Temples and Trails of Shikoku

Temples and Trails of Shikoku

JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour


  • Stay in monastery lodgings in the temple town of Mount Koya
  • Walk on the loveliest parts of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail
  • Walk across a bridge of vines in the remote Iya Valley
  • Eat wonderful local food in the Hirome Ichiba Market in Kochi city
  • Bathe in natural thermal waters at historic Dogo Onsen
  • Visit the beautiful hill-top castle in Matsuyama

A small-group guided walking tour to Sacred Mount Koya & The Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail 

The fourth-largest of Japan’s islands, Shikoku is home to the 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail. The full pilgrimage route encircles Shikoku and connects 88 Buddhist temples, covering more than a thousand kilometres. Our tour selects the best of the walking trails through lovely landscapes and visits all four of Shikoku’s prefectures and the journey begins with a stay on Mount Koya, the hilltop temple complex on Honshu, an important location for Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage devotees. We will stay in traditional country inns enjoying regional cuisine prepared from local ingredients from the island, soak in natural hot springs, and enjoy the exceptional hospitality of our hosts. 


  • Day
  • 1
Meet in Osaka
  • Hotel Hotel
  • Meal Welcome Dinner

Meet your guide and other group members at the hotel in Osaka in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.


  • Day
  • 2
Travel to Mount Koya and sightseeing
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn  Shukubo (Pilgrims Lodging)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We travel by train along the scenic Nankai Railway Line to Mount Koya, a bowl-shaped valley filled with cedars high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Mount Koya is the headquarters of the Shingon Sect of Japanese Buddhism, founded in 9th century by the monk Kobo Daishi, father of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Pilgrims on the Shikoku 88 Temple route traditionally visit Mount Koya to pray and ask Kobo Daishi to bless their journey; we will follow this tradition. We stay in one of the elegant temples and dine on shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine). We will walk through the Okuno-in Cemetery and see Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum. 

  • Day
  • 3
Travel to Tokushima and walk Ryozenji Temple to Kosenji Temple
  • Walking 6km
  • World Heritage site negligible ascent and descent
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Shukubo (Pilgrims Lodging)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We travel by private vehicle this morning to Wakayama port for the ferry to Tokushima Prefecture, the old Awa Province, located in eastern Shikoku. We will walk through quiet suburban neighbourhoods and visit the first three temples on the pilgrimage route – some of the prettiest on the whole island. The first temple, Ryozen-ji or Vulture Mountain Temple, was built in 8th century. Next comes Gokuraku-ji or Celestial Temple where Kobo Daishi completed 37 days of esoteric ritual at the age of 42. The atmospheric Konsen-ji, or Golden Fountain Temple, is home to a blood-red pagoda and bridge. After the walk, we will take a private vehicle to our Shukubo temple lodgings for the evening.

  • Day
  • 4
Walk from Fujiidera Temple to Shosanji Temple
  • Walking 11.9km
  • World Heritage site 1230m ascent, 560m descent
  • Walking 5 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

Today we will travel by private vehicle to Temple 11 Fujiidera, Temple of the Wisteria Well, situated at the foot of Mount Shosan-ji and surrounded by three mountains. We will walk a challenging trail known as ‘henro-korogashi’ through forests and over three peaks, one of the finest walks on the whole pilgrimage. The route takes us to an elevation of 900 metres, the highest point on the whole of our tour. Completing the three ascents is highly rewarding, and our goal, Shosanji, is a dramatic temple with spectacular valley views. For those preferring a shorter walk, the vehicle will deliver you half way along the trail to meet the rest of the group. The accommodation tonight is a small and comfortable Japanese inn nearby serving lovely meals.

  • Day
  • 5
Walk from Kakurinji Temple to Tairyuji Temple 
  • Walking  7.1km 
  • World Heritage site 460m ascent, 470m descent
  • Walking  2.5 hours 
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn  Onsen Ryokan (Hot Spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

Our private vehicle journey this morning brings us to Temple 20 Kakurin-ji or Crane Forest Temple on the 550 metre summit of Washigao. The temple’s sando or main approach is surrounded by tall pine and hinoki cypress trees. Under an edict of Emperor Kanmu, Kobo Daishi founded Kakurin-ji in 799. From here we head up to Temple 21 Tairyu-ji, Temple of the Mystical Dragon, close to the mountain peak of the same name at 618 metres. Kobo Daishi practised ascetic training here at the age of 19 and founded the temple in 793. Our walk ends with a cable car ride offering breathtaking views over a cedar forest and out towards the sea. We continue by vehicle to the central mountains. Tonight’s accommodation is in the wonderful hot spring location of Iya Onsen, deep in a hidden valley. 

  • Day
  • 6
Walking Mount Tsurugi
  • Walking 4km
  • World Heritage site 330m ascent, 330m descent
  • Walking 1.5 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn Onsen Ryokan (Hot Spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, we board our private vehicle to visit the valley’s unique kazura-bashi vine bridge stretching 45 meters across the Iya River and suspended 15 metres above the flowing water. It is said the bridge was made by refugees of Heike Clan hiding in the area after their war defeat. We head to Tsurugi-san, the second highest peak in Shikoku with a height of 1,955 metres. The peak is a centre of Shugendo, a Japanese folk religion based on mountain worship. We will take a chairlift to the start of a walk which will bring us to within an hour of the summit. From there, wooden boardwalks will lead us to various viewpoints with panoramic views over the surrounding mountains. We will return to our inn at Iya Onsen in the late afternoon for another soak in the thermal waters and our dinner of delightful local cuisine.

  • Day
  • 7
 Travel to Kochi-shi and sightseeing
  • Hotel  Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

Today we travel to Kochi city in Kochi Prefecture, formerly known as Tosa Province, the region of Shikoku most distant from Japan’s mainland. It is the largest of Shikoku’s prefectures but has the smallest population. We will visit Katsurahama Rocks, a unique formation beside the sea, then enjoy lunch at Hirome Ichiba Market in Kochi city center – a wonderful collection of over 60 shops with outstanding local produce. After lunch we will visit Temple 31 Chikurin-ji, the Bamboo Forest Temple, with its museum of temple treasures. The garden here was designed by the famous master monk of the Rinzai Sect called Muso Souseki and is famous throughout Japan for its beauty. We will stay overnight in a comfortable hotel in Kochi city.

  • Day
  • 8
Half day sightseeing in Kochi-shi and travel to Matsuyama
  • Hotel  Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast

This morning, we visit Kochi Castle and have a few hours free to stroll around the well-known Sunday market which has 300 years of history and 500 outdoor stalls. This amazing lively market stretches for over a kilometre (more than half a mile) from the entrance of Kochi Castle and offers local products at reasonable prices. After lunch we travel to Ehime Prefecture, previously known as Iyo Province, and stop en-route at the historic and beautiful town of Uchiko, which once flourished as a centre for traditional wax and paper. Our accommodation tonight is a hotel in appealing Matsuyama city, not far from Japan’s oldest hot spring Dogo Onsen, said to have 3,000 years history. We are based here for the next three nights. In the evening your tour guide will be on hand to offer suggestions for restaurants for dinner.

  • Day
  • 9
Walk from Daihoji Temple to Iwayaji Temple
  • Walking 11.7km
  • World Heritage site 650m ascent, 580m descent
  • Walking 4 hours
  • Hotel  Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast

Our journey today starts with the journey by private vehicle to the Kumakogen Highlands in central Ehime, near the border of Kochi Prefecture. We start our hike from Temple 44 Daihoji, Great Treasure Temple, a fitting halfway point on the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage.
We enjoy a beautiful forest hike to Temple 45, Rock Cavern-Housed Temple, a fascinating location on the mountain with hundreds of jizo statues. The temple was one of the main sites where Kobo Daishi meditated after founding the temple in 805. A unique feature is the ladder up to a secluded cave where the monk would spend countless hours chanting. The coins attached to the cave wall show Kobo Daishi’s enduring influence. After the walk, we return by private vehicle to Matsuyama city in the late afternoon.

  • Day
  • 10
Sightseeing in Matsuyama
  • Hotel  Hotel
  • Meal Breakfast

A relaxed day to explore Matsuyama city and Dogo Onsen by public transport. We will take a short ride on the tram/streetcar and enjoy a pleasant walk up to the iconic Matsuyama Castle on the hilltop which dominates the city. In the afternoon, we will take the tram/streetcar again to visit Temple 51 Ishiteji, Stone Hand Temple, with its unique legend. There are seven fascinating buildings at the temple and many of the temple treasures are designated important cultural assets. Afterwards, we will visit the atmospheric town of Dogo visiting Isaniwa Shrine and strolling through the old-fashioned main shopping arcades. In the late afternoon, we will return to our hotel in Matsuyama city.

  • Day
  • 11
Walk from Kokubunji Temple, to Shiromineji Temple and then to Negoroji Temple
  • Walking 13.5 km
  • World Heritage site  655m ascent, 335m descent
  • Walking 4.5 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn  Onsen Ryokan (Hot spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

We travel by private vehicle to Temple 80 Awa Kokubunji, Awa State Provincial Temple, in Kagawa Prefecture, also known as the old Sanuki Province. The well-preserved structures at the temple and its building exude age and atmosphere. We ascend to Temple 81 Shiromine-ji, White Peak Temple, situated at the summit of Mount Shiromine. We will then walk down to Temple 82 Negoro-ji, Fragrant Root Temple, with its beautiful lanterns tucked away deep inside the heart of the complex. We will then head to Kotohira Spa by private vehicle, a small town in Kagawa famous for Konpirasan, the large shinto shrine complex dedicated to sailors and seafaring. Our accommodation tonight is a delightful hot spring ryokan in the town.

  • Day
  • 12
Walk from Nagaoji Temple to Okuboji Temple
  • Walking  12.3 km
  • World Heritage site  774m ascent, 410m descent
  • Walking 4.5 hours
  • Traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn  Onsen Ryokan (Hot Spring Travellers Inn)
  • Meal Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, we will set out for our final walk on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage from Temple 87 Nagao-ji, Long Slope Temple, to Temple 88 Okubo-ji, Great Hollow Temple – Completion of the Vow. A wish made here will be fulfilled! This temple is located on a hidden mountain summit. The walk passes through lovely rural scenery before ascending Nyotai-san Mountain to Okubo-ji. We will share a great sense of achievement together and then travel by private vehicle back to our accommodation for another soak in the onsen spa and a delightful kaiseki meal to celebrate our final evening.

  • Day
  • 13
Tour ends
  • Meal  Breakfast

The tour ends today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for travelling to the airport if you have homeward flights, or onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.



Tour Length 

13 days 


From $8,130 per person, twin share

Type and Level of Trip

Active – 7 days of walking and hiking from 1.5 to 5 hours per day on quiet town and country roads, and unpaved forest trails. This tour is suitable for those who are fit and can walk over rough ground for up to 5 hours. While on the trails you carry a small to medium daypack

What is Included
  • Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
  • 12 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns (Ryokan, Minshuku and Shukubo)
  • Due to the rural nature of this tour, some properties will only have Japanese-style bedding and shared facilities
  • Daily breakfast & 9 dinners
  • All transportation between tour locations
  • Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group’s itinerary
  • Forwarding of one item of luggage
What’s Not Included
  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Entrance fees to museums, temples etc. not mentioned in the itinerary
  • A single room supplement is required for solo travellers at hotels
  • When the group stays at Japanese-style properties you might be asked to share a room with another group member of the same gender

18 OCT 2020

09 MAY 2021

17 OCT 2021

Important Due to the rural nature of this tour, slight alterations of the itinerary are possible.

< 2020s30s40s50s60s70+

JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour
JTB Australia Tour