The Shikoku Pilgrimage is certainly the most well known pilgrimage today, both within Japan and abroad. Every year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from Japan and elsewhere will be found following the route.
The temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage are scattered across the whole of the island of Shikoku.
The pilgrimage route passes by 88 of the temples, and there really are no rules that determine how you get around to those 88 temples. Most people start at temple 1 and then head clockwise around the island. But it is up to the individuals to plan their own route. We started at temple 88, then no. 8, 1 and 3.
It is also not necessary to do the whole pilgrimage in one go. Many people cannot afford the time, so do it in sections, sometimes with years between. We are thinking to come back some day and visit the 84 temples we did not get to visit this time around.
Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai while he lived, was born on Shikoku in 774. His birthplace is temple number 75.
The story goes that Kobo Daishi went on an official visit to China and the teachings he brought back became the basis of the new form of Japanese Buddhism founded by him and with its headquarters based at a mountain temple, where he died in 838. In the centuries since his death legends about him and his feats has grown, and today he is holy.
At all the temples throughout Japan you can pay 300 yen (2,5 euros) and get a temple stamp, date and a small prayer if you bring (or buy) a proper temple book. We collected stamps all the way on our trip. Such a beautiful and special souvenir to have.