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A One-Day Taste of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage in Kochi

Walking the entire 1200 km of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage can be intimidating. For those looking to get a feel for the pilgrimage, the Muroto Peninsula in Kochi Prefecture may be the answer.

Monet’s Garden Marmottan in Kitagawa Village

Three of the temples (24~26) can be walked in one day, as they are within 12km of each other along the dramatic coastline. Known as the Muroto Sanzan, this trio gives visitors a lot of pilgrimage bang for their buck (especially considering that temple 23 is over 75km away!). While all the temples on the pilgrimage are connected to the Buddhist monk Kukai, these three have an extra special connection.

Kochi East Tourism Association
Kochi East Tourism Association

Start with Hotsumisaki-ji (temple 24), which sits high atop a cliff at the very tip of the V-shaped Muroto Peninsula. The 19-year-old Kukai supposedly secluded himself in a nearby cave where he meditated for three years until he reached enlightenment, then built the temple to commemorate the event. Check out the ‘musical stone’, which has indentations that produce bell-like tones when struck.

Walking about 6km along the coast you will hit temple 25, Shinsho-Ji, or ‘temple of the Illuminating seaport’. This temple has a strong connection to nearby Murotsu Port and the fishing industry, and a golden ship’s wheel on the bell gate further enforces the nautical theme. Kajitori Jizo (“helmsman Jizo”) is said to protect fishermen at sea. Legend has it the statue turned into a priest and rescued a lord who was caught in a violent storm off the coast!

Continue a final 5km to the woodlands on the west side of the peninsula to temple 26, Kongocho-Ji. After a steep flight of steps, one comes face-to-face with a giant pair of straw sandals meant to ward off evil. There is also a large pot where Kobo Daishi supposedly boiled one grain of rice which multiplied by the thousands to feed the starving.

Note that if you’re looking to stay overnight at a shukubo, or temple lodging, only 24 and 26 have that option.