Now that British Airways has resumed its regular flights to Haneda Tokyo from London Heathrow, there’s no excuses for not planning a trip to Japan. The 88 Temple Circuit is waiting. Not unlike Spain’s Camino de Santiago, the 88 Temple Circuit is sure to please the architect’s eye and touch the travellers’ soul.
Japan’s Shikoku island has, as the name of the trail indicates, 88 temples, the same number of evil human passions according to Buddhism. Japanese Buddhists believe that if you want to free yourself from these disturbing emotions in one shot then the 88 Temple Circuit is the way to do it. In traditional times the 1200km trail was done on foot but today most just go by bus or car. It begins in Tokushima and the circuit is done in a clockwise direction.
The first twenty-three of the eighty-eight temples are found here. If you don’t have the time to make the full circuit, at least visit the first ten temples which are spread out over a mere 25km on the northern side of the Yoshino-gawa river. The town itself is full of palm-lined boulevards and is worth visiting for a day or two before setting out to see the other temples. Besides the temple circuit, you can visit a traditional dye house, called the House of Indigo where you can learn about the process of natural dying and even colour your own fabric. If you arrive in the spring Mount Bizan, which is covered in 1500+ cherry trees, is in full-bloom, one of the most impressive sights in all of Japan.
What you need
If you want to make the circuit there are a few things you need to do to get ready. The first is training. There are endless hills, cliffs and valleys to climb and descend. It’s essential to be in good physical condition. The weather can change in an instant from blazing sun to torrential rains… which means a sturdy rain coat. Traditional attire calls for a white coat, purple scarf, a typical Japanese straw hat and a walking stick. Like the Camino de Santiago, travellers also carry a small “passport” which is stamped at each stop along the way.
Have you ever done a pilgrimage? Where was it and what was the experience like?