I had originally compiled a Henro Glossary along with my Shikoku Pilgrimage diary entries after completing the Ohenro in 2015. The main purpose of the glossary was to help people read my diary entries, so the terminology did not aim to be comprehensive. In some cases, there are entries that seem out of place as they reflect my personal experiences and interest in historical ideas or peoples. This latest version has re-categorised my old version.

nokyocho temple stamp
Pilgrims usually get a nokyocho, temple stamp book, for handwritten temple stamps.

For people who would like a complete guide, I highly recommend picking up the Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide after you arrive at Temple 1 (Amazon is overpriced).

The sections for terms are:

  1. Pilgrim Accessories
  2. Temple Terminology
  3. Pilgrimage, Buddhist, & Shinto Vocabulary
  4. Japanese Terms
  5. Common Japanese Expressions and Phrases
  6. Japanese Foods
  7. Places
  8. Historical & Literary References

1. Pilgrim Accessories

A picture of a Shikoku pilgrim in full henro gear.

Jirei 辞令 — The bell that is usually tied to the top of your walking stick or worn on your belt.

Juzu 数珠 or Nenzu 念珠 — Rosary beads, which is I believe traditionally made of wood, but now comes in all forms.

Hakui 白衣 – This is the white vest many pilgrims wear throughout the pilgrimage. It may be worn on top of other clothes. The pilgrim’s vest was historically worn because it would be more convenient for burial if someone died along the way. Now, it represents innocence and purity. Some pilgrims get their vests stamped so that they can be burned with it at their funeral.

Kongōtsue 金剛杖 — Tsue 杖 is the word for staff. The staff represents Kobo Daishi, who walks with all pilgrims on their journey. As such, it is customary to take care of the staff by washing its base and putting it in a good spot before one sits down to rest. Check the section on Kongo to find out what it means.

Kongo 金剛 — The Chinese translation of the “vajra”, which symbolises the diamond and the thunderbolt and refers to a canonical Buddhist text called the Diamond Sutra 金剛經, which was translated into Chinese in the Tang Dynasty (it is among the famous Dunhuang transcripts) and became a central text in Mahayana Buddhism, and especially Chan / Zen Buddhism. The text is not a part of the Shingon Buddhist tradition, which is the only Escoteric / Vajrayana branch related to Tibetan Buddhism. However, Buddhist schools borrow from each other, get mixed up, and appropriate terms from each other, so that I almost take it as the Buddhist word for holy.

Kyōhon教本 — This word actually means textbook. In the Ohenro, it refers specifically to the small print copy of the Heart Sutra and all the mantras and goeika that are to be chanted at each temple.

Nokyocho 納経帳 – A handwritten temple ‘stamp’ and also the temple stamp book. It was once used by pilgrims in the Edo period to prove that they were doing a pilgrimage, since people could not move freely and had to frequently cross check-points. Today, these are collected as good fortune; people who get them written on their pilgrim’s vest are often burned with it at their funeral.

Shikoku temple stamps nokyocho
A brocade osamefuda is used by people who have completed the pilgrimge 100 times or more.

O-mamori お守り – A lucky charm. These charms have specific purposes, such as for good health, good grades, longevity, happiness, etc. The purposes are directly written into the cloth if it is a cloth bag (which should never be opened, lest your charm loses its power). There are also charms made into items, such as animals and vegetables.

Osamefuda 納札 – Nameslips to be deposited at each temple. Pilgrims write their names, address, and the date on each slip. These are also given to people who give pilgrims o-settai.

Rosoku 蝋燭 — Candles

Senko 線香 — Incense sticks that are to be used at each temple after prayers. I’ve generally see Japanese put in one. Chinese tend to put in three. I don’t know the exact reason for either.

Incense sticks can come in different colours.

Sedgehat / Sugegasa 菅笠 – A traditional cone-shaped straw hat found in East and South-East Asia that’s useful for blocking out the sun and rain. It is now usually only worn by pilgrims (both Buddhist and Shinto). The ones in Shikoku are usually larger and wider than the ones in Kyoto.

Shikoku 88 Route Guide Book – an invaluable English guide for walking henro through the entire pilgrimage. It includes convince stores, key transportation times, and lodging contacts. I highly recommend picking this up online or at the Temple 1 shop. There is a Japanese equivalent in print and online.

Wagesa — Wagesa Cotton or silk scarf, the layman’s equivalent of a monk’s kesa

2.Temple Terminology

buddhist statues on shikoku
Each temple will have their enshrined Nyorai (Buddha) deity and affiliate deities.

Chōzuya / temizuya / mizuya 手水舎 / 水屋 – It is the ceremonial purification wash basin, found in both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. It is customary to wash your hands and mouth here, and it is often guarded by a Japanese dragon.

Daishi Hall 大師堂 – The Daishi Hall is the shrine usually for the temple’s founder, or another famous Buddhist figure. For the Shikoku Pilgrimage, most Daishi Halls have Gyoki Bosatsu and Kukai / Kobo Daishi enshrined. They can also refer to small community shrines.

Komainu 狛犬 – They are a pair of lion-like creatures either guarding the entrance or the inner shrine of many Japanese Shinto shrines. They are found in some Buddhist temples, nobility residences and private homes.

Niō 仁王 or Kongōrikishi 金剛力士 – These are the two fierce-looking muscular statues that guard the main entrance gate to a Buddhist Temple. The right statue is called Misshaku Kongō (密迹金剛) and has his mouth open, and the left statue is called Naraen Kongō (那羅延金剛) and has his mouth closed. Together, they symbolize the birth and death of all things. They are manifestations of the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, the oldest and most powerful of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon that supposedly guarded Gautama Buddha during his travels.

Niōmon 仁王門 – The main gate to a Buddhist Temple, guarded by the two Niō, manifestations of the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi.

Torii (鳥居) – This is a traditional Japanese arch / gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks entrance to sacred grounds. The presence of a torii at the entrance is usually the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines,. They are also found in Japanese Buddhist temples, where they stand at the entrance of the temple’s own shrine, called chinjusha (鎮守社, tutelary god shrine).

Tōrō 灯籠 / 灯篭 / 灯楼 – Lanterns in Japanese temples. These can be made of stone, wood, or metal.


3. Pilgrimage, Buddhist, & Shinto Vocabulary

shikoku temple bell
Ringing the temple bell upon entering a temple.

You may wonder why I am putting Buddhist and Shinto terminology together. The reason is because the narrative that Shinto is “natively” Japanese and Buddhism is “imported” from China is government-engineered nation-building project. Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines were often one and the same place, acting as community gathering places up until the Meiji Restoration and forced separation of the two spiritual lessons. Places had to choose whether they were Buddhist or Shinto and throughout the Shikoku temples, there are still clues of the intermingled cultural lineages. As such, I have put these all together because I think of these as details to take note of in your journey through Shikoku.

Bangai Temples 番外 – There are officially 20 Bangai temples that are closely associated with Kukai and of cultural significance, but not part of the main 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Many pilgrims will also visit these, and collect a total of 108 stamps.

Dojo 道場 – Translated to exercise hall, but it also means a ‘place of training’, which in a Buddhist context means a cultivation of the mind.

– Hosshin no Dojo 発心の道場 – This is the Place of Awakening, given to Tokushima Prefecture, formerly Awa Province. It has 23 temples, #1 – #23.

– Shugyo no Dojo 修行の道場 – This is the Place of Ascetic Training, given to Kochi Prefecture, formerly Tosa Province. It has 16 temples, #24 – 39.

– Bodai no Dojo 菩提の道場 – This is the Place of Enlightenment given to Ehime Prefecture, formerly Iyo Province. It has 26 temples, #40 – 65.

– Nehan no Dojo 涅槃の道場 – This is the Place of Nirvana, given to Kagawa Prefecture, formerly Sanuki Province. It has 23 temples, #66 – 88.

Go-hyaku rakan 五百羅漢 – The 500 Disciples of the Buddha, or otherwise known as the Arhats, perfect beings whom have attained Nirvana in the Buddhist tradition. Depending on the school, they may be equivalent to, or just below, a bodhisattva. They can be thought of as the equivalent of saints and apostles in the Buddhist canon. Different schools have different numbers, and the 500 only appear in Chinese and Japanese traditions.

Henro 遍路 — This term refers to both pilgrims as well as the Shikoku 88 Temple Route. “O” is an honorific to convey respect, so you will more likely hear the term “ohenro” when people talk about the route or address you as “ohenro-san”. The route can also be referred to as “Junrei”.

– Aruki henro 歩き遍路 – A pilgrim who walks. Other common types of henro are ‘bus henro’ and ‘driving henro’, and ‘cycling henro’.

Henro Goya 遍路小屋・へんろ小屋 Henro rest huts that have been built by local communities all around Shikoku to support pilgrims.

Henro korogashi 遍路ころがし – The literal meaning is ‘when a pilgrim falls down’. These are said to be the difficult places along the route, usually in steep up and down areas. The routes to Temples 12, 20, 21, 27, 60, 66, 81, and 82 are considered henro korogashi. Parts of of the route to 88 are have the henro korogashi labels too.

Henro-no-michi 遍路の道 – Literally the henro’s path. This refers physically to the pilgrimage route and for walking henro often has many stickers at paths and intersections to help guide the way. It also means the spiritual path that one goes along while walking.

Hyōtan 瓢箪 / ひょうたん – Calabash Gourd / Bottle Gourd. The gourd has high significance in both Chinese and Japanese cultures. In Japan, the gourd can symbolise the reclining Buddha, mystical accomplishment of the impossible. In China it was used by one of the 8 Taoist Immortals, and something of a magic box, and often a container for water and wine. They can also represent happiness, success, longevity and good luck. In Japan, it was adopted by Hideyoshi, one of the 3 unifiers of 16th century Japan, A man of humble birth who chose the gourd as one of his heraldic signs.

Ikkoku-mairi 一国参り – Doing the temples in one prefecture

Jizo / Jizo Bosatsu 地蔵菩薩 – Jizo is believed to be the guardian deity for children, pregnant women, and travellers. They are often portrayed in folktales are disguised individuals who bring good fortune to those who are honest and kind. Their statues are often simple, with shaved heads and a benevolent smile; worshipers often cover their heads with a beanie / toque to keep them warm.

Junrei 巡礼 – The name for the Shikoku Pilgrimage. An alternative is the ohenro.

Kechigan 結願 – This is when one has visited all 88 temples. Some consider this to be after you return to your first temple, and still others after you return to Koya-san.

Kugiri-uchi 区切り打ち – Doing a part of the pilgrimage at a time. (See Tōshi-uchi)

Nojuku 野宿 – Basically camping. Nojuku henro seek out free places to stay during their pilgrimage, making due with bus stops, marked henro rest huts, temple tsuyados and zenkonyados.

Non-attachment – Non-attachment is a state in which a person overcomes his or her attachment to desire for things, people or concepts of the world and is a step towards Enlightenment. You can read more here.

O-settai お接待 – Charitable gifts willingly offered to pilgrims (materials and favours). It is believed that in helping a pilgrim, one is in fact, helping Kobo Daishi, and it is therefore considered impolite to refuse an offer of osettai. This custom of giving has been around for centuries as part of the ohenro culture on Shikoku.

O-Waraji お草鞋 – The straw sandals that were the standard footwear of Japan, even by samurai and foot soldiers. They may still be worn by traditional Buddhist monks. When hung at temples and shrines, they are meant to ward off evil spirits.

Shimenawa 標縄・注連縄 – Shinto-related. These are ropes decorated with paper streamers called shide that surround yorishiro, an object capable of attracting kami, spirits. They often wrap around trees or are tied between places, such as rocks or two trees.

Shinto 神道 – An action-centred religion in Japan that worships kami, spirits or gods, manifesting in multiple many things, such as rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people. Shinto practices were first mentioned in written historical records from the 6th Century. However, these refer to a variety of local beliefs and mythology. Shinto today is a term that applies to the religion of public shrines devoted to the worship for different kami. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian periods.

Shingon Buddhism Shingon-shū 真言宗 – Shingon Buddhism is one of the major schools of Buddhism in Japan and one of the few surviving Vajrayana, or Tantric, lineages in East Asia. It originally spread from India to China. The Japanese monk Kūkai (空海) travelled to Tang China to learn the esoteric teachings at the Azure Dragon Temple (青龍寺) under Huiguo (惠果), the 7th and last Patriarch of the Shingon Sect in China. Shingon Buddhism is based on early tantras, not sutras and it follows the Mandala of the Two Realms – The Womb Realm Mandala and the Diamond Realm Mandala, which are found displayed together in Shingon temples. Shingon teachings hold that while nothing can be said of Enlightenment verbally, it can be communicated via esoteric rituals, and that it is possible to attain within this lifetime. Shingon’s emphasis on ritual gained support in the Kyoto nobility even during Kukai’s lifetime. The other major schools of Buddhism in Japan are the Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen.

Shugendō 修験道 – Often translated as “mountain worship”, and has Shinto influences. It is a religion that originated in Heian Japan where it is believed that enlightenment is equated with attaining oneness with the kami, the gods and spirits. Shugendō is a blend of pre-Buddhist mountain worship, Kannabi Shinkō 神奈備信仰, the idea that mountains are the home of the dead and of agricultural spirits, shamanism, animism and ascetic practices. However, elements of it are incorporated into some Buddhist practices and vice versa.

Tōshi-uchi 通し打ち – To do the whole pilgrimage at one time. (See kugiri-uchi).

Tsūyadō 通夜堂 – Free lodging for pilgrims provided by temples, usually huts or other buildings in temple compounds.

Zaō Gongen 蔵王権現 – It is a protective deity, Avatar of Diamond Realm in Buddhist tradition and the Avatar of the Mountain King. After Buddhism became popularized in Japan after the Heian period, the native Japanese kami (gods and spirits) and buddhas were theorised to be essentially the same. This meant that native kami were manifestations or avatars of buddhas and bodhisattvas. He is most often found in Kumano, modern day Kinki, which is the cradle of Shugendo.

Yorishiro 依り代・依代・憑り代・憑代 – Shinto-related. This is an object capable of attracting kami, spirits. Yorishiro are used during ceremonies to call the kami for worship to help with things such as harvests, good health, war, etc. Once a yorishiro actually houses a kami, it is called a shintai. They are marked by things such as cats, shimenawa, ropes with paper streamers, and small shrines.

Zenninyado 善人宿 – Free lodging offered to pilgrims in someone’s home

Zenkonyado 善根宿 – Free/cheap lodging provided by locals for pilgrims


4. Japanese Terms

kami 神 – god(s) & spirit(s)

Kawa 川 – river (i.e. Kubokawa)

Konbini コンビニ – The Japanese contraction for convenience store. These include Lawson, Family Mart, 7/11, Aeon Mini Mart, etc. Most of them have ready-made meals, snacks, drinks, magazines, household items, travel items, ATM machines, ticket order machines, postal drop off services, microwaves, and 100 Yen coffee. They’re usually open 24/7. Lawson and Family Mart have no sign-in Wi-Fi access. Some have sit-down areas. They are lifelines for henro travelling light.

Meibutusu 名物 – Famous regional product. All places have one in Japan, and it is common to bring omiyage (see below) back after visiting such places.

Michi-no-eki 道の駅 — Roadside Station (Listed ones have outdoors rest area with roof).

Minshuku 民宿 – Family-run bed and breakfasts. Usually includes breakfast and dinner unless otherwise requested. Similar to ryokans.

Obaa-san お婆さん – Grandmother. Used for elderly without blood relations. Ojii-san is grandfather.

Ojii-san お爺さん – Grandfather. Used for elderly without blood relations. Obaa-san is grandmother.

Omiyage お土産 – Basically souvenirs, to be given to others. It is generally expected that someone who travels brings a specialty product from the area visited for people who could not make the trip, or for guests to bring one for their host.

Onsen 温泉 – Hotspring(s)

Ryokan 旅館 – Family-run bed and breakfasts. Usually includes breakfast and dinner unless otherwise requested. Similar to minshukus.

Sudomari 素泊まり – Stay in a ryokan / hotel / minshuku without meals

Tokyō斗栱 / 斗きょう – This is a series of interlocking blocks that hold the eaves of a Japanese temple upright since they do not use nails. You can find out more here. They are also called kumimono 組物 or masugumi 斗組.

Tsuyu 梅雨 – Summer rainy season that is essential for agriculture, but unideal for walking henro.

Yukata 浴衣 – Summer traditional Japanese clothing. It is often provided for onsen.


5. Common Japanese Expressions and Phrases

Go-yukkuri ごゆっくり – Please enjoy yourself / take your time. It literally means to go softly.

Gochisousamadeshita ごちそうさまでした – Literally, that was a feast. It is said after a meal.

Ichi-go ichi-e 一期一会 – Literally, One time, one meeting. It is a four-character Japanese idiom often translated as ‘this time only’ or ‘once in a lifetime’. It encourages people to cherish every moment, since many meetings in life are not repeated, and even if they were, no meeting is ever exactly the same. The concept is most commonly associated with Zen Buddhism and Japanese tea ceremonies following the tea master Sen no Rikyū’s teachings.

Itadakimasu いただきます – Literally translated: I humbly receive. Said before a meal, with hands together as in prayer, although it has no religious connotations.The expression after a meal is gochisousamadeshita. It is also said when receiving something from someone, such as an o-settai drink or snack.

Jya (じゃ) – See you! A casual goodbye to close friends.

Keigo 敬語 – Honorific / Formal Japanese. It is most often found in business settings and in the service industry. One may also use it for superiors / elders. Word choice, expression, and conjugation are entirely different from standard Japanese. For example, to eat, taberu 食べる would become meshiagaru 召し上がる.

Mata また – Goodbye, casual. This is one of the most common ways to say goodbye amongst friends. Other common expressions are mata ashita また明日, until tomorrow, and for people you may not see often mata zehi またぜひ, roughly meaning until next time / we’ll meet again.

Nisei 二世 – Second-generation. If it is said alone, it refers to second-generation Japanese in countries like Canada and the US.

Okaeri おかえり – It literally means, [you’ve] returned, but generally means ‘Welcome home.’ It is the customary thing to say when someone has returned home. The full expression is okaerinasai.

(O-)kiosuketekudasai お気をつけてください – Please be careful / Take care (polite form). Variations are o-kiosukete/kiosukete.

O-daiji-ni お大事に – This translates to ‘get well soon’ or ‘take care’ in honorific form. It can be more simply understood as a polite goodbye to strangers and/or elders.

Sayōnara さようなら – Goodbye. This implies that two people will not meet again, and therefore is rarely used except in final partings. Instead, most people will say Mata or Jya among friends.

Sumimasen すみません – Excuse me. Also said when receiving a gift.

Tadaima ただいま – It literally means ‘just now’, but generally means, ‘I’m back’. It’s the customary expression when one enters the doorway of the place they’re staying at (even if it is not their home). The full expression is tadaima kaerimashita, which means ‘I’ve returned home just now.’ The response from the person at home is okaeri.

Taihen desu ne 大変ですね?– Taihen-na (大変な) is the key word meaning tough, terrible, serious (adj). It can also mean very (adv) and a disaster (noun). Taihen desu ne is a common phrase to respond to a range of things, but often expressing sympathy. Oh no! That’s horrible! That must be so tough. It’s been rough hasn’t it? That’s troublesome. I’ll be in trouble.

Yappari (やっぱり) – I knew it / as I suspected / just as I thought.

Yoroshikuonegaishimasu (よろしくお願いします) – Generally translated to ‘Be kind to me’ or ‘Nice to meet you’ as it is commonly said right after meeting someone. It can also mean I’m indebted to you / I’m counting on you.


6. Japanese Foods

I tried regional udon to see the changes in local toppings.

Age あげ – Deep-fried dough that looks like rice crispy cereal. It is used often for udon, and occasionally for other dishes like soba.

Bento 弁当 – A take-out box or prepared lunch.

Buntan ぶんたん – A large yellow citrus fruit grown in Kochi.

Daifuku 大福 – A large type of mochi sweet with filling inside, usually red-bean.

Dango だんご – A sweet bean paste ball. It is one of Ehime’s famous products. The tri-coloured coloured red (azuki red bean), yellow (egg), and green (matcha) is called Botchan Dango, famous in the Dogo area of Matsuyama, where Natsume Soseki wrote the novel Botchan.

Genpi げんぴ – Sugar-coated deep-fried sticks, usually made with potato, sweet potato, or taro. It is a Kochi specialty food.

Jyoubisai 常備菜 – Prepared small dishes. These go into different sections of a bento box, or set meal.

Kaiseki / Kaiseki-ryōri 会席料理 / 懐石料理 – The first kaiseki refers to a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner, originating out of Kyoto with Imperial and aristocratic legacies. The second kaiseki refers to the simple meals served by tea houses that originated from the legendary tea master Sen no Rikyū (Rikyū), who had Zen Buddhist training and is credited with establishing the Japanese tea ceremony that is known today. Contemporary kaiseki often just refers to Japanese high cuisine that is influenced by Imperial cuisine (有職料理 yūsoku ryōri), Buddhist cuisine (精進料理 shōjin ryōri), samurai / Muromachi cuisine (本膳料理 honzen ryōri), and tea ceremony cuisine (茶懐石 cha kaiseki).

Kama-age udon 釜揚げうどん – It is a hot udon dish found in Miyazaki Prefecture and Shikoku (Tokushima, Ehime, and Kagawa Prefectures). It is the name for a type of udon that is served hot, in water, but dipped separately into a sauce bowl. The sauce varies according to location and season, but often has udon-soy sauce, green onions. Other common toppings include age, ginger, and special broths.

Katsuo– The fish for bonito flakes used in Japanese cuisine. Kochi Prefecture is one of the famous sources of this fish.

Katsuotataki 鰹たたき – Grilled sashimi made with the Katsuo (Bonito) fish. It is Kochi Prefecture’s claimed speciality.

Dashiだし – Fish stock often made from seaweed (konbu) and Katsuo that is used in many Japanese dishes such as miso soup, chawanmushi, and udon soup stock

Manju 饅頭 – Steamed buns, usually served with a sweet red-bean paste filling.

Mochi 餅 – A confectionary made with sticky rice flour. Flavours often include green tea, red bean, and kinako.

Mugicha 麦茶 – Roasted barley tea, cold-steeped and served cold. A refreshing and indispensable drink for Japan’s summer heat. Can be found in the refrigerator section of convenience stores, and bags for home-brewing can be bought in super markets.

Sumomo すもも – Literally sour peaches, but they are a small peach/plum that grows in areas of Shikoku and southern Japan.

Tsukemono 漬け物 – Cold side dishes, such as pickles. They are often in small trays alongside a main meal.

Yomogi よもぎ – Mugwort. An aromatic plant that is used in Japanese and Chinese desserts.

Youkan 羊羹 – A traditional sweet paste sold as a long block or tube, usually made of a single ingredient such as red bean or chestnut.

Yuzu ゆず – It is a sour citrus fruit found in East Asia that tastes like a mandarin-grapefruit mix. Kochi Prefecture produces yuzu and has many dishes and sauces featuring it.

Zaru-udon ざるうどん – Cold udon, commonly found during summer as a refreshing lunch. It is often served with udon-soy sauce and green onions. Other toppings can usually be ordered on the side.


7. Places

Chaozhou 潮州 – A city located in northern Guangdong Province close to Fujian Province. Culturally and linguistically, they are closer to the neighbouring Fujianese, as part of the larger ‘Minanese’ group in China. Also referred to as Chiuchow, Chaochow, or Teochew.

Chao-Shan 潮汕 – This refers to the region in Guangdong Province, China, encompassing Chaozhou and Shantou cities along the coast. This area is culturally Minanese rather than the dominant Cantonese of Guangdong. As it is a traditionally poor region of the otherwise prosperous province, it has experienced centuries of emmigration, with communities across South-East Asia and the New World.

Godai-san / Wutai Mountain 五台山 – Godai-san is the Japanese name for Wutai Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Shanxi, China, with over 53 Buddhist monasteries. It is surrounded by 5 flat-topped peaks, hence the name ‘Five Plateau Mountain’; the Northern one is the highest mountain in Northern China. It is considered a sacred mountain.

Koya-San / Mt. Koya 高野山 – This is the Headquarters of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism founded by Kukai / Kobo Daishi. It is located in Wakayama Prefecture, close to Osaka. At the top of Mount Koya, there is the largest religious city in Japan, with 3000 inhabitants and over 100 temples. Many pilgrims either begin or end their pilgrimage here, offering their greetings and thanks to Kobo Daishi.

Shikoku 四国 – The smallest of Japan’s 4 main islands, and the birthplace of Kobo Daishi, the Founder of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism in Japan. It is the only main island that is NOT connected by Shinkansen.


8. Historical & Literary References

Chōsokabe Motochika 長宗我部 元親 (1539 – 1599) – He was the 21st head of the Chōsokabe clan of Tosa Province (present-day Kōchi Prefecture) and the person who unified Shikoku during the Sengoku period. He also burned down many Buddhist temples during his conquests, and most of the current historical structures were rebuilt in the 17th century.

Gyōki / Gyōki Bosatsu 行基菩薩 (668–749) – Gyōki was a Japanese Buddhist priest of the Nara period and Gyōki became a monk at the age of 15. He was one of the first monks (certainly the most famous) to travel Japan preaching to commoners and founding many temples, monasteries and nunneries that also functioned as hospitals for the poor. He also oversaw infrastructural and irrigation projects, and is credited with creating the ‘Gyoki map‘, even though it is unclear he actually created it. He is credited with founding 30 of the 88 Shikoku Pilgrimage temples.

Huineng (惠能) 638–713 – In the official Chinese religious canon, Huineng became the 6th Patriarch of China’s Chan Buddhist School by providing a better answer to the 5th Patriarch’s riddle than the favourite, Shenxiu.

Kukai / Kobo Daishi 空海 (774-835) – Kukai is the 8th Patriarch of Shingon Buddhism. In his early years, he studied the Chinese classics, became a monk and a wandering ascetic. Between 804-6, he studied under the 7th Patriarch, Hui-kuo at a temple called Shouryuuji in China, and was appointed the head of the Sect and returned to Japan to spread the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism. Upon returning to Japan, he was appointed the administrative head of Toodaiji in Nara and acted as such until 813. In 816, he was granted permission by the Emperor to use Mt. Koya as a temple ground. It remains to this day the headquarters of the Shingon Sect. He is affectionately called Kobo Daishi, and is thought to accompany all pilgrims on their journey (represented by the staff).

Minamoto no Yoritomo 源頼朝(1147 – 1199) – He was the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, the first shogunate, in Japan after the decline of imperial rule. His forces defeated the most powerful clan, the Heike or Taira, during the Genpei War, which began due to a dispute erupted over imperial succession. According to legend, after the war, he killed his half-brother, the successful general

Prince Shōtoku 聖徳太子 (572 – 622) – The Prince was a regent and politician of the Asuka Period (538 – 710). Shōtoku established a centralized government, the Twelve Level Cap and Rank System, and promulgating a Seventeen-article constitution during his reign as regent. He was an ardent Buddhist, credited with founding Japanese Buddhism and traditionally attributed the authorship of the Sangyō Gisho or “Annotated Commentaries on the Three Sutras” (the Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra).

Sakamoto Ryōma 坂本 龍馬 (1836 – 1867) – He was a prominent figure in the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate. He envisioned a Japan where all men were born equal, and had a unique Japanese and Western-influenced dress: Japanese clothing with Western shoes. He still features prominently in Kochi, often found in packaging, posters, displays, and historically associated sites. He was eventually assassinated in Kyoto.

Shinran 親鸞 (1173 – 1263) – Shinran was the founder of the Jōdo Shinshū (浄土真宗), True Pure Land School of Buddhism after studying under Hōnen of the Tiandai School (unrelated to Kukai’s Shingon Sect). He ate meat and married after being ordained a monk, it is said, to prove a point that Buddhism is for everyone and not just monks. The practice did not become common until the Meiji Restoration, when the government passed the Nikujiku Saitai Law (肉食妻帯) was passed allowing monks or priests of any Buddhist sect to seek wives. You can read more about Shinran here.


That’s it for now! If you have not already, check out my Shikoku FAQ post if you are planning your journey! Also, please leave your e-mail if you want the occasional update on Shikoku in the future.

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