Friday, 4 July 2014

Some Vital Statistics

If you've been reading about our walk on Shikoku then you might be interested in some stats from the trip. Or then again you might not. In which case please feel free to leave now. But you never know, maybe you're thinking of walking the pilgrimage yourself. If so, I bet the first question is - how much did it cost us?

So here it is:

Cost of trip for two of us:

Flights: £761 each (KLM from Bristol via Amsterdam to Osaka)

Vaccinations: £120 each for tick-borne encephalitis, 2 shots.
We were also offered Japanese encephalitis but didn't have this as despite the name it is now rare in Japan itself plus we were outside the main risk period (end of the summer).

JR Rail Pass 2 weeks £264. Brilliant value for foreigners travelling around Japan (it can only be bought by non-residents). You can use most trains in Japan to travel including most of the Shinkansen (high speed) trains.

Our total spend for the first eleven weeks in Japan (i.e. up until we started our Japan rail pass) was 230,000 yen (£1400 each or less than £20 per day). That was for everything- food, accommodation when we weren't camping, occasional booze up, travel from Osaka up to Koyasan and then on to Shikoku, onsen (hot baths), laundry, temple stamps , pilgrim attire and sundries. And we ate well and plentifully on that budget, with plenty of fish, meat, tempura and lots and lots of udon. Not much more expensive than eleven weeks at home. Not if home is the UK at any rate. Of course you could reduce the cost by eating frugally (a bag of noodles costs about 50 yen) or travel more luxuriously and stay in accommodation every night if money is no object.
Supermarkets often reduce food at the end of the day 

Here's the lowdown on accommodation:

We kept the cost of the trip down by camping out. A lot. Of the 73 nights we spent on Shikoku, we camped for 53 of them. Only 2 of those 53 were on a paying campsite, the rest were free. In addition we spent a further 6 nights in free accommodation of one sort or another. The other 14 nights were in hotels or guesthouses.

It is very easy to camp on the pilgrimage route, either in 'henro huts' provided for that purpose or in parks, outside michi-no-eki (road stations) or other open spaces. Pitch late, leave early and leave no trace and there should be no problems. Most locals seemed more than happy to have us camp nearby. If we were in any doubt we would ask a local whether camping was ok and it was very rarely a problem. We were told camping in the grounds of shrines was ok (but NOT temples) and we did this a couple of times but only if a local or a Japanese henro said it was ok to do so.

We used our guidebook to find cheapish hotels en route if we were desperate for a room/bed/shower/wifi etc. which worked fine except for one slight cock-up in Uwajima when the price we were given for two nights stay turned our to be the price per night so it worked out a little more expensive than we thought.

Our 'official' distance was 1230 kilometres, however there were also unrecorded kilometres looking for a place to camp, walking to the shops etc etc so we reckon our total distance was around 1300-1350  kilometres which worked out to an average of about 20 kilometres a day. On good days we would manage 30km but this was not often! We took 68 days to walk the pilgrimage which included 10 rest days.

My rucksack
Kit List
Here is a list of the stuff we took to Japan:

Terra Nova freestanding tent (shared, I carried poles and pegs, Mick carried the tent),
sleeping bag 3 season
inflatable mat
small foam pillow
Soto micro burner stove
Aluminium pot and lid
aluminium cup
Drybag 40 litre
Ancient rucksack c60 litres vintage c1983 (from St Nick's market in Bristol for £20)

1 pair trousers (the sort with detachable legs)
Mick's rucksack
1 shirt
1 t-shirt
1 vest
1 bra
2 pairs knickers
1 pair of leggings
1 buff
1 fleece
1 Sealskinz socks
1 pair walking socks
1 pair flipflops
1 bum bag
1 pair cheap waterproof shorts
1 poncho
1 pair Merrell Moab shoes

small suncream lotion
mosquito repellent DEET
small towel
tick remover

Macbook Air laptop & charger
Iphone & charger
camera & charger
notebook (paper I mean not another computer)
small whistle
Plastic case for documents/passport
prescription glasses


Tent without poles or pegs (see above)
Sleeping bag (two season)
Inflatable mat
Roll mat
Inflatable pillow/pump
Osprey kestrel 60 litre rucksack
Drybag 45 litres

2 long trousers
2 t-shirts
2 pairs pants
3 pairs socks
1 cycle shorts
1 fleece
1 Bushman hat
1 pair plastic shoes
1 poncho
1 waterproof trousers
1 pair Salomon boots (NOT waterproof although sold as Goretex…)

blister plasters
anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen etc)
surgical masking tape
fitbit pedometer (which didn't sync with the iPhone)
aluminium mug

Travel Scrabble
small whistle
sun lotion
sun glasses
prescription glasses

Hey! In writing this kit list I've realised I've been done over - Mick's had me carrying most of the heavy gear...

My pilgrim bag

Kit/stuff we bought in Japan


pilgrim shirt
sun hat
cheap raincoat and trousers (kept for one day then ditched)
Goretex waterproof trousers
lightweight raincoat
wooden pilgrim staff
croc shoes
1 pair of socks
mozzie repellant (DEET gave me a rash)
camping gas (I got to carry that as well!)
Shikoku Japan 88 temple routeguide - absolutely essential
bells for repelling snakes
mosquito coil and holder

Goretex smock raincoat
2 walking poles
bells for repelling snakes

Kit we threw/gave away

waterproof shorts
cheap raincoat and trousers
shirt (unworn)
bum bag
Sealskinz socks (in a temper - regretted this later)
flipflops (no good with socks)
soap (unessential)
razors (unessential)
tick remover

cycle shorts (too heavy, very upset about this)
sun cream
shaving gel
razor handles

Coin launderettes are handy

Mick in his rain gear while his clothes are washing

Some have machines for washing shoes -
pretty useful as our shoes got pretty rank.

The first day we arrived on Shikoku we got chatting to a Belgian guy who had just finished. He said that as the walk had progressed he had given more and more stuff away to lighten his load. He had even given away his tent…

Actually you could walk the pilgrimage and sleep outside without a tent if you wanted, a bivvy bag would be just fine most of the time. But we liked the tent for the privacy and the sanctuary it gave us from insects (and snakes of course).

Some of our accommodation:
*tsuyado is free temple accommodation

In the ferry waiting room
Sleeping on the ferry
Michi no Eki near Temple 1

Tsuyado in bell tower Temple 6

Hut next to Onsen near Temple 11

Disused school

Tsuyado Temple 35

Ina community hall 

The poshest henro hut we found!

At a michi-no-eki

The wonderful Sen Guesthouse in Matsuyama

Bunka no mori park near Matsuyama - the only time we were
disturbed by someone asking us what we were doing...

Tsuyado at Temple 66

On a campsite, nice to have facilities


  1. HI ellie, thank you for sharing your blog. I cycled on shikoku in 2013, 600k so found your story and photos very interesting. I would love to do the walk, but cycling is so much easier ! hope to do the same ride again in 2015, loved the people and experience.
    just read your book on the LEJOG, amusing and a great read. I did it in 2000 and reading your book brought back many happy memories and a strong desire to do it again. IF only the years didnt slip by so fast. bye

  2. david r - thank you very much for commenting on my blog. I actually found walking it easier than cycling it! (When we cycled we only got a third of the way round!) Glad you enjoyed the Lejog account, like you I have many happy memories. I agree about the time slipping by though…

  3. Hi Ellie, your blog makes fascinating reading. We are on Shikoku for just a couple of days. My husband and son did the Shimanami Kaido cycle ride today from Onomichi to Imabari, but we have to deliver my son to Kobe on Wednesday. He works in Kagoshima, whilst we continue our travels for a couple more weeks.
    It is interesting to read just how light one can travel. We are probably doing the opposite, but our bags are getting us down just in the carry from hire car to hotel for a few weeks!
    I'm sure you have some fantastic memories of your trip.

  4. HI Gaynor, thank you for your message. I hope your husband and son enjoyed the Shiminamo Kaido - the bridges on the route are amazing, aren't they? I'm sure you'll enjoy your visit to Shikoku, it is very different to the rest of Japan. On luggage - It is surprising how much can be dispensed with when it is being carried on a bicycle or on foot…I do have some fantastic memories - and I hope to return to Japan before too long. I've not been to Kagoshima yet. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip, I am sure you will. Best wishes, Ellie.