“Henro” The Buddhist Pilgrimage of Shikoku


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The topic of today is about the first three temple’s of the Buddhist Pilgrimage of Shikoku which is called “Henro”. The total of the temple’s are 88 and they are all around the Shikoku island split on the four prefecture Tokushima, Kochi, Ehime and Kagawa.

To complete the pilgrimage is not necessary to start from the beginning, you can actually start from any of the temple, but the important part is once you decide which temple you start then you have to in order of the numbers, normally it takes about 1 and half month or sometimes 2 month depend of weather condition and also yourself condition.

Not everyone have so long vacation so many people who actually interested on pilgrimage they come to Japan and visit little by little on a different trip, I personally had experience last week for visit the first three temples on walk and I am going to talk about it in the below article.

My starting point was Bando station on the JR line which is only 2 hours from Okayama station, this station looks very local and it is actually very cute, just 5 minutes walk from station you can arrive on the first of the 88 temple’s, this is the reason why I selected to arrive at Bando station, very well located for starting the pilgrimage. I came for a day trip but if you travelling with bag you can left the bag at your accommodation, normally you stay here for one night and then move aroud the area to visit the first three temple’s which is what I am going to do today.

In the began of the route there is a green line that you can follow and it take you directly to the Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺) temple, which was build in around 729-749 during the Tenpyo era. Such a beatiful temple, just when you enter you can see a traditional pagoda on left side and on the right side a beatiful pond full of Koi (Japanese Carp). The main hall is on the last part and is really impressive, very unique, all the rooms is full of lantern’s.

Just outside on the left side of this temple there is a shop where you can buy the item for the pilgrim’s traditional costume  which you can see from this list:

Sedge hat (菅笠/sugegasa)
White vest (白衣/Hakue)
Rosary (数珠/Juzu)
Bell (持鈴/Jirei)
Bag (頭陀袋/Zudabukuro)
Stole (輪袈裟/Wagesa)
Staff (金剛杖/Kongōzue)
Nameslips (納札/Osamefuda)
Pilgrimage book (納経帳/Nokyocho)

Of course you don’t have to buy, for example me I bought only the sedge hat and I already had the Nokyocho for collect all the stamp from each temple. It is up to you and your confort.

#1 Ryozenji Temple >>> 15 minutes walk >>> #2 Gokurakuji Temple

With only 15 minutes walk you can reach the second temple called Gokuraku-ji (極楽寺), the walk is between houses and a few cars passing during your walk and also please note that green line stop after the first temple, so it always good to have a map or smartphone to orientate.

Gokuraku-ji (極楽寺) temple is huge, with a wonderful garden and a huge three that brings you power and lucky if you touch, after finish your experience you will feel relive.

#2 Gokurakuji Temple >>> 40 minutes walk >>> #3 Kinsenji Temple

Just after go out from the second temple on the right side you can start the route to the number 3 temple, it is 1,2 Km so it will take about 30 minutes walk, but this time the walk start to be more rough between rice field and rivers.

You will enter at Konsenji (金泉寺) temple number 3 not from the main gate but from side and you will notice a small lake with a beatiful Waterlily and a red pagoda on the top right side. At this temple you have a chance to “give hands” to Buddha as the main hall has a rope that connected the Buddha hand to the offering hall front.

#3 Konsenji Temple >>> 10 minutes walk >>> JR Itano Station <To JR Tokushima station, it take a 40 minutes by JR local train.>

After this 3 temple we suggest to stay overnight for continue the pilgrimage on the next. Please feel free to ask to arrange the pilgrimage  for you, we do have accommodation for all Shikoku but they are not listed on our website so you need to request for a custom tour.

We do have one accommodation listed this is the Anrakuji Temple – #6 Temple in Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage

You can also take a look our sample tours that you can request:

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