Japan's most famous pilgrimage route is on the southern island of Shikoku. The 1,200 km route consists of 88 shrines, and is thus called "The 88 Temple Pilgrimage."
Many of the temples along the route were founded by Kukai, the monk and scholar better known as Kobo Daishi.
Today's pilgrim is more likely to do the Shikoku route in his own car, or a tour bus. Some however still don the white jackets of the pilgrim and walk it. Walking the route takes roughly two months to complete, and many of the temples offer low-priced accommodation.
There are however other less arduous pilgrimage routes. Among them is "Hachi-ju Haka-sho" (88 Temple Pilgrimage), a short hike in the hills behind Ninnaji Temple that is modeled on the Shikoku route. Located in northwest Kyoto, Ninnaji is a World Heritage Site and is well worth a visit, but for locals the mountains behind it are perhaps even more inviting.
In imitation of the more famous route in Shikoku, there are 88 mini-temples. These temples are small and set at short distances from one another. "Pilgrims"--usually joggers or older people out for a short hike--can cover the entire walk in less than an hour.
Each of the temples is slightly different, and all have an appealing well-worn feel.
Some of the temples have statues, like the one at left with its elaborate bib and cap. Kukai is featured in at least of one of them.
At the highest point in the hike, you are treated to a wonderful panoramic view of Kyoto.
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Friday, January 04, 2008