdōji (平等寺) Anan Tokushima Another tough mountain temple
23 Yakuōji (薬王寺) Minami Tokushima
24 Hotsumisakiji (最御崎寺) Muroto Kochi
25 Shinshōji (津照寺) Muroto Kochi
26 Kongōchōji (金剛頂寺) Muroto Kochi
27 Kōnomineji (神峰寺) Yasuda Kochi
28 Dainichiji (大日寺) Konan Kochi
29 Kokubunji (国分寺) Nankoku Kochi
30 Zenrakuji (善楽寺) Kochi Kochi
31 Chikurinji (竹林寺) Kochi Kochi Superb views over Kochi city from the park just west of the temple
32 Zenjibuji (禅師峰寺) Nankoku Kochi
33 Sekkeiji (雪蹊寺) Kochi Kochi
34 Tanemaji (種間寺) Haruno Kochi
35 Kiyotakiji (清滝寺) Tosa Kochi
36 Shōryūji (青竜寺) Tosa Kochi
37 Iwamotoji (岩本寺) Shimanto Kochi
38 Kongōfukuji (金剛福寺) Tosashimizu Kochi
39 Enkōji (延光寺) Sukumo Kochi
40 Kanjizaiji (観自在寺) Ainan Ehime
41 Ryūkōji (竜光寺) Uwajima Ehime
42 Butsumokuji (佛木寺) Uwajima Ehime
43 Meisekiji (明石寺) Seiyo Ehime
44 Daihōji (大宝寺) Kumakogen Ehime
45 Iwayaji (岩屋寺) Kumakogen Ehime
46 Jōruriji (浄瑠璃寺) Matsuyama Ehime
47 Yasakaji (八坂寺) Matsuyama Ehime
48 Sairinji (西林寺) Matsuyama Ehime
49 Jōdoji (浄土寺) Matsuyama Ehime
50 Hantaji (繁多寺) Matsuyama Ehime
51 Ishiteji (石手寺) Matsuyama Ehime
52 Taizanji (太山寺) Matsuyama Ehime
53 Enmyōji (円明寺) Matsuyama Ehime
54 Emmeiji (延命寺) Imabari Ehime
55 Nankōbō (南光坊) Imabari Ehime
56 Taisanji (泰山寺) Imabari Ehime
57 Eifukuji (栄福寺) Imabari Ehime
58 Sen'yūji (仙遊寺) Imabari Ehime
59 Kokubunji (国分寺) Imabari Ehime
60 Yokomineji (横峰寺) Saijo Ehime
61 Kōonji (香園寺) Saijo Ehime
62 Hōjuji (宝寿寺) Saijo Ehime
63 Kichijōji (吉祥寺) Saijo Ehime
64 Maegamiji (前神寺) Saijo Ehime
65 Sankakuji (三角寺) Shikokuchuo Ehime
66 Unpenji (雲辺寺) Miyoshi Tokushima
67 Daikōji (大興寺) Mitoyo Kagawa
68 Jinnein (神恵院) Kanonji Kagawa
69 Kan'onji (観音寺) Kanonji Kagawa
70 Motoyamaji (本山寺) Mitoyo Kagawa
71 Iyadaniji (弥谷寺) Mitoyo Kagawa
72 Mandaraji (曼荼羅寺) Zentsuji Kagawa
73 Shusshakaji (出釈迦寺) Zentsuji Kagawa
74 Kōyamaji (甲山寺) Zentsuji Kagawa
75 Zentsūji (善通寺) Zentsuji Kagawa
76 Konzōji (金倉寺) Zentsuji Kagawa
77 Dōryūji (道隆寺) Tadotsu Kagawa
78 Gōshōji (郷照寺) Utazu Kagawa
79 Tennōji (天皇寺) Sakaide Kagawa
80 Kokubunji (国分寺) Takamatsu Kagawa
81 Shiromineji (白峯寺) Sakaide Kagawa
82 Negoroji (根香寺) Takamatsu Kagawa
83 Ichinomiyaji (一宮寺) Takamatsu Kagawa
84 Yashimaji (屋島寺) Takamatsu Kagawa
85 Yakuriji (八栗寺) Takamatsu Kagawa
86 Shidoji (志度寺) Sanuki Kagawa
87 Nagaoji (長尾寺) Sanuki Kagawa
88 Ōkuboji (大窪寺) Sanuki Kagawa

There are also 20 optional "unnumbered" (番外 bangai) temples.


  • There are many small inns that cater to pilgrims traveling either by foot or car. They typically cost between ¥4000-7000 per night, including dinner.
  • Most temples provide lodging for henro, but it can be quite expensive (around ¥8000 per night is average).
  • "Henro houses" are run by families or local businesses, and offer rooms (and sometimes food) to walking henro for a very small fee—or sometimes for free.
  • There are also small free lodgings called zenkonyado and tsuyado that lodge travelers for the night, although these lodgings can be somewhat poor quality and have very limited facilities. (There is a zenkonyado near Zentsuji which is said to be haunted.) These were once the primary lodgings for walking henro; however, the island's culture has changed in the last 50 years, and the number of these lodgings have been reduced to just a handful.

Blogs listing cheap or free pilgrim accommodation:

Stay safe


Traveling in Shikoku is very safe, especially when you wear the traditional henro robes. People will be very helpful if they recognize you as a pilgrim, and will try to participate in your journey by giving you small gifts (osettai), which you must always accept.

The weather can be perilous at times; even during the optimal seasons of spring and fall, it may rain for days—particularly in the south. Proper preparation and staying up to date with weather reports is a must. You are, however, never far from civilization in case of emergency.

Be careful while walking in Kochi Prefecture, as it is the least populated. The major towns are far apart, and the coast is lined with small fishing towns that tend to shut down by eight or nine in the evening, making it difficult to find accommodations.

Shikoku is home to many snakes, including deadly pit vipers. When walking through brush or grass, stomping or otherwise making noise will divert most snakes from your path.

July and August are very hot, and attempting to walk the pilgrimage at the peak of summer is asking for a bad case of heatstroke. But for the brave, it can mean small crowds and almost guaranteed space at the henro houses. April and October are the best times to go, though accommodations will be particularly crowded.

Go next


In one tradition you aren't done when you reach the 88th temple—some believe you still have to trek back to the 1st to complete your pilgrimage! Another tradition suggests that closing the circle is not necessary and it is better to leave it open ended. However it is more common nowadays to return to the 1st temple.

Also if you've made it this far, it's only good manners to return to Mount Koya to give your thanks to Kobo Daishi.

Other pilgrimage routes in Japan


This itinerary to 88 Temple Pilgrimage is a usable article. It explains how to get there and touches on all the major points along the way. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.