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Monday, 12th May 2014
In General Japan News,

Shikoku pilgrimage celebrates birthday

A hive of excitement is currently surrounding Japan's Shikoku island thanks to its eponymous pilgrimage, which celebrates its 1,200th birthday this year.

Established in 815 by Kobodaishi Kukai, founder of the Shingonshu sect, there are 88 temples to be visited across the four provinces of Awa, Iyo, Tosa and Sanuki, with people flocking to partake in some or all of the trek.

Thanks to the popularity of Shikoku, there is plenty of advice and direction on how to tackle the long walk, which is usually carried out by those wishing to reflect on their lives. Guides also congregate at the Ryozenji temple in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, which is often cited as the official start point.

Guide Shigeru Fujimoto, who offers directions and instructions on how to chant a Buddhist sutra, confirmed to the Japan News how he had recently seen an increase in visitors interested in taking the pilgrimage.

"The number of people who visit the temple increased from the start of the new year, and sales of my shop increased by 50 per cent from usual years," he said, adding that some people were repeat visitors interested in carrying out the pilgrimage for the milestone year.

Tourist numbers were particularly high for Golden Week, a five-day period in which Japan enjoys four public holidays that sees travel figures skyrocket across the country.

People wishing to carry out this sacred walk must wear white clothing and a kesa sash. A rosary, candles and incense sticks are also recommended.

The entire pilgrimage is 1,200 kilometres in length, a distance that can be achieved in 40 days at 30 kilometres a day. Many of the paths are unmarked, although local people are used to pointing lost pilgrims in the right direction.

Written by Graham McPherson


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