Pilgrimages, henro 遍路 in Japanese, are a very important part of Japan’s spiritual life. Among them, the Shikoku pilgrimage (Shikoku henro 四国遍路) is certainly one of the most renowned, given its length and scale: a tour of 88 temples that encircle the Shikoku island in Southern Japan, a spiritual experience follows in the footsteps of Kūkai 空海, founder of the buddhist sect of Shingon 真言宗. It is possible to accomplish the whole pilgrimage in one month, or to experience shorter journeys of about ten days each.
First 20 temples
What you’ll discover: Tokushima prefecture, the first 20 temple of the pilgrimage. Optional: Okayama, Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama, Naruto Whirlpool
Suggested departure: Spring or Fall, in order to avoid the summer heat
Transportation: From Kyoto Shinkansen to Okayama, than change for regional trains from Okayama to Tokushima. While it is customary to experience the pilgrimage by feet, it is recommended to be careful and to consider a car (5/6 persons) or using local trains or buses.
Arrival at Kansai International Airport and transfer to Shikoku, Tokushima Prefecture. Tokushima city will be the headquarter of the first 20 temples, with hotel accommodation for nights and breakfasts.
Beginning of the pilgrimage: Ryōzenji (Naruto), Gokurakuji (Naruto) and Konsenji (Itano). Lunch on the road when requested and dinner in Tokushima.
Pilgrimage stages: Dainichiji (Itano), Jizōji (Itano) and Anrakuji (Kamiita). Lunch on the road when requested and dinner in Tokushima.
Pilgrimage stages: Jūrakuji (Awa city), Kumadaniji (Awa city) and Horinji (Awa city). Lunch on the road when requested and dinner in Tokushima.
Pilgrimage stages: Kirihataji (Awa city), Fujiidera (Yoshinogawa city) and Shōsanji (Kamiyama town). Lunch on the road when requested and dinner in Tokushima.
Pilgrimage stages: Dainichiji, Jōrakuji and Kokubunji, all three in Tokushima area. Lunch and dinner can be planned freely.
Pilgrimage stages: Kannonji (Tokushima city), Idoji (Tokushima city). It is possible to rest for lunch before moving to a slightly farther temple, the Onzanji (Komatsushima city)
Last dat of the pilgrimage with temples Tatsueji (Komatsushima city) and Kakurinji (Katsuura town). It is possible to reserve the afternoon for some free time and relax.
Relax and “optional-explorations” day. On the way back to Kyoto, it will be possible to visit one of the suggested locations: Okayama, Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama, Naruto Whirlpool. Night accommodation in Kyoto
Departure for Kansai International Airport
This is a very sketchy suggestion based on personal experience, in order to intrigue you and offer some reflections. If you have any question or doubts, if it seems a too hard or too easy itinerary, let me know and I will try to suggest you some modifications.