Temples, Shrines, and Religions of Shikoku

88 Temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage

The Shikoku Pilgrimage is completed by visiting all 88 temples around the island of Shikoku. The main temples of the pilgrimage form a circular shape around the island of Shikoku. Some sit within Shikoku’s bustling cities and villages; others overlook beautiful coastlines; and still others require strenuous hikes to reach them on the tops of holy mountains. Visiting each of them is both a humbling and invigorating task. You can see all temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage on our interactive map.

Temple 63 entrance

Out of the 88 official temples, 27 are located near the coast or at sea level, and 61 are in the mountains. With an elevation of 972 meters (3,189 feet), Temple 66 (雲辺寺) sits at the highest point of the pilgrimage.

A Shikoku Pilgrimage map with routes and the 88 main templesA route map to the 88 main temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan.

List of 88 Official Temples

NumberNameJapanese NameLink
1Ryozenji霊山寺View details
2Gokurakuji極楽寺View details
3Konsenji金泉寺View details
4Dainichiji大日寺View details
5Jizoji地蔵寺View details
6Anrakuji安楽寺View details
7Jurakuji十楽寺View details
8Kumadaniji熊谷寺View details
9Horinji法輪寺View details
10Kirihataji切幡寺View details
11Fujiidera藤井寺View details
12Shosanji焼山寺View details
13Dainichiji大日寺View details
14Jorakuji常楽寺View details
15Awa Kokubunji阿波国分寺View details
16Kannonji観音寺View details
17Idoji井戸寺View details
18Onzanji恩山寺View details
19Tatsueji立江寺View details
20Kakurinji鶴林寺View details
21Tairyuji太龍寺View details
22Byodoji平等寺View details
23Yakuoji薬王寺View details
24Hotsumisakiji最御崎寺View details
25Shinshoji津照寺View details
26Kongochoji金剛頂寺View details
27Konomineji神峰寺View details
28Dainichiji大日寺View details
29Tosa Kokubunji土佐国分寺View details
30Zenrakuji善楽寺View details
31Chikurinji竹林寺View details
32Zenjibuji禅師峰寺View details
33Sekkeiji雪蹊寺View details
34Tanemaji種間寺View details
35Kiyotakidera清滝寺View details
36Shoryuji青竜寺View details
37Iwamotoji岩本寺View details
38Kongofukuji金剛福寺View details
39Enkoji延光寺View details
40Kanjizaiji観自在寺View details
41Ryukoji竜光寺View details
42Butsumokuji佛木寺View details
43Meisekiji明石寺View details
44Daihoji大宝寺View details
45Iwayaji岩屋寺View details
46Joruriji浄瑠璃寺View details
47Yasakaji八坂寺View details
48Sairinji西林寺View details
49Jodoji浄土寺View details
50Hantaji繁多寺View details
51Ishiteji石手寺View details
52Taisanji太山寺View details
53Enmyoji圓明寺View details
54Enmeiji延命寺View details
55Nankobo南光坊View details
56Taisanji泰山寺View details
57Eifukuji栄福寺View details
58Senyuji仙遊寺View details
59Iyo Kokubunji伊予国分寺View details
60Yokomineji横峰寺View details
61Koonji香園寺View details
62Hojuji宝寿寺View details
63Kichijoji吉祥寺View details
64Maegamiji前神寺View details
65Sankakuji三角寺View details
66Unpenji雲辺寺View details
67Daikoji大興寺View details
68Jinnein神恵院View details
69Kannonji観音寺View details
70Motoyamaji本山寺View details
71Iyadaniji弥谷寺View details
72Mandaraji曼荼羅寺View details
73Shusshakaji出釈迦寺View details
74Koyamaji甲山寺View details
75Zentsuji善通寺View details
76Konzoji金倉寺View details
77Doryuji道隆寺View details
78Goshoji郷照寺View details
79Tennoji天皇寺View details
80Sanuki Kokubunji讃岐国分寺View details
81Shiromineji白峯寺View details
82Negoroji根香寺View details
83Ichinomiyaji一宮寺View details
84Yashimaji屋島寺View details
85Yakuriji八栗寺View details
86Shidoji志度寺View details
87Nagaoji長尾寺View details
88Okuboji大窪寺View details

Shikoku’s temples can be clustered together or quite far apart. On some days, you may visit up to ten or more temples in a row. Other times, you may find yourself going days without visiting a single one. One should enjoy these times as a chance to soak in the journey.

The debate around why and how the official 88 temples were chosen (out of many more that claim to be associated with Kūkai and the pilgrimage) is an old one. The most common theory stems from the fact that in Buddhism, human beings are said to have 88 earthly desires, which are also sufferings as our passions lead to unwholesome actions. By visiting the 88 holy sites on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, pilgrims are symbolically exterminating their sufferings.

In Shikoku, the standard pilgrimage route begins at Ryozenji, the first temple. The vast majority of pilgrims walk clockwise around the island, in numerical order. This is considered the “normal” way, but it is not actually necessary to visit every temple in order. In fact, it is not even necessary to start at Temple 1 and finish at Temple 88, so long as you eventually visit all the temples.

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Auran

An example: I visited Temple 61 through Temple 63 before beginning the long hike up to Temple 60. The routes just worked out better for my accommodation plans. Since Temple 60 was in the mountains, I wanted to tackle those that were in the city before they closed, and hike early in the morning the next day.

If you start from Temple 1, then your final destination is Temple 88. When you’ve made it to Temple 88 from Temple 1, you’ve arrived at “kechigansho” (結願所), or the place where your vows and wishes are fulfilled.

Entrance to Temple 88 – OkubojiEntrance to Temple 88 – Okuboji.

This is not the end of the pilgrimage. After Temple 88, many pilgrims return to Temple 1 to “finish the circle”.

Many pilgrims do not complete the full pilgrimage in one go. It can be hard to take so much time off work, and people of course have things to attend to back home. For this reason, you’ll often find pilgrims completing the loop one section at a time. This is especially common among domestic Japanese pilgrims, who do not have to travel internationally to reach Shikoku.

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Nate

One pilgrim I met along the way saw her pilgrimage as a lifelong journey, and was completing it one prefecture at a time, but decades apart. Some pilgrims give up during the especially arduous portions of the trail, only to return later in life – especially during the difficult hike between Temple 11 and Temple 12 and the vast areas of wilderness in Kochi Prefecture, where temples are few and far between.

Bekkaku Temples

Although the Shikoku Pilgrimage is focused on the 88 officially designated Buddhist temples, there are hundreds of other temples (and many other religious sites) on the island of Shikoku. These temples are called “bangai (番外),” which literally means they are “outside the numbers” (not among the official 88). Among the bangai, there are 20 recognized “bekkaku (別格)” temples which are especially associated with the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Bekkaku and bangai temples are often impressive and worth visiting while you’re on the trail.

While pilgrims will run into a few of the bekkaku along the main routes, most require extra travel to get to. Visiting them is completely optional as the generally accepted way of “completing” the pilgrimage only refers to the 88 temples.

Just like the main 88 temples, one will still be able to receive a stamp (nōkyō) at each bekkaku. Some even provide lodging options. Information and locations of the 20 bekkaku can be found on our pilgrimage map, or in guidebooks and other online sources.

List of 20 Bekkaku Temples

NumberNameJapanese NameLink
1Taisanji大山寺View details
2Dogakuji童学寺View details
3Jigenji慈眼寺View details
4Yasakaji八坂寺View details
5Daizenji大善寺View details
6Ryukoin龍光院View details
7Shusekiji出石寺View details
8Eitokuji永徳寺View details
9Monjuin文珠院View details
10Koryuji興隆寺View details
11Shozenji正善寺View details
12Enmeiji延命寺View details
13Senryuji仙龍寺View details
14Jofukuji常福寺View details
15Hashikuraji箸蔵寺View details
16Hagiharaji萩原寺View details
17Kannoji神野寺View details
18Kaiganji海岸寺View details
19Kozaiji香西寺View details
20Otakiji大瀧寺View details

Okunoin (Inner Sanctuaries)

Okunoin of Temple 36

Each of the 88 temples have (or are associated with) an “okunoin,” or an inner sanctuary that houses a deity. Mount Kōya also has its own okunoin (the mausoleum where Kūkai is said to be resting).

Every Buddhist deity has a legend that can be related to the establishment and mission of its temple, and some bekkaku and bangai are actually the okunoin of one of the 88 temples. For example, at the okunoin of Temple 61 (Kōonji, 香園寺), Buddhist ascetics perform suigyō/mizugyō (水行), a meditative technique that involves sitting in the cold waters of a waterfall (or dousing oneself with buckets of freezing water) to achieve a higher level of spiritual awareness.

Each okunoin is detached from the main location of its parent temple. They are smaller (usually the size of a roadside shrine) and reside either on dedicated temple grounds or in the mountains.

Visiting okunoin is not a requisite to completing the pilgrimage. Although pilgrims seldom visit them, it is worth checking out at least one okunoin.

Roadside Shrines and Temples

Roadside Shrine

Occasionally, you will encounter small wooden or stone shrines on the side of trails and roads. These mini shrines usually reflect the nature-worshiping roots of Shinto, which typically incorporate family values and agriculture. There are also Buddhist shrines (like the one pictured here).

Each roadside shrine represents a deity whose identity is depicted by the sculpture inside. A common figure is Jizō, the protector of travelers, women in childbirth, and children.

Religions in Shikoku

The two dominant religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism. Compared to Shintoism, Buddhism has fewer religious rites and ritual practices, and places more emphasis on preaching and meditation. Although Buddhism was introduced in the year 552 and grew in popularity, Japan never saw a full conversion away from Shintoism, its indigenous religion. Despite turbulence throughout its storied history, Buddhism was gradually incorporated into Japanese culture and mixed with local folk religions.

Although the temples that make up the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage are all Shingon Buddhist temples (“otera,” お寺), you will often encounter Shinto shrines (“jinja,” 神社) along the way. The main feature distinguishing the two is the entrance:

Torii gate of a Shinto shrine
Sanmon gate of a Buddhist temple

Those entering Shinto shrines must pass through a wooden vermillion gate, called a “torii” (鳥居, pictured top left), while Buddhist temples have a “sanmon” (三門, pictured bottom right) as the entrance to their temple grounds. Pilgrims will encounter quite a few Shinto shrines along their pilgrimage (including a few famous ones!), which are definitely worth experiencing.