Shikoku Island and its 88 Sacred Temples

The Ultimate Shikoku Japan Guide: Shikoku Japan Facts

Shikoku Japan Map

Shikoku is known to be the smallest of all the four main islands of Japan. It is located in the southernmost region of the country. Its name directly translates to “four provinces” pertaining to the four historical provinces of the islands which are consisted of Awa, Sanuki, Tosa, and Iyo. Now, there are four main prefectures in the island which are Ehime, Tokushima, Kochi, and Kanagawa totaling to an area of 18,800 square kilometers.

Shikoku Japan Climate and Shikoku Japan Weather

Shikoku is located at the South Eastern portion of Japan, which is why its climate is not like all other parts of the country. Along with Honshu and Kyushu, Shikoku has an extratropical climate. These are the places that experience a certain kind of climatic behavior almost similar to that of a tropical climate. However, these are locations that are found near (outside) but not exactly at the tropic region of the Earth.

The behavior of the climate in the area involves very humid average temperatures to rainy seasons at certain times of the year. These places experience cyclones and storms. They also experience mildly cold winters and very hot summers. Usually, the rainy season in Shikoku occurs between early June and early July. Overall, the weather in Shikoku is quite warm and pleasant even during the winter.

The great thing about Shikoku is that they still do experience Cherry Blossom blooms during spring time of every year. This occurs between March and May of every year. Autumn’s cold is also quite mild in the area.

Shikoku Japan Natural Resources

Shikoku is a large island which is completely surrounded by the sea. Despite this, the area of the island is quite large making its center quite mountainous. There are basins, valleys, and coasts in the island. Because of this, the source of everyday living of the locals varies as well.

Most of the industrial products which are produced in the region varies. Some places in Shikoku offer up products from the agricultural sector including rice production. Other places which are near the sea offer up treasures from the sea. They have expertise in the production of synthetic fiber, paper, and other furniture.

The Ehime prefecture is home to the famous Ichinokawa mine which has been in operation for quite an incredible amount of time. This is why Shikoku also offers up petrochemical products. One of the most popular minerals being mined in the area is the stibnite crystals which give off a gray or bluish hue.

Shikoku Japan Transportation

The Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Project

The Shikoku island is physically detached from the other main islands of Japan. The Honshu-Shikoku Bridge was built to connect Shikoku to Honshu. This is to allow people to travel from the main islands to Shikoku without the need to ride a ferry or a boat to go across the inland sea.

This is one of the biggest bridges in Japan and is consisted of not just one but three major expressways. Thinking that there is only one bridge to connect Honshu to Shikoku is actually a misconception. The three major expressways or bridges are the Nishiseto Expressway, the Seto-Chuo Expressway, and the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway.

Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway

This particular bridge is found at the easternmost side of Shikoku and connects Honshu with Shikoku via the Hyogo and Tokushima prefectures. Originally intended as a railway bridge instead of a road bridge, this was designed as a suspension bridge. It was officially completed in 1998. It passes through the Akashi Strait, making it the longest suspension bridge in the world.

By Tysto (Self-published work by Tysto) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Nishiseto Expressway

This bridge is the last addition to the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge project and was completed officially in 1999. It connects Hiroshima to Ehime. It is quite the shortest out of the three which is why it is the only one known to allow individuals to cross the bridge either by bicycle or on foot.

Seto-Chuo Expressway

This was the first addition to the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge project and was officially completed in 1988. This bridge connects Okayama prefecture from Honshu to the Kagawa prefecture of Shikoku. What is special about this bridge is that a portion of it is also used by JR trains, aptly known as the Seto-Ohashi line.

Shikoku Japan Pilgrimage: The 88 Sacred Temples

The Island of Shikoku gained its popularity from the popular Buddhist pilgrimage in the numerous temples in the area. Since the early Japanese times, this kind of pilgrimage has already been in the culture of the Japanese who lived in the area.

It is believed that going through the pilgrimage will not necessarily entitle an individual to nirvana. It is believed that the path instead of the destination, is what is most important in the journey. The journey in itself will provide some sort of transformation to any individual who goes through the pilgrimage. This kind of sacrifice is a powerful process of self-purification, reflection, and meditation. One can appreciate the beauty of nature and simplicity in the journey to the beautiful temples of Shikoku.

All in all, there is a total of 88 main temples in the pilgrimage which totals to a 1,100 km trail. Then, for those who wish to extend their pilgrimage, there are 20 more temples which add about 300 km more to the entire trail. These 20 temples are known as bangai or temples of secondary importance. Many of these temples provide devotional altars for the Kannon deity of Buddhism.

Every year, there are hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who organize groups to do the trails each year. Out of this number, there are a few thousand that walk the entire path. Yes, there are some pilgrims who take their sacrifice to a whole new level by walking the 1,400 km trail around the island. Going through the main temples takes roughly 45 days (or roughly a month and a half), and the addition of the bangai temples turn this number to 55 days (or almost two months).

Some temples are quite close together and walking from one to another can take less than a day. However, there are areas in the island where the temples are very far apart that can take more than three days to travel from one to the other. There are temples in the Tokushima Prefecture, Kochi City, Matsuyama Prefecture and Takamatsu city.

The Henro’s Journey: Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide

Pilgrims, or a person undergoing a devotional journey, that go to Shikoku are called Henros, which is the Japanese word for the term for the pilgrim. They are easy to spot as they have specific attires during their travels. Often they wear a traditional outfit made up of a white shirt, a conical hat made of bamboo and a walking stick.

They also carry with them incense sticks, prayer beads, and coins which they use for the offering. They also perform books containing sutras, prayers, and orations. Once they reach a temple, washing is a must for all henros before they enter. They offer incense and coins while chanting and repeating mantras.

By Reggaeman - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

All pilgrims perform this at every temple they visit until they complete all 88 temples. However, before they begin all journeys they must visit the mausoleum of the Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Buddhists in Japan. It is also widely believed that they must “close the circle of travel” thus ending where they began, so they usually also visit the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi as they complete their pilgrimage.

What many should know is that taking this pilgrimage is not some simple deal. All pilgrims are required to get travel permits. They are also given paths to follow and are only allowed to stay at a local municipality for a limited amount of time. Furthermore, their small booklet is intended for stamp collection because every temple will provide a stamp as a proof of passage.

Places to go in Shikoku: Shikoku Japan Points of Interest

Shikoku Japan Glowing Forest

Also known as the enchanted forest, this place in Shikoku is one of the most interesting, fantasy-like places to visit. During the rainy season in Shikoku, these bioluminescent mushrooms usually grow in the forests of the island. These kinds of mushrooms contain an enzyme called luciferase which is also present in fireflies and other “glowing” organisms. It basically emits a certain form of energy which is manifested by light.

Matsuyama Castle

The Matsuyama castle located in Iyo, Shikoku is one of the primary tourism highlights in the region. Along with many other castles and temples in the area, the Matsuyama Castle is surely a sight to behold. It was built in the early 1600s and is one of the very few multi-storeyed castles in Japan. It was built with a total of five levels. It is also located on a hill that any traveler can see its regal beauty in almost every corner of the city.

On top of that, there are also multiple wings in this five-storey castle which is a good insight on its wonderful history. It is best visited during the spring time because there are more than 200 cherry trees in the area. The peak of travelers visiting the castle is during the months of March and April. It is usually opened between 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and the tickets cost about 510 yen.

By Jyo81 (ja: User) (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Kochi Castle

This particular castle is located in the Kochi prefecture of Shikoku and is one of the twelve most important castles in all of Japan. Just like the Matsuyama castle, it was built in the early 1600s and has been well-preserved ever since.

It is also known to be one of the unique castles in all of Japan. Unlike other castles whose main keep is to house its lord, the Kochi Castle is mainly used for military purposes. Its main building is built to serve as a strategic military tower used to protect the entire castle keep from intruders. The castle is usually opened between 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and the tickets usually cost about 420 yen.

Mount Tsurugi

The island and the Pacific Ocean is not the only reason a number of visitors go to Shikoku on a yearly basis. Sometimes, it is also because of its wonderful mountains, particularly the Mounts Tsurugi. Anyone looking for an outdoor adventure, this is a great place to go. Mount Tsurugi is a 2,000-meter high mountain which is located in Tokushima Prefecture. It is known to be one of the most popular mountains in all of Japan.

There are hiking trips, camping, mountaineering activities and more offered in the area. There are easy and difficult trails to follow to the summit. Finding information regarding these trails and activities is not difficult.  Not only is this place great for outdoor activities, it is also a good place to go to for devotional journeys. It is home to a small shrine at the top of the mountain, known as the Tsurugi Jinja.

Tokushima Central Park

The Tokushima Central Park is home to the ruins of the Tokushima castle and is one of the most cultured tourist destinations in all of Tokushima city. It is home to a library, gardens, and forests. There is a man-made pond somewhere in the area and people enjoy short strolls around the garden.

There are hills and forests which are great for hiking. There are hundreds of trees in the pathways which is home to a variety of bird species, some of which can only be found in the Tokushima region of Shikoku.  Because of this very fine natural detail, it is a great place to enjoy nature.

Although the castle buildings itself don’t exist anymore, and only remnants of it can be seen, the entire place is still very cultured. The colored stone walls give a chilling experience of how the Tokushima Castle’s greatness awed its viewers when it was still towering. It will surely give its visitors a glimpse of Japan’s history through the remains of the once wonderful castle.