Plenty of discussions have been online in the past few years about whether it is okay to wild camp in Shikoku. With the number of pilgrims increasing, so too have the tensions caused by people camping in places they probably shouldn’t.
Now Naoyuki Matsushita, the editor of the authoritative “Shikoku 88 Route Guide“, has weighed in on the subject and I think it leaves no open questions on the matter:
In Shikoku, we appreciate the growing interest of foreign pilgrims in the Shikoku pilgrimage. But this is bringing a new problem: if you want to camp outside the official campsites, you must obtain the approval of the landowners.
According to a survey, wild camping is estimated to be 5% among Japanese pilgrims, but 30% among foreign pilgrims. This disturbs the daily life of local people, creating anxiety and a feeling of insecurity. Some complaints have been reported to me, for example, bad manners, sleeping outside the lodging, and lighting campfires beside the tent etc.
In the past, with fewer pilgrims, this used to be a minor problem but with the recent increase, it is no longer tolerable. We are concerned that this situation may lead to conflicts between locals and pilgrims.
This may affect the hearts of kind people on the Shikoku pilgrimage. I am worried about it. I am in a dilemma. I want foreigners to come to Shikoku for the pilgrimage. I want to spread the spirit of Henro to the world. I want to deepen mutual understanding between foreigners and Japanese. But, I do not want wild camping to increase. I have the following requests:
- Please do not camp outside the official camping areas
- Please do not camp or sleep in the rest huts
- If you stay in a Zenkonyado or a Tsuyado where sleeping is permitted, please donate 1,000 – 2,000 yen if you have used the futon in the offering box
- Please do not camp/sleep in the rest huts mentioned in my Route Guide.
Here are the official camping grounds along the pilgrimage (need to be booked in advance):
- T22-23 off km 152 in Ebisuhama
- T37-38 on km 461 near Umi-no-Omukae Station
- T37-38-39 on km 496 or 533 in Okinohama
- T43-44 on km 679 when approaching Ozu
- T43-44 on km 693 in Uchiko
- T60-T61 off km 876
- T87-88 km 1087 in Maeyama
- Plus more you can find on Google Maps by searching for “キャンプ場”
We hope all pilgrims will be respectful of Shikoku and the local people’s wishes – see the Henro Code of Conduct for more thoughts on how to contribute.