Monday, 12 March 2018

Returning to Shikoku, Japan

It is four years since my friend Mick and I walked the 88 Temple pilgrimage walk on Shikoku, Japan and today we find ourselves at Heathrow airport waiting for a plane to go out and do it all over again, Four years is long enough to have forgotten the pain or at least dulled the memory of it, yet is recent enough to vividly recall all the wonderful moments on this walk around the smallest of Japan's four main islands.

Shikoku - fourth island made up of four provinces (shi means four) is the most rural and least populated of Japan's main islands. It was here that Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most well known figures in Japanese history was born in 774, and the pilgrimage around the island is a route which people believe is one he would have taken in his lifetime. Along the route there are 88 temples which the pilgrim visits, plus a further 20 bekkaku temples. There are hundreds of bangai or additional temples on Shikoku - the 20 bekkaku are the ones which are officially associated with the main 88 temples. (See here for an in depth explanation).

As before, the majority of the time we will be camping (nojuko) with the occasional room thrown in when we are desperate. The walk should take around 70 days - give or take - and we have another 15 days built in just in case. Whether we visit the bekkaku is yet to be decided. If so the distance will be something like 1300km, if not then it will be around 1150km although these figures do not include the additional distances walked to find a suitable camping spot or going off in search of food. Luckily Mick has splashed out on a Suunto watch which allegedly will measure every step (assuming we stick together) as well as height above sea level, route maps etc - once he works out how to use it. He has spent the last two weeks trying to convince me I am thirty metres under sea level when I am standing at the top of Park Street, Bristol.

We arrived at the airport 8 hours early which was probably a little bit over cautious but I just don't trust National Express. Better to be too early than being stressed out and getting here late.

Mick whiling away 8 hours at the airport
We've wandered round the perfume shop and sprayed ourselves with a dozen different scents, and played with all the gadgets in the electronics store. We've marvelled at the £1700 price tag on a bottle of Glenmorangie in the whisky shop and chatted to the proprietor about Japanese Yamazaki whisky which you could buy in every corner store last time we were in Japan but now is apparently rarer than hen's teeth, at least in the UK, as Suntory cannot produce it quickly enough to satisfy demand. She advised us to bring some back and sell it if we find any for sale in Japan.

Whisky Galore
Only an hour to go now - Mick is watching football on iplayer and I am reading Oliver Statler's classic Japanese Pilgrimage, a book I have been meaning to read for the past four years now.

In my next post I will itemise the kit we have brought with us and wonder whether we got it right this time or whether we will again end up disposing of various items along the way in an effort to shed some weight off our backs...


  1. And so it begins (again)... Looking forward to next episode!

    1. Thank you Frank. :-) We are prevaricating in Osaka at the moment (see latest post) but set off tomorrow. Will try and update when I can.

  2. Enjoy every minute we are all following you in the office - and when you get a chance can you just shut the quote log please ?

    1. Haha, yes will do...I see you have yet more snow in Cornwall and the A30 is closed...hope everyone stays safe down there. Tell Raegan no heroics by digging her way to work...