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Spiritual Experiences in Shikoku

Take a look behind the curtain at shrines and temples in Shikoku.

Spiritual Experiences in Shikoku

Skip the blog and jump to our Shikoku Spiritual Experience tours.

Shikoku is known throughout Japan and indeed the world for the Shikoku Pilgrimage, or Henro. This unique circular pilgrimage visits eighty-eight Buddhist temples around the island. People who spend the couple of months required to walk the Henro trails report that it’s the ultimate spiritual experience, stripping away the ego and precipitating various levels of enlightenment.

However, walking the pilgrimage requires more time than most people can take off from work, and trudging 1,200 kilometres isn’t exactly what you’d call a holiday. So Shikoku Tours offers several tours that enable you to enjoy the best of the Henro in a week or so, including some of its best walks. But the Shikoku Pilgrimage isn’t the only spiritual experience on offer in Shikoku. In fact, the roots of the pilgrimage lie in a spiritual discipline called Shugendō, a syncretic religion combining the indigenous Shintō religion with Buddhism, which originated in India.

Shugendō is an outdoor spiritual practice that venerates mountains. Mt. Ishizuchi in the middle of Shikoku is the highest mountain in western Japan, and from ancient times it’s been a magnet for Shugenja, the shamans who undertook ascetic discipline on mountaintops in order to develop their spiritual powers. These practices are still undertaken today in the wilds of Shikoku, and they still confer their power on practitioners. The legendary long-nosed Tengu goblin is associated with Shugenja.

The Buddhist Henro isn’t the only pilgrimage destination on Shikoku. From ancient times, but especially in the Edo period, Japanese from all over the nation made their way to Shikoku to visit Konpira Shrine, an impressive Shintō complex spread out over Mt. Zōzu in Kagawa. The shrine is a popular destination even today, and it preserves important cultural heritage such as the music and dances of shrine ritual, as well as a remarkable art collection. Hashikura Temple on the other side of the Shikoku Mountains was once closely related to Konpira Shrine, and they shared a deity. This combination of Shintō and Buddhism is typical of Shugendō.

Shikoku Tours has produced a series of exclusive single and multiday Spiritual Experience tours that enable you to see behind the curtain and experience the deeper aspects of Japanese spirituality, whether Shintō, Buddhist, or Shugendō. At various temples and shrines, a kindly priest introduces you to the mysteries and instructs you in the sacred practices, from meditating under a waterfall, to blowing a conch shell. An interpreter/guide makes it all comprehensible. You stay in temple or shrine accommodation and eat the food of an acolyte. If you’re looking for something truly off the beaten path, perhaps it’s time to try a Shikoku Spiritual Experience.

Related Tours

6 Days

On this exclusive tour, you visit Mt. Ishizuchi and Mt. Tsurugi, the first and second highest mountains in western Japan, located in the middle of the island Shikoku. These two awe-inspiring peaks have been worshipped since ancient times.

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5 Days

Experience ascetic training under a waterfall, staying at a temple lodging, meditation in front of a beautiful Japanese garden, hiking Mt. Tsurugi, and playing traditional shrine instruments dressed in Shintō robes.

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Tsurugi Shrine Shinto priest (2)

Experience prayer at Tsurugi Shrine and easy Shugen hiking on Mt. Tsurugi, Shikoku's second highest mountain.

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Walk a historical pilgrimage trail and learn the tragic story of an Emperor at Negoro-ji and Shiromine-ji Temples.

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