Experience of Pilgrimage (Henro)

New to the Shikoku Pilgrimage? Visit 5 Temples in 1 Day!

What is the Shikoku Pilgrimage?

On this pilgrimage, or henro, one follows in the footsteps of Kobo Daishi (774-835; a great Buddhist monk known during his lifetime as Kukai) to visit 88 sacred temples on the island of Shikoku. You can begin the journey at any of the sites, though most begin at the first temple and follow the route jun uchi (in order). Visiting the 88 temples in reverse order is called gyaku uchi and is said to confer triple the benefits of the jun uchi. Other pilgrimage terminology includes toshi uchi (visiting all the sacred sites in one journey), kugiri uchi (arbitrarily taking the pilgrimage in segments) and ikkoku mairi (walking the pilgrimage one prefecture at a time). These options allow you to customize your pilgrimage itinerary.

Quick 5-Temple Tour

Temples 1 through 23 lie within Tokushima Prefecture, of which 13 through 17 are in close proximity to each other in Tokushima City. The Japanese have long referred to this part of the pilgrimage as the gokasho mairi (tour of five sites), and it is popular among worshippers. You can cover all five sites in only 7.7 km, which is pretty short considering the rest of the pilgrimage. Plus, there are no steep slopes, so it's an easy route to take on foot. Or if you want to tour on bicycle then you can rent one from the Awaodori-kaikan, a building outside Tokushima Station.

The gokasho mairi is perfect for anyone without the time for the complete 88-temple journey or who is visiting Shikoku for the first time and unfamiliar with the island.

1st: Temple 13, Dainichi-ji

This temple was built to hold the principal image of Dainichi Nyorai (a celestial Buddha whose Sanskrit name is Vairocana), who appeared before Kobo Daishi as he was performing a homa (a ritual in which offerings are made into a consecrated fire). Hence the temple's name: Dainichi-ji. At the entrance to the temple stands a statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, between two hands held up in prayer. Worshippers offer supplications here for happiness, as the statue's name is "Kannon of Joy."
263 Nishi-cho, Ichinomiya-cho, Tokushima City

2nd: Temple 14, Joraku-ji

Joraku-ji was founded by Kobo Daishi while undergoing ascetic training here. One of Shikoku's sacred sites, it is unique for the principal image of Miroku Bosatsu (a future Buddha whose Sanskrit name is Maitreya). On the temple grounds is the "lava flow garden," where a fault line of rocks seems to undulate like waves. This beautiful site, formed by nature over eons, is definitely worth seeing.
606 Enmei, Kokufu-cho, Tokushima City

3rd: Temple 15, Kokubun-ji

This site, located among idyllic rural surroundings, is one of 66 Kokubun-ji temples constructed across Japan by order of Emperor Shomu (701-56). Next to the main hall is a garden with a pond, landscaped in a style typical of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603). Advance bookings are available for tours of the garden, which the Japanese government has designated a place of scenic beauty.
718-1 Yano, Kokufu-cho, Tokushima City

4th: Temple 16, Kannon-ji

This ancient temple of historical significance was constructed by the Buddhist monk Gyoki (668-749) by order of Emperor Shomu. It is of exceptional importance among Shikoku's sacred sites for a printing plate used to produce copies of the "Mantra of Light." This plate is said to have been engraved based on the handwriting of Kobo Daishi himself. Visitors can have the mantra stamped on a white jacket inside an office cald a nokyo-sho.
49-2 Kannon-ji, Kokufu-cho, Tokushima City

5th: Temple 17, Ido-ji

Ido-ji is distinctive among Shikoku's holy sites for making the seven Yakushi Nyorai (Buddhas of healing and medicine known in Sanskrit as the Bhaisajyaguru) its principal image. The temple's name comes from the ido, the Japanese word for "a well." Supposedly, when the village here was suffering from a shortage of water, Kobo Daishi dug a well with his staff and, that night, holy water sprang forth. Next to this "Well of Shadows" you can pay 100 yen to purchase a container of "faith-healing water."
Address:80-1 Kitayashiki, Ido-aza, Kokufu-cho, Tokushima City

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