There are many reasons why someone might choose to take on the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage, which is the 1200-kilometer loop around the island of Shikoku. It is totally acceptable to complete only a portion of the pilgrimage and use any kind of transportation instead of walking. Although ‘pilgrimage’ might sound like it has strict, set-in-stone rules to follow, in reality, you are free to customize your journey based on your personal schedule and time frame
One reason I initially chose to walk a small portion of the pilgrimage was because I wanted to force myself to reconnect with the real world. Through my work and pastimes, I found myself spending most of my hours on my phone or laptop. This was something I wanted to change, for both my physical and mental health. Away from bright screens and the endless whirl of virtual entertainment, I found true peace for the first time in what felt like ages
It took some time to adjust from the initial boredom of not having my brain constantly stimulated by my phone, but eventually, I found nature, in-person conversations, architecture, self-reflection, and physical movement to be the most powerful form of stimulus. Physically, there certainly were challenging moments up the steep slopes and stairs, but mentally, I always felt energized. It was as if the serenity of the natural environment and connection with those I met on the way constantly replenished my energy
I have spoken to several others who have traveled a portion of the pilgrimage, and what fascinates me is that they all had vastly different motivations. From wanting to learn more about the history of Buddhism or being interested in traditional Japanese architecture, to desiring to push themselves physically and explore Kochi's off-the-beaten paths, the reasons were incredibly varied. However, one definitive common thread was the fact that our journeys were all a life-changing, one-in-a-lifetime experience
How about you? Would you take on the pilgrimage and if so, why?
Learn more about the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage: https://visitkochijapan.com/en/highlights/henro