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Walk the 88 temple circuit

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The 88 temple route is by far the most famous pilgrimage route in Japan. The great Zen master Kobo Daishi walked the 1400 km long route along the 88 temples first and reached the state of illumination. The circuit starts at a small station, Bandõ, on the island of Shikoku. Here you will find temple number 1. Through the gate, henros (pilgrims) dressed in white vests walk inside. It is green, smells like incense, there are stone statues of saints and monkeys everywhere and candles are lit. In a tree, notes from previous visitors can be spotted. The atmosphere is super serene. The henros wash their hands ritually at a watering place, then ring the bell and read a text . After a final bow they get a stamp, silently take their walking stick and leave for temple 2. Still 87 temples and 1400 kilometers to go.

The island of Shikoku is famous for the 1400 kilometer pilgrimage route. For centuries, people have been making pilgrimages along the many temples on the island. All because of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Zen Buddhism. In the ninth century he made this trip along all 88 temples on the route. Every year, thousands of Japanese make this legendary journey. For Japanese this is a trip that you must have done once in your life. It does not matter how the route is covered, you can do it by foot,  bike, car, bus or however you want to do it.

En route locals will give you chocolates, oranges, rice balls or tea. And if desired also a lift - out of respect and assuming that they too come closer to enlightenment by doing good. The walk is for every nationality. The intention is to visit the temples, to meditate and thus to gain Enlightenment, that is what matters. It does not matter whether you are a Buddhist, Muslim or Christian. 

At each temple you get a stamp in your beautiful pilgrim booklet for a small fee, as a sign that you have been there. Just like the Japanese most foreigners also dress in white. And with a bamboo hat on your head and pilgrim's staff in the hand you might feel why the great Zen master Kobo Daishi walked this circuit. 

Best time to walk

We recommend walking the 88 temple circuit from April til November. Although July and August can be a bit hot and humid. Click here for more average weather details in Matsuyama, Japan. 

This article was last updated on November 04, 2019.