Lush with greenery, towering trees, and majestic mountains, Shikoku – the fourth largest of Japan’s islands – is a welcome escape; a place that offers a rugged remoteness not found in other parts of the country.
Kyoto-based tour operator Oku Japan offers a variety of self-guided and guided tour options on the island, all centered around the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage trail, a spiritual journey that follows in the footsteps of Kobo Daishi, who reached enlightenment in the isolated mountains and decided to devote his life to Buddhism. The trail connects the 88 temples found here, and even today you will find pilgrims from all over the world following in Daishi’s footsteps.
Visiting all four of Shikoku’s prefectures – Tokushima in the east, Kagawa in the north, Ehime in the west, and Kochi in the south – each with their own distinct characteristics, cuisine, and scenery, Oku’s trips also include the remote Iya Valley, deep in the heart of the island. Traveling mainly by private chartered vehicle, the itinerary offers a lot of walking along the ancient route, from temple to temple through countryside and forest.
Oku offers three variations of its popular Shikoku Pilgrimage self-guided tours – a five-day, eight-day, and 10-day option. All three walk along some of the loveliest parts of the trail in Tokushima and Kagawa, spend nights in shukubo temple lodging, and feature days with multiple hours of hiking.
In addition to the above, guests will visit some of the most atmospheric temples on the trail, with some days featuring demanding hikes of up to eight hours. Also included is the opportunity for guests to try their hand at Sanuki Udon noodle-making, and to visit the relaxing hot spring Onsen town of Kotohira Spa. Tour extensions to the mountaintop temple town of Mount Koya are also available, as are visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Miyajima Island, and Tomonoura Bay on the Setouchi inland sea.
The eight-day version of this tour also includes a visit to Ehime prefecture, in addition to Tokushima and Kagawa, and features days with demanding hikes of up to eight hours. The itinerary offers a stop at the historic Dogo Onsen and takes guests to the meditation spot used by Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. As with the five-day option, guests can learn how to make Sanuki Udon noodles, and if they wish, extend their trip to Mount Koya, Miyajima Island, or Tomonoura Bay.
Like the eight-day tour, this itinerary explores the pilgrimage trail in Tokushima, Kagawa, and Ehime, visiting some of the most atmospheric temples in the area and spending two nights in shukubo temple lodging. There will be days that feature moderate hikes of up to five to six hours, however, compared to the other two itineraries, this one offers more advanced hiking.
Running from May to November, this small group guided walking tour visits the sacred Mount Koya and explores the loveliest parts of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail. Visiting all four of Shikoku’s prefectures, guests will have the opportunity to experience each region’s distinctive character, cuisine, and scenery.
Some of the highlights include:
- Staying in monastery lodgings in Mount Koya, and other traditional country inns
- Trying out the wonderful local cuisine at the Hirome Ichiba Market in Kochi City
- Visiting the beautiful hilltop castle in Matsuyama
- Walking across a bridge of vines in the remote Iya Valley
- Bathing in the natural thermal waters of the historic Dogo Onsen
- And more!
Oku Japan’s itineraries go beyond the classic tourism haunts, with carefully crafted itineraries and interactions that encourage guests to get up close and personal with the places they visit and people they meet along the way, putting tourist dollars to good use in remote, local communities.
To learn more about Oku Japan’s complete line-up of year-round offerings of guided and self-guided tours, please visit www.okujapan.com.