Dating back over 1,000 years, Japan has a rich history of walking pilgrimages to both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
Many of these trails remain in use today by modern pilgrims and provide a unique window into Japanese history and culture.
Pilgrims are known as o-henro-san (お遍路さん) and traditionally wear a sedge hat, white shirt and carry a wooden staff. Upon arriving at each temple they carry out a prayer ritual and receive a stamp in a special book (納経帳 nōkyōchō).
The Shikoku Pilgrimage (四国遍路) is an ancient 1,400 km circular trail around the island of Shikoku, Japan encompassing 88 temples associated with the revered Buddhist monk and scholar Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師). It takes about seven weeks to complete on foot.
The Shodoshima Pilgrimage (小豆島遍路) is the shorter cousin of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, which takes you 180 km around the island of Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. It takes about a week to complete on foot and is best suited to experienced hikers.
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The Kumano Kodo (熊野古道) is a series of five long-distance trails stretched across the mountainous Kii Peninsula used for the pilgrimage to the sacred Kumano Shrine (熊野三山).
The commonly walked Nakahechi and Kohechi routes take about a week to complete on foot.