This is a topic I have been thinking a lot about these days. From the perspective of someone who is in Europe or North America how do you just go and start a pilgrimage? The videos, the stories, the books, the photos… they all look so serene. And they are. But how do you make the first step? What do I do if I have trouble? If I don’t speak Japanese how on earth am I going to be okay?
These are all very reasonable, and sensible, concerns to have. While the most sturdy and hardy of us may throw caution to the wind and race off on such an adventure, the majority of us have people we need to be whole for, jobs and careers, homes, kids, family, obligations, and things to do in our own worlds. It would be great to go on an adventure, but how can I try it without risking life and limb?
I think that the first best step is to work with a reputable travel company. Book a tour. Pay the money necessary so that you don’t have to scramble around in the dark woods at night hoping to find a place to set up a tent, or a place to get out of a sudden downpour. That kind of experience is natural for tough hikers who have years of scar tissue to show for their passion, but for most people that does not sound like an enjoyable experience.
Today I want to recommend this company. Oku Japan. This is the page to look at:
I want to make it abundantly clear that I do not work for Oku Japan. I do not receive any “kickback” or fee for this blog or this recommendation. Oku Japan does not know that I like their company or recommend their tours. They don’t need to give me anything.
But I do, very much, would like to see you enjoy the incredible splendours that Shikoku has to offer. Just about everyone I have met here, with the exception of a couple or particularly surly European guys, have simply loved the experience of walking in nature, coming up to temples, smelling and touching and immersing themselves in the incredible sacred places of the pilgrimage, and having time and space to relax, think, walk, and breathe.
This video, made by Oku Japan, might get you in the mind-set of what it is like, and sounds like, on the pilgrimage trail.
So give it a think. Take some time to talk to a friend or two, and if you are all game for an incredible unique adventure in deep Japan, contact Oku Japan and talk about your hopes, conditions, and desires for a possibly life-altering experience.
Also, and this is an important note, you don’t need to come to Shikoku and MUST walk to each and every temple on the 88 temple path. You can see a few. You can see enough for a day or two. You can just do it for a week, or five days, or whatever. You could see one. People who live in Shikoku, and who are keen, might visit a few temples a year over a series of years. You don’t “have to” do anything like that. There is no obligation, other than do what is best for your own heart and mind.
I’ll leave it at that for now, and wish you guys all the best. And if you come near Takamatsu city in Kagawa, wave your flag and holler. If I can get away I would love to come and meet, have a coffee or a beer, and hear about your time here in Shikoku.
Travel well. Travel safe.