Author: Masako Vierstraete

Shikoku: Masako’s Story

Coming back to Japan, let’s go on a long walk

I wanted to see Japanese mountains.

That was what came up in my mind first when I started considering coming back to Japan after almost 10 years in the USA.

Funny thing is, I was not a big fan of hiking back then. In the US, I had never been to any mountains or national parks for hiking. I was very busy every day, as an MBA student in NYC for the first two years, then as a newspaper reporter in DC almost the entire time Mr Obama was president. 

Even funnier, I was in the Japanese army in my 20’s, so running around in bushes and forests was my job. Probably I unconsciously liked Japanese mountains all the time, that’s why I picked the Army without considering joining the Navy or Airforce. Childhood memories of my parents taking us to nature tourist sites on vacation, not to theme parks or shopping malls stayed at the tiny corner of my brain. 

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Shodoshima: Annual Shimabiraki Ceremony

Every year, on January 21st, the Shodoshima 88 pilgrimage has an annual ceremony called “Shimabiraki”. 

Shimabiraki literally means “opening the island” and this ceremony is held to mark the beginning of Spring pilgrimage season. 

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Shodoshima: Masako’s Journey

I walked Shodosima 88 in fall of 2016. After my first pilgrimage, the Shikoku 88 in fall of 2015, I got totally hooked on long-distance walking along old historical trails and visiting old temples and shrines.

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Shodoshima: Walking in Fall

I arrived at on Shodoshima on September 16, 2016, with all accommodation for my eight days pilgrimage booked. My original plan was to walk the entire route and visit all 88 temples at once. However, the weather forecast had already shown that a typhoon was approaching Japan.

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