Sayonara Henro: Okuboji Temple 88 - Kagawa (2024)

Okuboji has rather nondescript origins. Kobo Daishi only carved the image of the main deity, and enshrined it with his own walking stick. It is named Large Hollow Temple, because, well, there was once a large hole here. Okuboji Temple 88, however, is also Kechigan-sho, where one completes the pilgrimage, however it was travelled, and in whatever state of heart.

This is Okuboji’s meaning and significance. There are no henro kissing the ground, no drum rolls and clashing of cymbals, no need for these, or anything else. The sheer impact of being at Okuboji and all it implies, all it means, all it signifies, is sufficient. This includes the personal meaning the temple will have for each pilgrim.

Okuboji is the last henro temple in the Kagawa region and so became Temple 88. Such a specific number of 88 temples, though, couldn’t have come about with a throw of the dice. The number 88 was actually already mentioned in a 1689 detailed guidebook of all the 88 temples, with the writer stating he had no clue why they numbered 88. One explanation is that 88 is a lucky number, and believe me, luck is a necessary blessing on this pilgrimage.

Earlier than 1689, it was mentioned although briefly in Murasaki Shikibu’s Tales of Genji around the 11th century. One theory speculates that we have 88 evil passions, and so we need to go to 88 temples to eliminate each one. The number is also the total of all our unlucky ages, women, children, and men. But this would make 88 a not so lucky number. A more plausible reason is practicality, 88 temples being what people in those times could manage in the spring months of travel.

Okuboji is embedded against the backdrop of Mount Nyotai, a compelling setting suitable for the ancient temple, founded in 717, especially clouded with the holy smoke of incense, candles, a fire burning, and so crowded with henro and other devotees, there was a queue to leave your name card and take a photo.

The temple grounds are studded with many historical monuments, pedestals, stones and boulders all contributing to the atmosphere of respectful awe. The giant straw sandals at the entrance are symbolic of the henro and our prayer for strong feet and bodies. These are found in other temples, too, as are the two demon Gods guarding the entrance to Okuboji to ward off evil.

Okuboji was among the first temples to allow women to climb mountains that led to sacred sites. I did not see any pilgrims leave their staff behind, as is the supposed ritual, although I did find a whole room with hundreds of staffs enclosed inside, but they did not look used. All the henro seemed serious. On the bus going back filled with henro, they all looked gloomy, and so was I.

While 88 is the final temple, one completes the journey where one started. I completed mine at Ryozenji Temple One. To quote TS Eliot from Little Gidding, I am still the same, Knowing myself yet being someone other. According to Eliot again, we undertake journeys not to verify, instruct ourselves, or report. We are here to kneel Where prayer has been valid. Absolutely. This is the Shikoku Henro.

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Sayonara Henro: Okuboji Temple 88 - Kagawa (2024)


How long does it take to walk the 88 Temples of Shikoku? ›

The pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles, or motorcycles, and often augment their travels with public transportation. The standard walking course is approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete.

How hard is the Shikoku Pilgrimage? ›

Try this 698.5-mile loop trail near Naruto, Tokushima. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 299 h 58 min to complete. This is a very popular area for backpacking, birding, and hiking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

What is the 88 Temple path? ›

The Shikoku pilgrimage route (or Shikoku Henro) is one of the few circular-shaped pilgrimages in the world. It includes 88 “official” temples and numerous other sacred sites where the Buddhist priest Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) is believed to have trained or have spent time during the 9th Century.

In which country can one undertake the Shikoku Pilgrimage a 750 mile route that links 88 Buddhist temples? ›

The pilgrimage on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands, is a 750-mile route that links 88 Buddhist temples, each of which claims a connection to Kukai, a celebrated monk — posthumously known as Kobo Daishi — who, after returning from a trip to China in the ninth century, founded one of the major schools ...

What is the most beautiful pilgrimage in Japan? ›

Kumano Kodo

Steeped in lush greenery, The Kumano Kodo is one of the world's most renowned pilgrimage routes. Winding through the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, an area straddling Wakayama, Nara, Osaka and Mie prefectures, the route has walked by pilgrims on their quest for enlightenment for over a millennium.

How do I prepare for Shikoku Pilgrimage? ›

Consider packing a lightweight backpack with essentials such as water, food, a first aid kit, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Respect local customs: The Shikoku Henro is a religious journey, and it's important to show respect to the temples, the local communities, and other pilgrims.

How long does it take to hike Shikoku Pilgrimage? ›

The Shikoku Pilgrimage is traditionally walked, and many still chose to go on foot. It takes on average 45 days to complete the circuit this way. Others choose to travel by bicycle, motorcycle, car, or bus. Some pilgrims choose to do it in chunks, taking years to finish their journey.

Is it worth going to Shikoku? ›

A history all of its own

We've already seen that Shikoku has a distinguished history as a mecca for Buddhist pilgrimage. But Shikoku's history includes a fascinating suigun pirate heritage that is little known outside the region, although it was key to many episodes in Japan's national history.

Are there bears on Shikoku? ›

In Japan, there are two kinds of bears. Black bears are found on Honshu, the largest of the country's four main islands, and on Shikoku. Brown bears live on the northern island of Hokkaido. Adult black bears stand 1 to 1.5 meters tall and weigh from 60 to 120 kilograms.

How long is the 88 Temple pilgrimage? ›

The length of the full trail is 1,400 km and can be started or completed anywhere. There are no set rules of where to visit or how many temples to see. Just suit yourself. Let's go on the Shikoku 'Route 88' Pilgrimage Trail!

Is the temple of 1000 Steps real? ›

One thousand steps to Yamagata's most iconic spot. Built over 1,000 years ago, Yamadera Temple is one of northern Japan's most picturesque spots and a must-visit destination in the Tohoku region.

What is the name of the 88 temples? ›

Ōkubo-ji is Temple No. 88 of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. It's the last temple of the pilgrimage, and pilgrims who make it here are considered to have fulfilled the vow they took before starting the pilgrimage.

Why is Shikoku important to Japan? ›

The Japanese island of Shikoku is the birthplace of the most revered figure in Japanese Buddhism, the monk and teacher Kobo-Daishi, who brought a populist form of Buddhism to Japan from China in the 9th century.

What is the 88 temples in 55 days? ›

88 Temples in 55 Days: A Supplement to the 88 Temples of Shikoku. A companion guide to the The Guide for the Walking Pilgrim, also written by pilgrimage expert Oliver Dunskus. Covers recommended restaurants, convenience stores, toilets, public transportation, and rest areas along the route.

Why do people do the Shikoku Pilgrimage? ›

Shikoku Pilgrims, known as ohenro-san, undertake the journey around Shikoku island to atone for sins, to pray for health and success, in pursuit of enlightenment, and to experience the mysteries of Japan's least developed island.

How many miles is the Shikoku Pilgrimage? ›

For hundreds of years, a 750-mile pilgrimage route has circled this mountainous island, connecting 88 separate temples and shrines that claim connection to Daishi, also known as the Great Master.

How many steps are there in yamadera Temple? ›

Officially known as Hojuzan Risshaku-ji, Yamadera was founded in 860. At the base of the mountain sits the main Konpon Chudo Hall, a designated important cultural property of Japan, followed by the 1,015 stone steps that lead to the summit.

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