Japan is often an expensive place to travel, but that is often due to lack of familiarity with accommodation and dining options. The same principle is true for the Shikoku Pilgrimage. This post breaks down the cost of my 40-day walking trip into daily expenses. I explain section by section why the costs were that way so that you can see what options are available to you. This is a shoestring budget, so a more accurate budget should be around US$3000 for the trip itself (not including airfare).

Daily Breakdown

  1. Accommodation / Lodgings
  2. Transportation
  3. Wifi
  4. Food
  5. Activities & Temple Visits
  6. Miscellaneous
  7. Additional Costs

My Shikoku Pilgrimage Cost Breakdown

buddhist temple shikoku
Henro at a temple

Total Trip Cost: ¥174,399 / US$1402

I arrived in Japan about a month before I started the pilgrimage and volunteered on organic farms. After the pilgrimage, I stayed to travel other parts of Japan and moved to Tokyo. For this reason, some of my transit costs for getting to/from Shikoku may not accurately reflect the cost of most one-off trips. For most people, the flights and accommodation will be the two most expensive items. My trip cost is on the extremely low end because I chose to do mostly nojuku, camping and was happy to live off of onigiri (rice balls). I think a less budget-conscious approach will do a lot to help you enjoy your trip a lot more.

1. Accommodation: ¥40,565 / US$325

shikoku pilgrimage accommodation
AirBnB in Kochi City

I did a mixed approach for my accommodations. Wherever I could, I did nojuku, which means I slept outdoors. I also stayed at dedicated henro huts or at temple tsuyado, zenkonyado run by Shikoku pilgrim supporters, hostels, and cheap AirBnBs. I also stayed in a few hotels, ryokans, and minshukus. My trip breakdown was as follows:

¥3000+: 9 days
¥1000-2000: 6 days
Free: 25 days

I feel like doing it all without any paid accommodation is a stretch and treating ourselves once in a while is both physically and emotionally restorative. I do think it is possible to do mostly ¥1000-2000 minshuku and ryokan-only stays if you pace yourself and plan your route well. For most of my stays, except for the hotel I arrived at like a drowned duck, I opted for sudomari, which means a stay with no meals, which saves some money. Typically, ryokan and minshuku prices given include at least one meal (dinner or breakfast the next morning).

2. Transportation: ¥34,600 / US$278

uranouchi bay ferry
Taking the ferry across Uranouchi Bay, Kochi Prefecture

Transportation should be broken down into two parts: getting to Shikoku and getting around Shikoku. I took a charter flight from Asia, so I’m not including it here because most readers I assume will be flying from places like the US and Europe.

Getting to Shikoku for me:

Transportation comes in two sections: getting to Shikoku and getting around Shikoku. I took a charter flight from Asia, so I’m not including it here mostly because it might give you the wrong impression.

Getting to Shikoku includes:

  1. Airfare to and from Japan (I think I flew to Kyoto for my volunteering first)
  2. Getting from the airport to Shikoku: Coach bus from Kyoto to Tokushima
  3. Leaving Shikoku: 14-day JR Pass activated to leave Shikoku and travel the rest of the country (~US$300)
  4. Optional: Going to and from Mount Koya (see notes below)

Getting around Shikoku for me included trains and buses because I walked around 900/1200 km of the trip. You can see from my daily transportation column that many rides will be around ¥1000 each ride because even the buses are going between towns. I took a mix of buses and trains in order to make my schedule and also because I sprained my ankle badly in a remote area. For the train, you can use Google Maps, which will not only show you the train schedule, but also the ticket price. Google will not show you private bus lines on Shikoku, but you can get pretty close to every temple with a bus.

Optional trip to Mount Koya: >US$ 150
I went to Mount Koya as a separate trip from Tokyo, not from Shikoku directly. By then, I was living in Tokyo and I did the trip in the absolute cheapest way possible (which means you should expect to spend a bit more than this). I took an overnight bus, stayed one night, hiked up the Koyasan Choishi Pilgrimage Trail, went through Mount Koya, and came right down to take the overnight bus back.

My costs included:

  • ~US$60: Overnight bus Tokyo – Osaka. They are called 高速バス・夜行バス)
  • ~US$50: AirBnB
  • ~US$50: Train to Kudayama & Tram down from Osaka

I didn’t keep the receipts for this trip. I absolutely recommend staying overnight at Mount Koya, which is easily another US$100 depending on where you stay. There is only one budget guest house as far as I know. I didn’t have the option because I needed to catch a flight, but I would have loved to enjoy the grounds for longer.

3. Wifi: ¥0

I did not pay for a SIM card or data for my trip because I was fine with using an offline map (Maps.me) and relying on convenience store WiFi only (from Family Mart and Lawson). You can go to my cost considerations post to learn more about WiFi options.

My rationale was that I was camping, so my phone would be dead half the time. Also, I was looking forward to the digital detox. Finally, the route is basically a circle around an island, so I was pretty confident that I could navigate by doing the old-fashioned sign reading and tracking the sun’s position. The next time I go back, I will probably get a data SIM because it’s good value for having a backup, but I am still satisfied with my offline approach.

4. Food: ¥39,240 / US$315

I didn’t have a job at the time, so I was spending as little as possible. I averaged less than ¥2000 / US$20 per day and sometimes went under ¥1000 / US$10. I optimised calories per dollar. That meant that in addition to living off of onigiri (rice balls), I went after snacks like chips and meal replacements that were light, dry, easy to carry, and high in calories. I wanted calories because I needed them for the amount I was walking and if I was camping, I did not pass a convenience store or restaurant every day. I was walking in the summer, so it was so hot that I usually lost my appetite. By the end of the trip, my shorts were too big for me and my waistline has never returned to its former girth. My piece of advice is to factor in at least 10-20% more in your budget for food in the winter. The seasons affect your food budget when you are outdoors. It is natural for your body to want more food when it is cold.

5. Activities / Temple Visits / Gear: ¥39,014 / US$ 314

buddhist temple lantern

Activities means mostly temple stamps. They are usually ¥300 per stamp, so that means ¥300 * 88 = ¥26,400 / US$250, which is no small investment. The other activities I remember include going to the onsen, which I did whenever I could because I wanted to clean up and soak my muscles — one of the small luxuries I afforded myself.

The other part may have been the gear. I didn’t buy much henro gear. I got the staff at Temple #1 (and instantly regretted it when I saw how many beautiful free ones were left at Temple #2), a bell because I like them and they have a practical use for warding off bears and giving people a heads up. I also got a sedge hat after reading from other henro that it was useful — and it is. I swear by my sedge hat which did more for me in the sun and rain than my jackets and umbrellas could. I also bought the incense sticks. I think two boxes got me through the whole trip with most of the second one left over.

I think it is important to be considered about why you are getting pilgrimage gear. I am also a layperson doing the pilgrimage, and my trip is only possible through the goodwill of the many locals who support me (from osettai gifts to just being friendly with directions). This goodwill, in many respects, is due to locals supporting the people whom they trust to be doing a walk as part of their faith. While many are aware that foreign visitors are doing the pilgrimage out of cultural interest, we should be mindful that we are guests under the auspices of the locals. This is all to say, irrespective of our faith, or lack thereof, the Shikoku Pilgrimage is a religious pilgrimage, and specifically Buddhist pilgrimage. I don’t think there is a correct answer as to whether to get all the pilgrimage gear or not. I personally did not, based on my specific understanding of the Buddhist text I have studied. Though I lean towards suggesting not getting items unless you have a specific reason to, especially to reduce consumerism, it is up to each person to decide how best to respect the host region and its peoples.

6. Miscellaneous / Laundry / Emergencies: ¥21,080 / US$ 169

I think one of the big miscellaneous items was actually a new pair of runners because the sole of my (already old) runners came off. I had super glued them back together a few times, which gave them an extra week until I made it to Matsuyama. I think that costed at least US$80.

The other thing I suggest people factor in is money for laundry. One important thing to factor in are rest day because that is when you can do your laundry, take care of errands and life admin, or just rest your muscles and joints.

7. Additional Costs

Trip gear
Note that this daily budget sheet did not include the trip gear that I previously had. The major investment that I made was for a sleeping bag (approx US$100) and tent (approx US$100). I did not get any other specific equipment for the trip because I wore my runners, sports clothes, and day backpack from my other trips. Investing in better equipment, such as lightweight hiking clothing, can make your trip a lot easier. Your trip equipment can be a significant investment if you do not already regularly hike or backpack. You can check my cost considerations and packing list for more information.

A note about visas
My trip did not require a visa, which of course saves money. I believe US, Australian, and EU citizens can go to Japan without a visa. I know Chinese nationals need a visa, so I imagine visitors from other countries may also need to check those regulations as well.

Souvenirs
I think this went into my miscellaneous section. I bought charms for friends as souvenirs when I found one that I liked, had something that was meaningful, and knew that person would like. I think temple charms are about the best souvenirs to give, and more distinct than the stuff you will get in Osaka or Tokyo.

  A B   C D E F G H I
1
Exchange to HKD Exchange to USD   Expenses: 40-day Shikoku Pilgrimage Cost Breakdown (June – August 2015)
2
16.05 124.42   PRICES IN JAPANESE YEN (JPY)**** US$1 = 124.42 YEN / HK$1 = 16.05 YEN*****
3
Date Day   Lodging Food Activities Transp. Misc Location NOTES
                     
4
15-Jun 0     5,150 820 Awa (阿波)
transportation to Kawata, omi-age
5
16-Jun 0         Awa (阿波)  
6
      Shikoku Pilgrimage Starts
7
17-Jun 1         Awa (阿波)  
8
18-Jun 0         Awa (阿波)  
9
19-Jun 2   967 5,104 2,040 1,170 Awa (阿波)
henro gear, 2x temple stamps, mail camera to Tokyo
10
20-Jun 0         Awa (阿波)  
11
21-Jun 0         Awa (阿波)  
12
22-Jun 0         Awa (阿波)  
13
23-Jun 3   91 1,130 480   Anan (阿南)
2x stamps 1x charm
14
24-Jun 4   130 2,130     Anan (阿南)
3x stamps 2x maps 2x charms
15
25-Jun 5   784 910   1,170 Minami
1x stamp, onsen plus coin dryer
16
26-Jun 6   600 790   Shishikui onsen and train
17
27-Jun 7   833 1,400 1,470   Katayama (立石)
3x stamp, 1x charm
18
28-Jun 8   1,786 300    
Kounomine-ji (神峯寺)
1x stamp
19
29-Jun 9   1,113       Ya Sea Park  
20
30-Jun 10   6,200 2,449 1,700     Kochi (高知)
3x stamp, 1x onsen, Chres hotel
21
1-Jul 11   1,284 837 1,200 360   Kochi (高知)
2x stamp, 3x postcards, 1x charm
22
2-Jul 12   1,284 1,062 1,400 1,480   Kochi (高知)
3x stamp, 1x charm
23
3-Jul 13   305 300 1,760   Susaki
1x stamp, 2x bus, 1x boat
24
4-Jul 14   1,377   360 367 Shimanto (四万十)
Additional incense, personal items
25
5-Jul 15   3,852 1,172 810 400   Shimanto (四万十)
1x stamp, 1x onsen
26
6-Jul 16   1,000       Shimanto (四万十)  
27
7-Jul 17   1,945   400   Bios Oogata  
28
8-Jul 18   4,000 974 600    
Shimonokae (下野加江)
1x onsen
29
9-Jul 19   800 300 2,370   Hirata (平田) 1x stamp
30
10-Jul 20   1,078 950 2,830   Muden (務田)
1x stamp, 1x onsen
31
11-Jul 21   1,285 910 2,640  
Matsuyama (松山)
4x stamp, rapid train
32
12-Jul 22   2,000 3,561 3,080 830 752
Matsuyama (松山)
5x stamp, 1x onsen, travel items, laundry, 3x postcards
33
13-Jul 23   2,000 1,327   160 9,365
Matsuyama (松山)
travel items, runners, 1x postcard
34
14-Jul 24   680 600 1,150 910
Family Mart close to Enmioji
2x stamp, 1x parcel, parking
35
15-Jul 25   1,412 445 2,000 450   Imabari (今治)
5x stamp, 1x charm
36
16-Jul 26   259 930 220   Imabari (今治) 3x stamp
37
17-Jul 27   1,260 770 50 Saijio (西条市三芳)
4x stamp, incense
38
18-Jul 28   1,412 1,076 870 670   Imabari (今治) 1x stamp, onsen
39
19-Jul 29   1,156   550   Iyo Doi (伊予土居)  
40
20-Jul 30   4,320 1,763 300   3,596
Shikoku chuo (四国中央市)
1x stamp, 4x souvenirs, haircut
41
21-Jul 31   3,500 949 900 210   Kanonji (觀音寺) 3xstamp
42
22-Jul 32   1,200 891 920 1,560  
Furai Mino Michi no Eki
3x stamp, 1x ropeway, onsen until midnight
43
23-Jul 33   2,000 760 1,800     capsule hotel 6x stamps
44
24-Jul 34   1,666 180   420
temple 82 outside
5x stamps, osettai drinks
45
25-Jul 35   1,090 300 220 1,700
Takamatsu (高松)
1x stamp, osettai lodging for Kouhei
46
26-Jul 36   2,465 970 2,030 500
Takamatsu (高松)
3x stamp, trip to Utazu for retainer, laundry
47
27-Jul 37   3,000   600 1,910 260 Tokushima (徳島)
2x stamps, incense
48
28-Jul 38     2,460 360  
Awa Kamoshima 鴨島
7x stamp, onsen
49
29-Jul 39   3,000 920 1,800 220   Tokushima (徳島) 6x stamp
50
30-Jul 40     300 760   Awa (阿波) 1x stamp
51
31-Jul 0   244       Awa (阿波)  
52
              TRIP TOTAL DAILY AVG
53
  TOT JPY   40,465 39,240 39,014 34,600 21,080 174,399 4,360
54
  TOT USD   325 315 314 278 169 1,402 35
55
  TOT HKD   2,521 2,445 2,431 2,156 1,313 10,866 272

That’s it. You can also visit my post on Shikoku Pilgrimage Cost Considerations to get a more detailed list of item costs as well as my packing list post to get a sense of the items you may need to buy if you do not regularly hike or backpack.


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