Kagawa: Experience Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrimage in Just 1 Day

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A staff member shows a special prayer book for the seven-temple pilgrimage at Koyama Temple in Zentsuji, Kagawa Prefecture.

TAKAMATSU — A few of the temples along the famed Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage are endorsing an abridged version of the journey in a bid to make it easier for tourists to experience its essence.

The ancient pilgrimage through Shikoku has gained popularity not only among Japanese people, but also foreign visitors.

By reducing the number of temples, pilgrims, called ohenro, will be able to shorten their traveling time to just one day and gain a sense of accomplishment upon the journey’s completion.

Seven temples in Mitoyo, Zentsuji and Tadotsu, Kagawa Prefecture, have organized a truncated pilgrimage, an about 18-kilometer course spanning the seven temples. All temples, including Iyadami Temple and Doryu Temple, offer a special prayer book that allows travelers to collect a stamp or piece of calligraphy from each of the temples.

Originating in the Edo period (1603-1867), this scaled down pilgrimage has served as an introductory course to the Shikoku 88 sacred sites pilgrimage. It is believed that the seven-temple pilgrimage offers those unable to participate in the full-fledged journey the same spiritual benefits.

Each of the temples is also dedicated to the seven deities of good fortune, or the Shichifukujin, who are believed to grant their favor to those taking part in the pilgrimage.

This manner of travel, however, has declined recently due to a shift from walking the route to driving. The chief priests of the seven temples decided to offer the special prayer book in order to revive the traditional way of worship.

The prayer book is special one combined with nokyocho and goshuincho, in which pilgrims can collect calligraphy or red ink stamps provided by the temples. These prayer books, which bear a lotus petal design, have been available since March last year for ¥2,000.

The temples urge many people to first experience the scaled-down version as an introduction to taking part in the full route with 88 temples.

Trekkers may also take part in a three-temple pilgrimage in the Goshikidai plateau, which straddles the cities of Takamatsu and Sakaide in Kagawa Prefecture. Leaders of Kokubunji temple, Shiromine Temple and Negoro Temple have organized this route to give visitors a chance to experience a single-day pilgrimage near a mountain that is rich in natural beauty and offers a spectacular view of the Seto Ohashi bridge.

Special prayer sheets are available at each temple for ¥100. A commemorative badge bearing the design of each of the temples’ principal images will be available to those who transcribe all three of the sutras.

Each temple also offers maps that show various routes visitors can choose to take, for example, a 4-hour course by car and an 8-hour course on foot. It includes other pertinent information such as the traditional ways of offering prayers at the temples and other points of interest for tourists in the area.

Temples said there are some worshippers touring each temple while enjoying running around the mountains.

“We hope that by experiencing a day away from the routine of daily life, more people will become inspired to take pilgrimages of their own around Shikoku,” said Jissei Miyoshi, the chief priest of Shiromine Temple.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A priest shows a special prayer sheet for the three-temple