The 88-Temple Pilgrimage
Shikoku Island is home to one of the great pilgrimages of the world. Each year, thousands of Buddhists from the Shingon Sect walk 1450km around the entire island, stopping at each of the designated 88 temples dotted along the path. On average it takes 40-60 days to complete the circuit, and devotees believe that walking the entire route brings you one step closer to enlightenment.
It is believed the pilgrimage was founded by the monk Kobodaishi over 1000 years ago, however its true origins remain unclear. Kobodaishi, also known as Kukai, is said to have reached enlightenment after spending many days and nights in a cave on Cape Muroto, in modern-day Muroto City.
Kochi is home to 16 of the 88 temples, beginning with number 24 (Hotsumisaki-ji, in Muroto) and ending with number 39 (Enko-ji, in Sukumo). While there are only a small number of temples in Kochi, the distance that must be traveled is proportionally long. This has led to some calling the Kochi leg of the pilgrimage the ‘Training Ground for Ascetics.’
These days, there are many transport options for completing the route. Of course, walking is by far the best way to experience the pilgrimage, but those with less time can easily visit the temples by car or public transport over a week or so.