Duration of the pilgrimage and length of the stages
A general statement about the total duration can not be made naturally. The distance from Temple 1 to Temple 88 and back to the starting point, to Temple 1, is 1,150 km. How long you need to walk the whole way depends on how many hours you can and want to walk a day. How fast you walk and whether you take break days.
Often the time it takes a pilgrim to walk the 1,150 km is given as about 42 days (6 weeks). In other places with 30 to 60 days (about 4.5 to 8.5 weeks).
Those who can and want to take six weeks for the 1,150 km must cover an average of about 27 km daily. Depending on your personal pace, this results in a pure walking time of between 5 and 7 hours. On top of that, there are additional routes that are covered on foot. In the temple itself, from the pilgrimage route to the accommodation and back, to buy food/drinks and the detours if one gets lost.
This can add another 5 to 15 percent to the distance.
The often stated 42 days is probably a good basis for your own planning. For this, one will walk an average of about 30 km a day.
The personal total duration can then be estimated by deductions, or surcharges.
The length of the daily stages themselves will be quite different for most pilgrims. Also depending on how many temples are visited in a day and how much time is spent in the temple in each case. Depending on the location of the possible accommodation, the slopes to be climbed and the current fitness.
With the total duration of 42 days and the average 30 km per day, it is likely that on some days only 20 km or even less will be covered. On other days, the distance might be more than 35 km.
For those who also visit all 20 secondary temples (Bangai) on their way, the direct distance of 1,150 km is extended to over 1,300 km.
Route and elevation profile
Map and elevation profile – Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail
The 88 temples of Shikoku (John Cant)
John Cant, who visited Shikoku’s 88 temples by bicycle in the spring of 2009, has created a map (Google Map) showing the locations of all the temples: The 88 temples of Shikoku
Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide
In Minshuku, Ryokan and Shukubō, the price includes dinner on the day of arrival and breakfast on the day of departure, in addition to accommodation.
Japanese dishes are always served. In the evening fish, often in several variations, served with rice, various vegetables and miso soup.
For breakfast there is rice, miso soup, often some fish and vegetables and scrambled eggs. The hot drink is green tea. Coffee can usually not be ordered.
Those who like fish will in most cases get their money’s worth.
Vegetarians or even vegans are often not very well catered for.
Japanese usually eat only small amounts of meat and fish. However, they are part of very many dishes. Even the broths of the famous Japanese noodle soups are usually made from fish flakes or meat/bones.
In business hotels and hotels, meals are not included. Breakfast is often offered as an option for a small additional cost. Mostly as Japanese and Western buffet. So also with toast, bread, coffee, butter, sausage, cheese.
Hotels are a good choice for pilgrims who prefer to cater for themselves or who would like to eat only vegetarian food.
For lunch there is the possibility to eat very cheap in restaurants. Alternatively, you can buy food in konbinis or supermarkets along the way.
In the countryside it is recommended to carry an “emergency ration”. Nuts, dried fruits, crackers. Or to provide yourself with bento (boxed lunch) or onigiri.
Drinks can be bought in all markets and stores. In addition, also at the countless beverage vending machines you’ll find on Shikoku.
The local specialty in Kōchi is real bonito (katsuo-no-tataki).The bonito is fried very briefly over straw fire or charcoal, then immediately plunged into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process and cut into sashimi.
In Kagawa, be sure to try Sanuki Udon, the local noodles, which are slightly thinner than the usual udon.
Money and payment
In the rural areas of Shikoku, payment can often only be made in cash. In minshukus and most ryokans, payment must be made in cash, in the city and in the countryside. In temple lodgings, payment must also be made in cash.
In cities, credit cards can be used in many places. Rooms in hotels and business hotels can often be paid for by credit card.
Cash can be drawn from Japan Post Bank ATMs. Opening hours Mon-Fri 09:00 to 17:00; Sat 09:00 to 12:00; Sun closed.
Other cash dispensers are located in the konbinis (convenience stores) 7-Eleven, Lawson und Family Mart, which are very common on Shikoku. (open 7 days / 24 hours)
Before traveling to Japan, check with your card issuer about the use and validity of your card in Japan and about the fees that apply to cash withdrawals and payments in Japan.
Internet and Telephone
Wifi = WLAN
Free WiFi is available in many places on Shikoku. For example, in hotels, business hotels, cafes, convenience stores, etc. However, the networks are often very slow.
In minshuku and temple accommodation, there is in most cases no access to WiFi and no other way to use the Internet.
Free WiFi services, partial use only possible after registration:
- Free Spot-Free-WiFi
- Family Mart-Free-WiFi
The locations where WiFi access is available can be found on the websites listed.
Prepaid or Rental SIM Cards
You can buy prepaid or rental SIM cards directly at airports and at major electronics stores in Tokyo, Osaka and other major Japanese cities.
Alternatively, you can also rent a mobile router.
Very detailed information about using the Internet and telephone in Japan can be found at:
Shikoku’s Tourist Destinations
Very famous tourist destinations on the island of Shikoku are:
- Dōgo-Onsen, one of the three oldest thermal baths in Japan and the most popular. The bath in the Yushinden, a building within the spa is reserved exclusively for the imperial family. An emperor last visited the spa in the 70-ies.
- The castles in Matsuyama, Kōchi and Uwajima.
- The landscape garden Ritsurin Park, the landmark of Takamatsu, already created in the 17th century.
However, Shikoku is best known as the birthplace of Kūkai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, and for the pilgrimage to the 88 temples.