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Camino Book The Way of the 88 Temples - Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Henro Michi) around Shikoku Island, Japan may not be as well-known as pilgrimage routes in Europe, but it is a uniquely different experience that is worth considering as an alternative long-distance pilgrimage.

I just finished reading Robert Sibley’s book, The Way of the 88 Temples - Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage , which is a wonderful read. Just about every page has something that resonates with me. Before reading this book, I thought I had long distance walks pretty much figured out, but Sibley has given me many new insights. Now I am not so sure that I have much figured out at all.

First up would be mindfulness, ‘being in the moment’, a very Buddhist concept which is also helpful to non-Buddhists in managing stress and anxiety, among other problems. Sometimes it is better not to use labels like ‘Buddhism’ because they carry psychological baggage that can interfere with the usefulness of the techniques themselves.

Like Sibley, I often experienced intense moments of ordinariness on my walks, maybe when my attention was arrested by a flower by the trail, or dew-drops on a spider web catching the early morning sun. Being in the moment and focussing intently on an object or a phrase – or just counting steps! - sometimes helped me to endure difficult climbs by taking my mind to another place and letting the body take care of itself.

Then there is the transience of all things, and the unimportance of material possessions – an eccentricity so at variance with modern materialistic life that it probably borders on the peculiar for most people.

Sibley talks about the psychological challenges of long walks, another bond of familiarity we share. When I mention it to people who have never walked much, they sometimes look oddly at me, as if I have a problem of some sort and might attack them out of the blue, so I let the subject drop. Only fellow-pilgrims can really understand the often-changing mental states of long-distance walkers.

The evolving story of Shuji and Jun as recounted by Sibley as possibly the major theme of his book is very moving, but I was a little ambivalent about Sibley’s use of such deeply personal material. Possibly he had their permission - or disguised their names to protect them, which in itself would be an injustice to those two people.

Bearing witness can be painful and involve deep issues of conscience, but sometimes it is a necessary thing to do, a way of paying tribute to the people involved. Such decisions are never easy – nor should they be. Photographers and camera crews in war zones or covering natural tragedies face a similar moral dilemma every time they encounter the more brutal realities of their jobs, which require them to bear witness, but not to get personally and directly involved.

On long walks, we may store up regrets for things not done, for taking mental and physical shortcuts and for moments of discourtesy born of tiredness and malaise. I have my share of those tucked away in uneasy corners of my being which sometimes rise unbidden to chafe my conscience. But regrets are not helpful, apart from their temporary value as spurs to leading a better life. Sibley quotes Itsue Takamure, a Japanese pilgrim who wrote a series of newspaper articles about her trek on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. She finished her articles with the phrase “Let everything be as it is”; seemingly simple, but possibly one of the most difficult of all aphorisms to live up to.

Given the importance of correct behaviour and the performance of the appropriate rituals, some knowledge of Japanese culture and language is probably more desirable on pilgrimages in Japan than elsewhere. Not only to avoid unknowingly offending the Japanese, but also to bond more closely with the people we meet along the way. Sibley recounts numerous examples to bear in mind; from the correct behaviour in public bathing, to the proper rituals at temples, for example reciting the Heart Sutra.

Settai (roughly ‘alms’) is a potential minefield for foreigners and I am grateful for Sibley’s explanations of this important custom. By offering settai, many Japanese along the Henro Michi believe that something of the merit a pilgrim acquires rubs off on them. On my own travels, offers of help were sometimes devices to get me to buy something; so I often look for ulterior motives when strangers approach me with offers of help. What a rude faux pas that would be in a settai situation.

‘Ceremonial’ drinking is culturally important in many Japanese contexts, but it is another minefield for non-drinkers like me. Sibley’s book reminds me that if I embark on my own pilgrimage in Japan I need to figure out a polite way to decline drinking alcohol without offending Japanese companions or making them feel uncomfortable. The old standby of “I am taking medication and must not drink alcohol right now” might not be good enough faced with a perceptive audience!

As a novice walking the Camino to Santiago, Spain over a decade ago, I was often amazed by miraculous coincidences and by trivial events that seemed to have a special, personal significance. After thinking about these experiences, I came to the rather cynical conclusion that they were all simply matters of probability and too much introspection. Sibley’s book points out that what I might call ‘miraculous thinking’ among secular pilgrims is a well-known psychological effect that eventually becomes quite a common experience to many people on all long pilgrimages. Something else to re-evaluate.

Japanese people often wished Sibley ‘gambatte kudasai’ (roughly ‘please do your best’, or ‘good luck’). I first heard the phrase in an NHK documentary about the arduous experience of a Japanese Canadian following the stations of Fuji-san – part of her quest to reconnect with her Japanese roots - so I looked it up: https://www.italki.com/question/166631 . It has connotations of caring and community-feeling that formulaic Western phrases like ‘have a nice day’ often lack.

Sibley gives a useful account of the ‘fusion’ of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japanese spiritual practices. It is an excellent reminder that all belief systems have something to offer; none is intrinsically better than another. The Japanese personification of Fuji-san is one delightful example that enriches their daily lives as they observe with affection the seasonal changes that affect Mount Fuji.

I admire Sibley’s writing technique, the structure of his book and his choice of material. I try to take notes for my own books as I walk, especially of ephemeral (but important) things which catch my attention, and I make time to write them up at the end of the day among all my other chores, but it is not always easy. After a couple of weeks on the road, the days can become something of a blur and the intensity of fleeting impressions can fade. Sibley has succeeded brilliantly with his insightful and often moving observations of small things, recorded over a period of two months on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

While the book is specifically about Sibley’s experiences on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, his insights and helpful references to more general topics apply to any pilgrimage. His book is worth reading by all pilgrims – even veterans like me who think they have it all figured out.

Sibley also uploaded a daily journal to the web when the opportunity allowed. His unedited musings can be found at: http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/thoughts1999/shikokuthoughts.html
 
Last edited:

MhaelK

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
Thanks, this templewalk has been on my mind since I first heard about it.
 

Frances Bat

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPdP (June 2017)
Camino Frances Sarria (June 2018)
Camino Ingles (July 2018)
I enjoyed reading this response to the book. Thank you.
 

dfox

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (4/2017)
CP (5/2019)
The cost of living in Japan is relatively high. It appears that there is no albergue-like accommodation along the trail.

Any idea of the said pilgrimage would cost?
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
The cost of living in Japan is relatively high. It appears that there is no albergue-like accommodation along the trail.

Any idea of the said pilgrimage would cost?
I found this website, which might be helpful. It includes a cost calculator.

Sibley mentions that David Turlington has a good website on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, but unfortunately I can't locate it at the moment - Google did not help either.

Hope that helps.

Bob M
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
Just a few explanatory words on why I could not say more about Shuji and Jun in my review. Their experience turned out to be deeply harrowing and had a significant effect on Sibley himself, who had walked with them and become deeply involved in their personal struggles. It still bothers me as well.

Bob M
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
The Japanese would be wise to keep that pilgrimage a secret and less infrastructure. Prevent it from becoming the bit of a circus the Frances has become.
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
The Japanese would be wise to keep that pilgrimage a secret and less infrastructure. Prevent it from becoming the bit of a circus the Frances has become.
Hopefully the difficulties of culture and language will deter casual 'pilgrims' and attract the more serious and respectful.

Japan has other interesting walks. Have a look at:
https://japanpackage.com.au/packageself

Bob M
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
I think that the cost for this pilgrimage will make that a barrier.
Sibley mentions in his book that some Japanese walk the 88 Temple Pilgrimage as cheaply as they can get away with by exploiting settai to cadge food and shelter. Unsurprisingly, the locals are not impressed by such people and would be even less tolerant of bumbling foreigners working the same scam.

Human nature is a constant the world over, and similar practices could easily be found on many pilgrimage routes.

On the Via Podensis there were only two of us staying in a certain pilgrim accommodation that was normally unattended and worked on an honour system for donations.

We both left early in the morning. I placed my donation in the box provided, but the other person did not. Perhaps unwisely, I drew his attention to this 'inadvertent oversight' and was told quite pointedly that "Pilgrims should not have to pay".

We went our separate ways, but the story had a mortifying sequel. I became lost, and in my wanderings I came across the same person again. Without any rancour, he kindly pointed out the correct path and walked a short distance with me.

Bob M
 
Last edited:

Dorpie

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
Thanks @BobM An interest has be growing in me around the Henro Michi since I first heard of it on my 2015 camino. To date I've read one book about it, Neon Pilgrim, which gave a very personal perspective and one I suspect I wouldn't share so other ideas for reading is most welcome.
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
Robert Sibley is a journalist and did a lot of research on the Henro Michi (and pilgrimage in general) before he set out. His book has a very large bibliography which might help others looking for information.

BTW, I figured out why I could not find David Turlington online. I had his surname spelt wrong. It should be Turkington (with a K not an L). Here is a link to him.

https://www.canadahenro.com/shikoku-pilgrimage-route

Bob M
 

Tina-Marie Brownie

HappyFeet
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017
I have been very curious about this pilgrimage but when I asked a member of my FB hiking group who lives in Japan about it, she said that quite a large number of the temples were destroyed in the 2011 Tsunami and that it is no longer possible to walk the route to all 88 temples. I was extremely sad to hear this.
 

solong

New Member
I have been very curious about this pilgrimage but when I asked a member of my FB hiking group who lives in Japan about it, she said that quite a large number of the temples were destroyed in the 2011 Tsunami and that it is no longer possible to walk the route to all 88 temples. I was extremely sad to hear this.
Don't be sad be happy! I walked the 88 temples in 2016 and did not see any tsunami damage. Johnnie Walker has walked it and blogged about his experience. The Japanese people were so kind, helpful, generous -- The Memories will always bring smiles and tears.
 

Tina-Marie Brownie

HappyFeet
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2017
Don't be sad be happy! I walked the 88 temples in 2016 and did not see any tsunami damage. Johnnie Walker has walked it and blogged about his experience. The Japanese people were so kind, helpful, generous -- The Memories will always bring smiles and tears.
So that means that you can still walk the route? I was under the impression that it was no longer do-able. Now I am happy to think that it can be done, I so want to experience the temples and the japanese culture - putting this back on my hiking bucket list. Thank you for your response.
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
Not much damage to Shikoku from the 2011 Tsunami. Typhoon 21 landed in Shikoku in September last year (JEBI) and was a historically serious storm. It may be that there are temples that have been damaged and detours on some paths due to landslides or fallen trees. That's life in Japan.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
The cost of living in Japan is relatively high. It appears that there is no albergue-like accommodation along the trail.

Any idea of the said pilgrimage would cost?
I walked the entire Way of 88 Temples in 2017...I would be happy to answer any queries you may have. There are too many variables to give you a costing but I thought for the length of time I was there, it was reasonable. We are not talking Norway or Switzerland pricing! There are albergue type options scattered along the trail; they are known as Henro House. The website is www.henrohouse.jp The site is in English & you can book your bed through the website. You must reserve a place, you can't just turn up. More are being added as the walk becomes more popular especially with foreigners.
I encourage everyone to consider this walk. I'm an experienced long distance walker with thousands of kms & trails in more than a dozen countries under my belt (feet!)...but this is my favourite; the one that has stayed with me, the one I still miss everyday & I long to return to Japan. A truly amazing country & an unforgettable, unmatchable experience. Gambatte. 👣🌏
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Just a few explanatory words on why I could not say more about Shuji and Jun in my review. Their experience turned out to be deeply harrowing and had a significant effect on Sibley himself, who had walked with them and become deeply involved in their personal struggles. It still bothers me as well.

Bob M
I agree Bob..you already know my thoughts on this. I still affects me too (& I read it nearly 3 years ago) but of course I couldn't 'warn' you in advance of reading it.
I rarely recommend books but this was the exception. I will say it didn't affect my Shikoku pilgrimage other than an increased awareness of what could be going on around me. Walking is very individual & our experiences are shaped by what happens to us 'out there' rather than what has befallen others. I did learn about Japanese face... 'public face' & 'private face'. Robert C Sibley thought he knew both in his time with Shuji & Jun...but it ran so much deeper & there are multiple layers within both facets.
Thanks for posting your review of an outstanding book. I hope many others will now seek it out. 🤔
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
I have been very curious about this pilgrimage but when I asked a member of my FB hiking group who lives in Japan about it, she said that quite a large number of the temples were destroyed in the 2011 Tsunami and that it is no longer possible to walk the route to all 88 temples. I was extremely sad to hear this.
Definitely not the case...all temples were intact during my Shikoku pilgrimage (2017) & the route was navigable in its entirety. Maybe she meant temples in other parts of Japan...not specifically Shikoku.
👣 🌏
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
So that means that you can still walk the route? I was under the impression that it was no longer do-able. Now I am happy to think that it can be done, I so want to experience the temples and the japanese culture - putting this back on my hiking bucket list. Thank you for your response.
For anyone considering walking The Way of 88 Temples, the map book/guide shown below is indispensable. It is put together by a Japanese man who is a former land surveyor. He updates it every few years. This book has spoilt me forever as far as guidebooks & maps are concerned. If anyone wants further details, just sing out..I'm happy to provide any info. 👣 🌏
Gambatte!
5229152292
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Henro Michi) around Shikoku Island, Japan may not be as well-known as pilgrimage routes in Europe, but it is a uniquely different experience that is worth considering as an alternative long-distance pilgrimage.

I just finished reading Robert Sibley’s book, The Way of the 88 Temples - Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage , which is a wonderful read. Just about every page has something that resonates with me. Before reading this book, I thought I had long distance walks pretty much figured out, but Sibley has given me many new insights. Now I am not so sure that I have much figured out at all.

First up would be mindfulness, ‘being in the moment’, a very Buddhist concept which is also helpful to non-Buddhists in managing stress and anxiety, among other problems. Sometimes it is better not to use labels like ‘Buddhism’ because they carry psychological baggage that can interfere with the usefulness of the techniques themselves.

Like Sibley, I often experienced intense moments of ordinariness on my walks, maybe when my attention was arrested by a flower by the trail, or dew-drops on a spider web catching the early morning sun. Being in the moment and focussing intently on an object or a phrase – or just counting steps! - sometimes helped me to endure difficult climbs by taking my mind to another place and letting the body take care of itself.

Then there is the transience of all things, and the unimportance of material possessions – an eccentricity so at variance with modern materialistic life that it probably borders on the peculiar for most people.

Sibley talks about the psychological challenges of long walks, another bond of familiarity we share. When I mention it to people who have never walked much, they sometimes look oddly at me, as if I have a problem of some sort and might attack them out of the blue, so I let the subject drop. Only fellow-pilgrims can really understand the often-changing mental states of long-distance walkers.

The evolving story of Shuji and Jun as recounted by Sibley as possibly the major theme of his book is very moving, but I was a little ambivalent about Sibley’s use of such deeply personal material. Possibly he had their permission - or disguised their names to protect them, which in itself would be an injustice to those two people.

Bearing witness can be painful and involve deep issues of conscience, but sometimes it is a necessary thing to do, a way of paying tribute to the people involved. Such decisions are never easy – nor should they be. Photographers and camera crews in war zones or covering natural tragedies face a similar moral dilemma every time they encounter the more brutal realities of their jobs, which require them to bear witness, but not to get personally and directly involved.

On long walks, we may store up regrets for things not done, for taking mental and physical shortcuts and for moments of discourtesy born of tiredness and malaise. I have my share of those tucked away in uneasy corners of my being which sometimes rise unbidden to chafe my conscience. But regrets are not helpful, apart from their temporary value as spurs to leading a better life. Sibley quotes Itsue Takamure, a Japanese pilgrim who wrote a series of newspaper articles about her trek on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. She finished her articles with the phrase “Let everything be as it is”; seemingly simple, but possibly one of the most difficult of all aphorisms to live up to.

Given the importance of correct behaviour and the performance of the appropriate rituals, some knowledge of Japanese culture and language is probably more desirable on pilgrimages in Japan than elsewhere. Not only to avoid unknowingly offending the Japanese, but also to bond more closely with the people we meet along the way. Sibley recounts numerous examples to bear in mind; from the correct behaviour in public bathing, to the proper rituals at temples, for example reciting the Heart Sutra.

Settai (roughly ‘alms’) is a potential minefield for foreigners and I am grateful for Sibley’s explanations of this important custom. By offering settai, many Japanese along the Henro Michi believe that something of the merit a pilgrim acquires rubs off on them. On my own travels, offers of help were sometimes devices to get me to buy something; so I often look for ulterior motives when strangers approach me with offers of help. What a rude faux pas that would be in a settai situation.

‘Ceremonial’ drinking is culturally important in many Japanese contexts, but it is another minefield for non-drinkers like me. Sibley’s book reminds me that if I embark on my own pilgrimage in Japan I need to figure out a polite way to decline drinking alcohol without offending Japanese companions or making them feel uncomfortable. The old standby of “I am taking medication and must not drink alcohol right now” might not be good enough faced with a perceptive audience!

As a novice walking the Camino to Santiago, Spain over a decade ago, I was often amazed by miraculous coincidences and by trivial events that seemed to have a special, personal significance. After thinking about these experiences, I came to the rather cynical conclusion that they were all simply matters of probability and too much introspection. Sibley’s book points out that what I might call ‘miraculous thinking’ among secular pilgrims is a well-known psychological effect that eventually becomes quite a common experience to many people on all long pilgrimages. Something else to re-evaluate.

Japanese people often wished Sibley ‘gambatte kudasai’ (roughly ‘please do your best’, or ‘good luck’). I first heard the phrase in an NHK documentary about the arduous experience of a Japanese Canadian following the stations of Fuji-san – part of her quest to reconnect with her Japanese roots - so I looked it up: https://www.italki.com/question/166631 . It has connotations of caring and community-feeling that formulaic Western phrases like ‘have a nice day’ often lack.

Sibley gives a useful account of the ‘fusion’ of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japanese spiritual practices. It is an excellent reminder that all belief systems have something to offer; none is intrinsically better than another. The Japanese personification of Fuji-san is one delightful example that enriches their daily lives as they observe with affection the seasonal changes that affect Mount Fuji.

I admire Sibley’s writing technique, the structure of his book and his choice of material. I try to take notes for my own books as I walk, especially of ephemeral (but important) things which catch my attention, and I make time to write them up at the end of the day among all my other chores, but it is not always easy. After a couple of weeks on the road, the days can become something of a blur and the intensity of fleeting impressions can fade. Sibley has succeeded brilliantly with his insightful and often moving observations of small things, recorded over a period of two months on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

While the book is specifically about Sibley’s experiences on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, his insights and helpful references to more general topics apply to any pilgrimage. His book is worth reading by all pilgrims – even veterans like me who think they have it all figured out.

Sibley also uploaded a daily journal to the web when the opportunity allowed. His unedited musings can be found at: http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/thoughts1999/shikokuthoughts.html
Incidentally, Robert C. Sibley has also written an account of his journey along the Camino de Santiago...undertaken with his son prior to taking on the Shikoku pilgrimage.
The book is called 'The Way of the Stars'.
👣 🌏
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Thanks @BobM An interest has be growing in me around the Henro Michi since I first heard of it on my 2015 camino. To date I've read one book about it, Neon Pilgrim, which gave a very personal perspective and one I suspect I wouldn't share so other ideas for reading is most welcome.
Other accounts (in book format) on the Shikoku pilgrimage I've read include;
'The Cicada's Summer Song' by Lu Barnham & 'Summer Henro' by Craig McLachlin.
I enjoyed the former but in all honesty can't really recall the latter...
Ah...walking & reading; two of the great joys in life...but not together unless trying to fathom instructions or a map!
👣 🌏
 

Thomas Yingst

Tom ... “the kid”
Camino(s) past & future
Portugal. May 2019
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Henro Michi) around Shikoku Island, Japan may not be as well-known as pilgrimage routes in Europe, but it is a uniquely different experience that is worth considering as an alternative long-distance pilgrimage.

I just finished reading Robert Sibley’s book, The Way of the 88 Temples - Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage , which is a wonderful read. Just about every page has something that resonates with me. Before reading this book, I thought I had long distance walks pretty much figured out, but Sibley has given me many new insights. Now I am not so sure that I have much figured out at all.

First up would be mindfulness, ‘being in the moment’, a very Buddhist concept which is also helpful to non-Buddhists in managing stress and anxiety, among other problems. Sometimes it is better not to use labels like ‘Buddhism’ because they carry psychological baggage that can interfere with the usefulness of the techniques themselves.

Like Sibley, I often experienced intense moments of ordinariness on my walks, maybe when my attention was arrested by a flower by the trail, or dew-drops on a spider web catching the early morning sun. Being in the moment and focussing intently on an object or a phrase – or just counting steps! - sometimes helped me to endure difficult climbs by taking my mind to another place and letting the body take care of itself.

Then there is the transience of all things, and the unimportance of material possessions – an eccentricity so at variance with modern materialistic life that it probably borders on the peculiar for most people.

Sibley talks about the psychological challenges of long walks, another bond of familiarity we share. When I mention it to people who have never walked much, they sometimes look oddly at me, as if I have a problem of some sort and might attack them out of the blue, so I let the subject drop. Only fellow-pilgrims can really understand the often-changing mental states of long-distance walkers.

The evolving story of Shuji and Jun as recounted by Sibley as possibly the major theme of his book is very moving, but I was a little ambivalent about Sibley’s use of such deeply personal material. Possibly he had their permission - or disguised their names to protect them, which in itself would be an injustice to those two people.

Bearing witness can be painful and involve deep issues of conscience, but sometimes it is a necessary thing to do, a way of paying tribute to the people involved. Such decisions are never easy – nor should they be. Photographers and camera crews in war zones or covering natural tragedies face a similar moral dilemma every time they encounter the more brutal realities of their jobs, which require them to bear witness, but not to get personally and directly involved.

On long walks, we may store up regrets for things not done, for taking mental and physical shortcuts and for moments of discourtesy born of tiredness and malaise. I have my share of those tucked away in uneasy corners of my being which sometimes rise unbidden to chafe my conscience. But regrets are not helpful, apart from their temporary value as spurs to leading a better life. Sibley quotes Itsue Takamure, a Japanese pilgrim who wrote a series of newspaper articles about her trek on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. She finished her articles with the phrase “Let everything be as it is”; seemingly simple, but possibly one of the most difficult of all aphorisms to live up to.

Given the importance of correct behaviour and the performance of the appropriate rituals, some knowledge of Japanese culture and language is probably more desirable on pilgrimages in Japan than elsewhere. Not only to avoid unknowingly offending the Japanese, but also to bond more closely with the people we meet along the way. Sibley recounts numerous examples to bear in mind; from the correct behaviour in public bathing, to the proper rituals at temples, for example reciting the Heart Sutra.

Settai (roughly ‘alms’) is a potential minefield for foreigners and I am grateful for Sibley’s explanations of this important custom. By offering settai, many Japanese along the Henro Michi believe that something of the merit a pilgrim acquires rubs off on them. On my own travels, offers of help were sometimes devices to get me to buy something; so I often look for ulterior motives when strangers approach me with offers of help. What a rude faux pas that would be in a settai situation.

‘Ceremonial’ drinking is culturally important in many Japanese contexts, but it is another minefield for non-drinkers like me. Sibley’s book reminds me that if I embark on my own pilgrimage in Japan I need to figure out a polite way to decline drinking alcohol without offending Japanese companions or making them feel uncomfortable. The old standby of “I am taking medication and must not drink alcohol right now” might not be good enough faced with a perceptive audience!

As a novice walking the Camino to Santiago, Spain over a decade ago, I was often amazed by miraculous coincidences and by trivial events that seemed to have a special, personal significance. After thinking about these experiences, I came to the rather cynical conclusion that they were all simply matters of probability and too much introspection. Sibley’s book points out that what I might call ‘miraculous thinking’ among secular pilgrims is a well-known psychological effect that eventually becomes quite a common experience to many people on all long pilgrimages. Something else to re-evaluate.

Japanese people often wished Sibley ‘gambatte kudasai’ (roughly ‘please do your best’, or ‘good luck’). I first heard the phrase in an NHK documentary about the arduous experience of a Japanese Canadian following the stations of Fuji-san – part of her quest to reconnect with her Japanese roots - so I looked it up: https://www.italki.com/question/166631 . It has connotations of caring and community-feeling that formulaic Western phrases like ‘have a nice day’ often lack.

Sibley gives a useful account of the ‘fusion’ of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japanese spiritual practices. It is an excellent reminder that all belief systems have something to offer; none is intrinsically better than another. The Japanese personification of Fuji-san is one delightful example that enriches their daily lives as they observe with affection the seasonal changes that affect Mount Fuji.

I admire Sibley’s writing technique, the structure of his book and his choice of material. I try to take notes for my own books as I walk, especially of ephemeral (but important) things which catch my attention, and I make time to write them up at the end of the day among all my other chores, but it is not always easy. After a couple of weeks on the road, the days can become something of a blur and the intensity of fleeting impressions can fade. Sibley has succeeded brilliantly with his insightful and often moving observations of small things, recorded over a period of two months on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

While the book is specifically about Sibley’s experiences on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, his insights and helpful references to more general topics apply to any pilgrimage. His book is worth reading by all pilgrims – even veterans like me who think they have it all figured out.

Sibley also uploaded a daily journal to the web when the opportunity allowed. His unedited musings can be found at: http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/thoughts1999/shikokuthoughts.html
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Henro Michi) around Shikoku Island, Japan may not be as well-known as pilgrimage routes in Europe, but it is a uniquely different experience that is worth considering as an alternative long-distance pilgrimage.

I just finished reading Robert Sibley’s book, The Way of the 88 Temples - Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage , which is a wonderful read. Just about every page has something that resonates with me. Before reading this book, I thought I had long distance walks pretty much figured out, but Sibley has given me many new insights. Now I am not so sure that I have much figured out at all.

First up would be mindfulness, ‘being in the moment’, a very Buddhist concept which is also helpful to non-Buddhists in managing stress and anxiety, among other problems. Sometimes it is better not to use labels like ‘Buddhism’ because they carry psychological baggage that can interfere with the usefulness of the techniques themselves.

Like Sibley, I often experienced intense moments of ordinariness on my walks, maybe when my attention was arrested by a flower by the trail, or dew-drops on a spider web catching the early morning sun. Being in the moment and focussing intently on an object or a phrase – or just counting steps! - sometimes helped me to endure difficult climbs by taking my mind to another place and letting the body take care of itself.

Then there is the transience of all things, and the unimportance of material possessions – an eccentricity so at variance with modern materialistic life that it probably borders on the peculiar for most people.

Sibley talks about the psychological challenges of long walks, another bond of familiarity we share. When I mention it to people who have never walked much, they sometimes look oddly at me, as if I have a problem of some sort and might attack them out of the blue, so I let the subject drop. Only fellow-pilgrims can really understand the often-changing mental states of long-distance walkers.

The evolving story of Shuji and Jun as recounted by Sibley as possibly the major theme of his book is very moving, but I was a little ambivalent about Sibley’s use of such deeply personal material. Possibly he had their permission - or disguised their names to protect them, which in itself would be an injustice to those two people.

Bearing witness can be painful and involve deep issues of conscience, but sometimes it is a necessary thing to do, a way of paying tribute to the people involved. Such decisions are never easy – nor should they be. Photographers and camera crews in war zones or covering natural tragedies face a similar moral dilemma every time they encounter the more brutal realities of their jobs, which require them to bear witness, but not to get personally and directly involved.

On long walks, we may store up regrets for things not done, for taking mental and physical shortcuts and for moments of discourtesy born of tiredness and malaise. I have my share of those tucked away in uneasy corners of my being which sometimes rise unbidden to chafe my conscience. But regrets are not helpful, apart from their temporary value as spurs to leading a better life. Sibley quotes Itsue Takamure, a Japanese pilgrim who wrote a series of newspaper articles about her trek on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. She finished her articles with the phrase “Let everything be as it is”; seemingly simple, but possibly one of the most difficult of all aphorisms to live up to.

Given the importance of correct behaviour and the performance of the appropriate rituals, some knowledge of Japanese culture and language is probably more desirable on pilgrimages in Japan than elsewhere. Not only to avoid unknowingly offending the Japanese, but also to bond more closely with the people we meet along the way. Sibley recounts numerous examples to bear in mind; from the correct behaviour in public bathing, to the proper rituals at temples, for example reciting the Heart Sutra.

Settai (roughly ‘alms’) is a potential minefield for foreigners and I am grateful for Sibley’s explanations of this important custom. By offering settai, many Japanese along the Henro Michi believe that something of the merit a pilgrim acquires rubs off on them. On my own travels, offers of help were sometimes devices to get me to buy something; so I often look for ulterior motives when strangers approach me with offers of help. What a rude faux pas that would be in a settai situation.

‘Ceremonial’ drinking is culturally important in many Japanese contexts, but it is another minefield for non-drinkers like me. Sibley’s book reminds me that if I embark on my own pilgrimage in Japan I need to figure out a polite way to decline drinking alcohol without offending Japanese companions or making them feel uncomfortable. The old standby of “I am taking medication and must not drink alcohol right now” might not be good enough faced with a perceptive audience!

As a novice walking the Camino to Santiago, Spain over a decade ago, I was often amazed by miraculous coincidences and by trivial events that seemed to have a special, personal significance. After thinking about these experiences, I came to the rather cynical conclusion that they were all simply matters of probability and too much introspection. Sibley’s book points out that what I might call ‘miraculous thinking’ among secular pilgrims is a well-known psychological effect that eventually becomes quite a common experience to many people on all long pilgrimages. Something else to re-evaluate.

Japanese people often wished Sibley ‘gambatte kudasai’ (roughly ‘please do your best’, or ‘good luck’). I first heard the phrase in an NHK documentary about the arduous experience of a Japanese Canadian following the stations of Fuji-san – part of her quest to reconnect with her Japanese roots - so I looked it up: https://www.italki.com/question/166631 . It has connotations of caring and community-feeling that formulaic Western phrases like ‘have a nice day’ often lack.

Sibley gives a useful account of the ‘fusion’ of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japanese spiritual practices. It is an excellent reminder that all belief systems have something to offer; none is intrinsically better than another. The Japanese personification of Fuji-san is one delightful example that enriches their daily lives as they observe with affection the seasonal changes that affect Mount Fuji.

I admire Sibley’s writing technique, the structure of his book and his choice of material. I try to take notes for my own books as I walk, especially of ephemeral (but important) things which catch my attention, and I make time to write them up at the end of the day among all my other chores, but it is not always easy. After a couple of weeks on the road, the days can become something of a blur and the intensity of fleeting impressions can fade. Sibley has succeeded brilliantly with his insightful and often moving observations of small things, recorded over a period of two months on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

While the book is specifically about Sibley’s experiences on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, his insights and helpful references to more general topics apply to any pilgrimage. His book is worth reading by all pilgrims – even veterans like me who think they have it all figured out.

Sibley also uploaded a daily journal to the web when the opportunity allowed. His unedited musings can be found at: http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/thoughts1999/shikokuthoughts.html
 

Attachments

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Santiago
For anyone considering walking The Way of 88 Temples, the map book/guide shown below is indispensable. It is put together by a Japanese man who is a former land surveyor. He updates it every few years. This book has spoilt me forever as far as guidebooks & maps are concerned. If anyone wants further details, just sing out..I'm happy to provide any info. 👣🌏
Gambatte!
View attachment 52291View attachment 52292

This book looks great! Where can I order it? I also see you did St Olav's Way. I am considering that next year. Did you do it camping or did you use accomodations?
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
This book looks great! Where can I order it? I also see you did St Olav's Way. I am considering that next year. Did you do it camping or did you use accomodations?
The Shikoku Route Guide can be purchased by emailing the publisher directly (how I got my copy) at shikoku@buyodo.co.jp Mine arrived in about 10 days from ordering & was well packed. You can also purchase through Amazon Japan...simply change the language to English & select 'international delivery'. Info on the book & how to order it can be found at www.henro.co/route-guide-book
I can't speak highly enough of how instrumental this book was to my (& all the other foreign pilgrims I encountered) journey. I see the latest edition was published just 6 months ago so it is right up to date. The book takes some 'navigating' initially (a circular walk in book form + the Japanese read right to left!) but once you get your head around it, its just brilliant..I didn't need any other info, it had it all.
As for St Olav's Way, see my postings under 'Challenges of a Solo Journey?' which may answer some of your queries. I didn't camp..my walking motto is "Travel light, comfy at night". I stayed in a wide variety of accommodation including an outdoor museum, a converted barn, cabin in a campground, an old school, a church hall and of course, 'normal' hotels. If you'd like any other info on St Olav's Way, feel free to PM me or reply to my posts under the thread listed above.
Seems you're like me...always several trips on the boil! I leave for the Via Francigena in 3 weeks but already have my next few walks simmering away... 😁
Happy trails. 👣🌏
 
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gschmidl

sator arepo tenet opera rotas
Camino(s) past & future
Kumano Kodo (11/2018), Camino Sanabres (4/2019)
I did the first 17 temples last November. The guide book is good for planning, but Google Maps is good enough that I never needed to refer to it.
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
Incidentally, Robert C. Sibley has also written an account of his journey along the Camino de Santiago...undertaken with his son prior to taking on the Shikoku pilgrimage.
The book is called 'The Way of the Stars'.
👣🌏
Here's a bit of trivia: The name "Compostela" as in Santiago de Compostela, probably derives from the Latin "Campus Stellae" or "Field of Stars".

Bob M
 

Liz Drew

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Coastal Portuguese
2018 Via de la Plata
(2019) del Norte
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Henro Michi) around Shikoku Island, Japan may not be as well-known as pilgrimage routes in Europe, but it is a uniquely different experience that is worth considering as an alternative long-distance pilgrimage.

I just finished reading Robert Sibley’s book, The Way of the 88 Temples - Journeys on the Shikoku Pilgrimage , which is a wonderful read. Just about every page has something that resonates with me. Before reading this book, I thought I had long distance walks pretty much figured out, but Sibley has given me many new insights. Now I am not so sure that I have much figured out at all.

First up would be mindfulness, ‘being in the moment’, a very Buddhist concept which is also helpful to non-Buddhists in managing stress and anxiety, among other problems. Sometimes it is better not to use labels like ‘Buddhism’ because they carry psychological baggage that can interfere with the usefulness of the techniques themselves.

Like Sibley, I often experienced intense moments of ordinariness on my walks, maybe when my attention was arrested by a flower by the trail, or dew-drops on a spider web catching the early morning sun. Being in the moment and focussing intently on an object or a phrase – or just counting steps! - sometimes helped me to endure difficult climbs by taking my mind to another place and letting the body take care of itself.

Then there is the transience of all things, and the unimportance of material possessions – an eccentricity so at variance with modern materialistic life that it probably borders on the peculiar for most people.

Sibley talks about the psychological challenges of long walks, another bond of familiarity we share. When I mention it to people who have never walked much, they sometimes look oddly at me, as if I have a problem of some sort and might attack them out of the blue, so I let the subject drop. Only fellow-pilgrims can really understand the often-changing mental states of long-distance walkers.

The evolving story of Shuji and Jun as recounted by Sibley as possibly the major theme of his book is very moving, but I was a little ambivalent about Sibley’s use of such deeply personal material. Possibly he had their permission - or disguised their names to protect them, which in itself would be an injustice to those two people.

Bearing witness can be painful and involve deep issues of conscience, but sometimes it is a necessary thing to do, a way of paying tribute to the people involved. Such decisions are never easy – nor should they be. Photographers and camera crews in war zones or covering natural tragedies face a similar moral dilemma every time they encounter the more brutal realities of their jobs, which require them to bear witness, but not to get personally and directly involved.

On long walks, we may store up regrets for things not done, for taking mental and physical shortcuts and for moments of discourtesy born of tiredness and malaise. I have my share of those tucked away in uneasy corners of my being which sometimes rise unbidden to chafe my conscience. But regrets are not helpful, apart from their temporary value as spurs to leading a better life. Sibley quotes Itsue Takamure, a Japanese pilgrim who wrote a series of newspaper articles about her trek on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. She finished her articles with the phrase “Let everything be as it is”; seemingly simple, but possibly one of the most difficult of all aphorisms to live up to.

Given the importance of correct behaviour and the performance of the appropriate rituals, some knowledge of Japanese culture and language is probably more desirable on pilgrimages in Japan than elsewhere. Not only to avoid unknowingly offending the Japanese, but also to bond more closely with the people we meet along the way. Sibley recounts numerous examples to bear in mind; from the correct behaviour in public bathing, to the proper rituals at temples, for example reciting the Heart Sutra.

Settai (roughly ‘alms’) is a potential minefield for foreigners and I am grateful for Sibley’s explanations of this important custom. By offering settai, many Japanese along the Henro Michi believe that something of the merit a pilgrim acquires rubs off on them. On my own travels, offers of help were sometimes devices to get me to buy something; so I often look for ulterior motives when strangers approach me with offers of help. What a rude faux pas that would be in a settai situation.

‘Ceremonial’ drinking is culturally important in many Japanese contexts, but it is another minefield for non-drinkers like me. Sibley’s book reminds me that if I embark on my own pilgrimage in Japan I need to figure out a polite way to decline drinking alcohol without offending Japanese companions or making them feel uncomfortable. The old standby of “I am taking medication and must not drink alcohol right now” might not be good enough faced with a perceptive audience!

As a novice walking the Camino to Santiago, Spain over a decade ago, I was often amazed by miraculous coincidences and by trivial events that seemed to have a special, personal significance. After thinking about these experiences, I came to the rather cynical conclusion that they were all simply matters of probability and too much introspection. Sibley’s book points out that what I might call ‘miraculous thinking’ among secular pilgrims is a well-known psychological effect that eventually becomes quite a common experience to many people on all long pilgrimages. Something else to re-evaluate.

Japanese people often wished Sibley ‘gambatte kudasai’ (roughly ‘please do your best’, or ‘good luck’). I first heard the phrase in an NHK documentary about the arduous experience of a Japanese Canadian following the stations of Fuji-san – part of her quest to reconnect with her Japanese roots - so I looked it up: https://www.italki.com/question/166631 . It has connotations of caring and community-feeling that formulaic Western phrases like ‘have a nice day’ often lack.

Sibley gives a useful account of the ‘fusion’ of Buddhism and Shintoism in Japanese spiritual practices. It is an excellent reminder that all belief systems have something to offer; none is intrinsically better than another. The Japanese personification of Fuji-san is one delightful example that enriches their daily lives as they observe with affection the seasonal changes that affect Mount Fuji.

I admire Sibley’s writing technique, the structure of his book and his choice of material. I try to take notes for my own books as I walk, especially of ephemeral (but important) things which catch my attention, and I make time to write them up at the end of the day among all my other chores, but it is not always easy. After a couple of weeks on the road, the days can become something of a blur and the intensity of fleeting impressions can fade. Sibley has succeeded brilliantly with his insightful and often moving observations of small things, recorded over a period of two months on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

While the book is specifically about Sibley’s experiences on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, his insights and helpful references to more general topics apply to any pilgrimage. His book is worth reading by all pilgrims – even veterans like me who think they have it all figured out.

Sibley also uploaded a daily journal to the web when the opportunity allowed. His unedited musings can be found at: http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/thoughts1999/shikokuthoughts.html
Many thanks for all of this. Japan has intrigued me for quite some time. I have ordered the book in preparation for my journey
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
I like your minimalist post, Tom (aka 'the kid') :). The photo says everything.

Bob M
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Thanks @kazrobbo I'll hunt them down.
Dorpie, if you're still watching this thread...
Just remembered another book;
'A Sense of Direction' by Gideon Lewis-Kravs.
Gideon writes of his experiences on a 'linear' pilgrimage (Camino de Santiago), a 'circular' pilgrimage (Shikoku 88 Temples) & a 'point' pilgrimage (Ukraine).
He uses the book as a platform to explore his relationship with his father a little too much for my liking but his contextual usage of 'Buen Camino' gave me many a chuckle! Brierley fans beware...the author gives him quite an ongoing rollicking. 🤭 👣🌏
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Santiago
Thanks kazrobbo for that info. I remember the book now as I was checking out his web site last year when I though I would do the 88 temples this year. BTW, what time of year did you go? I hear you want to get this started in early spring as but summer it is hot and humid and in the fall a lot of rain. Its good to know he works so hard to keep his book up to date. Yes, I am always 3 or 4 hikes/walks in planning from the one I am about to embark on. The Via Francigena is also on my "list" and was going to be this year as well. Instead it is the Wales Coast Path in May and the Norte in September.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Hi Elizabeth, The Wales Coast Path is on 'My List' too. Actually I'd like to do the full circumnavigation of Wales incl the WCP...but I'm probably dreaming a bit there!
I timed my Japan trip to coincide with the cherry blossoms. I'd planned to see the sakura in Osaka, Nara & Kyoto prior to walking the Way of 88 Temples. An unpredicted cold snap delayed the bloom so I ended up experiencing the cherry blossoms on the pilgrimage trail which was just magic. Stunning doesn't begin to describe the spectacle!
I started walking the 1st week of April & took 58 days to complete the circuit returning to Temple 1. Golden Week (actually about 12 days) falls during this period & requires some additional planning particularly with accommodation. Even at that time of year, I walked through heat & especially humidity about 70% of the time. Over half the walk is sub-tropical but at least it wasn't typhoon season. I felt the timing was ideal to walk (others may disagree)...spring is my season of choice for walking anyway...but it was mainly driven by the cherry blossoms. I'd do it again, at the same time, in a heart beat.
All the best for the WCP...I'd love to hear about it. Maybe we could PM each other? We're getting 'off track' for this thread here! 😄👣🌏
 
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Richard Smith

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
Kumano Kodo 2014
The cost of living in Japan is relatively high. It appears that there is no albergue-like accommodation along the trail.

Any idea of the said pilgrimage would cost?
Cost of living in Japan can be surprising low, especially if walking.
They have Tourist Bureaus that are very helpful, respond overnight to international questions.
 

MikeyC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF - September 2016
CF - April May 2017
Shikoku - October 2017
Kumano Kodo - October 2017
CF - 2019
We also used the Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide and found it invaluable. For a flavour of the 88 Temple route have a read of Kat's blog at:


We walked from temple 68 to 88 in October and found it mostly dry and warm but beware this is heading into typhoon season. I wanted colder conditions but this was only to slow down any snakes we encountered (in fact we only saw dead ones on the roads).

It is a very different experience compared to the CF. There is infrastructure but it is not geared to the walking pilgrim and we had to carefully plan distances and places to stay.

Possibly we hit a quiet time but apart from several coachloads of Japanese pilgrims in the temples we only encountered 5 other walking pilgrims the whole trip.
 

MikeJS

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis (2011), Norte (2012), VdlP (Apr 2016). Sureste/Invierno (Apr/May 2017).
Hi Elizabeth, The Wales Coast Path is on 'My List' too. Actually I'd like to do the full circumnavigation of Wales incl the WCP...but I'm probably dreaming a bit there!
I timed my Japan trip to coincide with the cherry blossoms. I'd planned to see the sakura in Osaka, Nara & Kyoto prior to walking the Way of 88 Temples. An unpredicted cold snap delayed the bloom so I ended up experiencing the cherry blossoms on the pilgrimage trail which was just magic. Stunning doesn't begin to describe the spectacle!
I started walking the 1st week of April & took 58 days to complete the circuit returning to Temple 1. Golden Week (actually about 12 days) falls during this period & requires some additional planning particularly with accommodation. Even at that time of year, I walked through heat & especially humidity about 70% of the time. Over half the walk is sub-tropical but at least it wasn't typhoon season. I felt the timing was ideal to walk (others may disagree)...spring is my season of choice for walking anyway...but it was mainly driven by the cherry blossoms. I'd do it again, at the same time, in a heart beat.
All the best for the WCP...I'd love to hear about it. Maybe we could PM each other? We're getting 'off track' for this thread here! 😄👣🌏
Walking the Wales Coastal Path would probably cost more than the temple pilgrimage given the extremely high price of accommodation in UK!
 

Dorpie

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
Thanks for the tips @kazrobbo . FYI and @Elizabeth Cheung - at least for now I live in Chester at the northern end (literally 1km from the end) of the WCP. I must confess I've never deliberately walked any of it but would suggest giving the Flint to Chester stretch a miss, it's pretty ugly canalised river surrounded by light industry. So much of the Welsh coast though is beautiful, the whole country actually reminds me a lot of Galicia.

If there's anything I can do to help either of you with your planning just drop me a PM.

Iechyd da (pronounced yak-e-dar, Welsh for good health)

Rob.

Edit: I should perhaps make clear that Chester itself is a pretty interesting and attractive city.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Santiago
kazrobbo and Dorpie : Thanks for the info on both the 88 temples and the WCP. I am not sure how to do a private message on here :-( I rarely use this forum to post. Anyway, PM me about the WCP and 8 8 temples. Dorpie - LOL! You read my mind! I am starting in Prestatyn because that section from Chester looked awful and nowhere to stay except a very seedy looking pub. I will be doing the full circuit. Looks like next year will be the 88 temples!
 

Dorpie

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia 2013
Camino Frances May 2015
Camino Frances July 2017
Just click on the person you want to message's picture and then "start conversation"
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Santiago
Walking the Wales Coastal Path would probably cost more than the temple pilgrimage given the extremely high price of accommodation in UK!

Yes you are right but it is significantly less than what it cost me to do the SWCP in England. Still not "camino prices" but affordable enough I can splurge on some decent pub meals ;-)
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
We also used the Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide and found it invaluable. For a flavour of the 88 Temple route have a read of Kat's blog at:


We walked from temple 68 to 88 in October and found it mostly dry and warm but beware this is heading into typhoon season. I wanted colder conditions but this was only to slow down any snakes we encountered (in fact we only saw dead ones on the roads).

It is a very different experience compared to the CF. There is infrastructure but it is not geared to the walking pilgrim and we had to carefully plan distances and places to stay.

Possibly we hit a quiet time but apart from several coachloads of Japanese pilgrims in the temples we only encountered 5 other walking pilgrims the whole trip.
I second Kat's blog as a good resource; she is also the author of a new Cicerone guidebook on the Kumano Kodo due out soon.
I only encountered 5 snakes for the whole walk & 3 of them were on the one day!..Kuma Kogen to T45 rtn. I didn't see any mamushi (pit vipers). Although I prefer not to deal with snakes, I'm an Aussie so they come with the territory for us 🐍 They were smaller than I'm used to, not aggressive but fast; I just stood there until they got out of the way.
I was surprised how many foreigners I met on the trail (@ least a dozen) but we all varied widely in how we were tackling it (time, method, accom, etc). There were quite a number of Japanese walkers incl some who were doing the whole circuit.
I agree..planning is key for this walk unless you're carrying a tent or willing to risk ending up sleeping in train stations, roadside rest stops, etc! Gambatte.
👣🌏
 
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Tim Greig

Pilgrim
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2016
Via Podiensis 2017
Via Francigena 2018
The Shikoku Route Guide can be purchased by emailing the publisher directly (how I got my copy) at shikoku@buyodo.co.jp Mine arrived in about 10 days from ordering & was well packed. You can also purchase through Amazon Japan...simply change the language to English & select 'international delivery'. Info on the book & how to order it can be found at www.henro.co/route-guide-book
I can't speak highly enough of how instrumental this book was to my (& all the other foreign pilgrims I encountered) journey. I see the latest edition was published just 6 months ago so it is right up to date. The book takes some 'navigating' initially (a circular walk in book form + the Japanese read right to left!) but once you get your head around it, its just brilliant..I didn't need any other info, it had it all.
As for St Olav's Way, see my postings under 'Challenges of a Solo Journey?' which may answer some of your queries. I didn't camp..my walking motto is "Travel light, comfy at night". I stayed in a wide variety of accommodation including an outdoor museum, a converted barn, cabin in a campground, an old school, a church hall and of course, 'normal' hotels. If you'd like any other info on St Olav's Way, feel free to PM me or reply to my posts under the thread listed above.
Seems you're like me...always several trips on the boil! I leave for the Via Francigena in 3 weeks but already have my next few walks simmering away... 😁
Happy trails. 👣🌏
Thank you so much for this thread. I hope to walk Shikoku this autumn and have Sibley's book which I've not read yet. There is so much good information in the various posts. I found this web site http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com which is also helpful. I walked the Via Francigena last summer, if you have any questions do get in touch. Tim
 

Tim Greig

Pilgrim
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2016
Via Podiensis 2017
Via Francigena 2018
For anyone considering walking The Way of 88 Temples, the map book/guide shown below is indispensable. It is put together by a Japanese man who is a former land surveyor. He updates it every few years. This book has spoilt me forever as far as guidebooks & maps are concerned. If anyone wants further details, just sing out..I'm happy to provide any info. 👣🌏
Gambatte!
View attachment 52291View attachment 52292
It's easy and cheap to order this guidebook on Amazon.jp and I also recommend the book by Tateki Miyazaki "Visiting the Sacred Sites of Kukai, A guidebook to the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route" which is magnificent.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(2012)
Portugues, Muxia-Finist(2015)
St Olavs Way(2016)
88 Temples Japan(2017)
PWC & VF (2019)
Thank you so much for this thread. I hope to walk Shikoku this autumn and have Sibley's book which I've not read yet. There is so much good information in the various posts. I found this web site http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com which is also helpful. I walked the Via Francigena last summer, if you have any questions do get in touch. Tim
Hi Tim, Glad you're finding the info provided helpful. The sharing of resources & experiences through this Forum is amazing.
How wonderful you're walking the 88 Temples in autumn! The colours through the landscape should be stunning. I'll be sure to look out for any postings/pics you may do. Also hope you enjoy Sibley's book; it's not just an account of his journey...valuable tips can be gleaned as well. I too have the 'Visiting the Sacred Sites' guide you mention & found it especially helpful in identifying the different components of the temples & their meanings.
Thanks so much for the offer of info/advice on the Via Francigena. Of course I'll reciprocate with Shikoku queries (or other trails). It's great to know help is just a few 'taps' away should anything arise while I'm out there. Less than 3weeks & I'm off!
Gambatte 👣🌏
 
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