We heard about this long distance hike which has been done by many as a Shingon Buddhist pilgrimage around the same time we had trekked the length of northern Spain (el Camino del Norte), a walking route founded as a Catholic pilgrimage. These wonderful ancient pilgrimage routes are well set up to accommodate those embarking on their ultra-long walks. People set out with a variety of different reasons ranging from religious to personal or simply to accomplish the challenge. This experience will definitely challenge us and give us many hours and days to reflect upon our lives, precious time we would not otherwise enjoy due to the hustle and bustle of modern day life.
The physical difficulties one has to overcome pursuing such a walk, also add to the challenge and gives one a greater sense of satisfaction once you manage to complete it. Thereby, the experience becomes your own personal walkabout or vision quest regardless of your initial intentions.
There are 88 temples situated around the perimeter of the island and the 1200km pilgrimage known as Ohenro, is associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai (born at temple 75 in 774), later known as Kobo Daishi. Pilgrims are referred to as henro. We plan do walk the entire 1200km/750 miles with our backpacks and tent and will be referred to by the locals as o-henro-san. Traditionally the pilgrims can be identified by wearing white clothing, sedge hats and a walking stick. Dreadknot and I both plan to wear the white tunic top, I plan to wear the sedge hat (Dreadknot's hair will not accommodate this hat) and we will use trekking poles instead of the walking stick.
The pilgrim also carries a booklet similar to the pilgrims passbook on the Camino de Santiago which we can have stamped at every temple. The stamp is called "nokyo" and is done in the form of calligraphy in the book called "nokyocho".
Accommodation along the route has a variety of options, ranging from family operated B&Bs (Minshuku & Ryokan) about $50 per night, temple lodging (Shukubo) about $50 per night, hotels range from $30-$60 per night, free lodging for pilgrims (Zenkonyado & Tsuyado) free or nominal fee, roadside huts (Michi No Eki) free and campsites.
Many of the locals give pilgrims gifts or alms known as o-settai. These range from cups of tea and a fruit to meals or offers of accommodation for a night. A similar idea to being a "trail angel" as I experienced along my Pacific Crest Trail hike.
We had to buy a return ticket, so we've given ourselves 45 days to complete the hike. This breaks down to 16.5 miles/ 26.6km per day if we walk every day. The terrain varies from flat coastal asphalt roads through villages and farmlands to many climbs up steep mountains through forests along hiking trails. The journey will give us the opportunity to experience cultural immersion and enjoy the food, homes and cultural practices of the people of Shikoku.
I saw how this could be done
Eighty eight temples
We are looking forward to this exciting new journey and hope you'll join us on the adventure via this blog.