Budget travelling is possible in Japan, and Shikoku is no exception. In fact, it’s probably one of the most affordable places to go backpacking in the Japanese countryside if have 2-6 weeks. This post covers the cost considerations for the Shikoku Pilgrimage, including accommodation, transportation, wifi, food, temple visits, etc. The types of costs are broken down to help you understand the factors you should consider for your needs

Overview of Sections

  1. Accommodation / Lodgings
  2. Transportation
  3. Wifi
  4. Food
  5. Temple Visits
  6. Essential Walking Henro Gear
  7. Pilgrimage-Related Gear
  8. Additional Costs

1. Accommodation / Lodgings

japanese ryokan room
A private room in a ryokan.

Shikoku’s accommodation price tiers are about the same as other parts of Japan. Hotels and luxury ryokans are at the top and can easily cost over ¥10,000 / US$100 a night with inclusive multi-course meals or even your own private onsen. On the other extreme, you can camp for free at one of the 50+ henro huts, built by local communities, to support walking pilgrims. For further information on finding places to stay on Shikoku (including budget/free accommodations), please check my post on Shikoku Pilgrimage Lodging.

Hotels on Shikoku are more basic than the big cities in Japan. You won’t find any Shangri-La 5-star resorts here. Many of the better business hotels are also clustered in the main cities of Tokushima, Kochi, Matsuyama, and Takamatsu. High-end ryokans are usually found at one or two famous location, such as Cape Ashizuri, but for the most part are not easy to get to as many may be in more secluded mountain areas.

Business hotels offer basic, but usually very clean, accommodations. They are a reliable place to get a good clean up, and generally I find that Japanese business hotels like APA are better than the American Holiday Inn equivalents. Note that some hotels have smoking floors, so when you make a booking, make sure to have a reservation that isn’t for smoking.

Basic ryokan and minshuku are like serviced hostels. During peak season, you may be sharing the same open room with a few other pilgrims. During off season, you may have the whole tatami guest room to yourself. They are usually family run, and will usually offer one meal in the booking, so if you want to save some money, you can request “Sudomari”, a stay without meals and it will be deducted from your fee. The ones that offer cheaper prices for pilgrims are usually around ¥3000 / US$30 and on my Shikoku Lodging list.

Zenkonyado are free or very cheap accommodations specifically for henro / pilgrims. These may be run by an individual or a community. Check in in my Shikoku Lodging list to see more details. This is mostly unique to Shikoku.

Free accommodations include tsuyado, temple lodgings, henro goya henro huts, and camping in parks. These locations are in my Shikoku Lodging list. Note that this is a unique feature of Shikoku, so backpackers in other parts of rural Japan should not expect this, except for mountaineers who will find rest huts on some mountains.

LodgingsAsk to see if meals are included
Hotels & Nice Ryokans¥6,000 – ¥90,00
Business hotel¥3,000 – ¥6,000
Hostel, Minshuku, Basic Ryokans¥2,000 – ¥4,000
Zenkonyado¥0 – ¥1,000
Tsuyado, Henro Huts, CampingNo cost

2. Transportation

I am giving ballpark figures in this section, but it is also possible to search for exact train, bus and ferry fares, as they are publicly available and can often be booked online. Tickets for public transport are standardised prices. In this section, basically anything under ¥1000/$10 is not accounted for. Transportation is broken down into two parts:

  1. Getting to Shikoku
  2. Getting around Shikoku

Getting to Shikoku

Getting to Japan: US$1000-2000 (round trip airfare)

I suggest flying to Kansai International Airport directly. I do not recommend flying to Tokyo because it is much further. The cheapest way to get from Tokyo to Tokushima, where the pilgrimage begins is via a highway bus (which is probably nicer than their American counterparts).

I think most people should expect to spend at least US$1000 round trip airfare to Japan, though friends in neighbouring Asian regions will probably be able to find charter flights on Peach Airlines, which flies directly into Kansai Airport.

Getting to Tokushima: US$ 50-80 one-way
Tokushima is where you start the journey. The simplest, most comfortable, and cheapest way is to take the highway bus and you can explore the Google Map Search screencap below. There is a direct bus from Kansai International Airport to Tokushima Station. The only challenge is that highway buses called 高速バス only have Japanese directories and instructions.

You can check Highway bus schedules on this Japanese website (the English one had no results when I tried to use it). You can also try this alternative Japanese bus website.

Sample Cost from KIX AirportOne-Way Fares
Kansai International Airport to Tokushima Station¥4,100
Train from Tokushima Station to Bandō Station
(Then 15 minute walk to Temple One)
¥260
More Options to get to TokushimaOne-Way Fares
Bus from Osaka¥3,000 – ¥6,000
Bus from Tokyo to Tokushima (one-way)¥6,000 – ¥8,000
Train from Osaka3+ transfers and US$100+
Train from Tokyo3 transfers and US$200+
Ferry from Wakayama to Tokushima¥2,000 (one way)

Getting around Shikoku

Shikoku is served by the JR Shikoku (JR 四国) train, which covers the length of Ehime and Kagawa Prefectures, and part of Kochi and Tokushima Prefecture. You can check my JR Shikoku Pass trip to see the full coverage of the train.

You can use Google Map to search for train routes, which are accurate for times and prices. In some cases, it includes buses, but those may be more confusing or less accurate.

The area between and around two Southern capes, Cape Muroto and Cape Ashizuri, do not have much train access. They are served by local buses that come only a few times a day. I suggest you get the Shikoku 88 Guide (Amazon for ¥1728), at the Tokushima Station basement souvenir shop, and Temple #1 because it has the bus times and the bus stops.

Going to Mount Koya: ~¥70,000

Traditionally, pilgrims are supposed to go to Mount Koya before and after Ohenro. They go before to wish for a safe passage and after to thank Kobo Daishi for his help. Below are the fares for going to Mount Koya from Osaka (before your trip) and from Tokushima (after your trip). As the tickets are mostly standardised, the same applies if you are going the opposite direction.

Note that if you decide to Mount Koya, I recommend staying over one night as it gives you more time in the vast Buddhist town. But even if you do not, you will likely need to book at least one night accommodation in a nearby area, such as Osaka or Wakayama.

Going to Mount KoyaOne-Way Fares
From Osaka to Mount Koya
Train from Kansai International Airport to Wakayama City¥870
Train from Namba Station in Osaka to Gokurakubashi Station¥870
Cable Car from Gokurakubashi Station to Mount. Kōya¥1,260
Koyasan World Heritage Ticket (Round trip Train & Cable Car Included)¥2,860
Ōsaka to Kudoyama Station (for Koyasan Choishi Michi)¥1,300
From Tokushima To Mount Koya
Bus from Tokushima Port to Tokushima Station¥200
Ferry from Tokushima to Wakayama¥2,000
Train from Wakayama Port to Wakayama City¥150
Train from Wakayama City to Mount. Kōya¥1,690
Bus from Kōya Station into Kōya Town¥210

3. Wifi: ¥10,000 – ¥40,000 / US$100-400

My local data-only SIM costed me US$4 per month, but I had to pre-order it and have it sent to a residential address in Tokyo. A local data-only SIM can start at ¥4,000 per month.

Pocket Wifi’s usually cost around US$5-10 per day. Hong Kong is actually cheaper and faster than the ones you can rent in Japan. A company like WiFiBB rents them for HK$25/US$3 per day.
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Sim card with cellular & limited data services 
Sim card with limited data only¥6,000 – ¥35,000
Pocket wifi¥9,000 – ¥35,000

4. Food: ¥1,200 – ¥3,000 / US$15-30 per day

homemade onigiri japanese countryside
I lived off of onigiri from convenience stores, supermarkets, and homemade ones.

Convenience stores are staples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage and throughout the rest of Japan because chain such as Family Mart, Lawson, Sunkus, and 7/i are open 24/7 and always have food. Selections always include bread, cold food like sandwiches and hot food (like oden) and microwaveable meals. A free microwave is provided and these convenience stores will always have hot coffee (usually for ¥100). A meal could be ¥150 – ¥1000+ depending on whether you buy a bun or collect a full meal.

Supermarkets are more economical options compared to convenience stores. They often have bigger bento boxes for the same price as convenience stores. If you go after 6pm, there will usually be sales marked with 割引 stickers, which makes your sushi dinner a great value! Also use supermarkets to stock up on snacks.

Ryokan and minshuku may have meals in their room price. You should always clarify with the place you are booking with. For example, some places may give you a base booking quote that is ¥3000 for sudomari and add ¥1,500 for dinner and ¥1,000 for breakfast that comes to a total of ¥5,500. Another ryokan may give you a quote that is ¥4000 including a dinner, and make the stay ¥3000 after you ask for sudomari, no meals.

  • Dinner: ¥1,000 – ¥3,000
  • Breakfast ¥1,000 – ¥1,500

Places generally do not have “bundle” offers or discounts if you do a stay with a meal. They will just add or deduct what their meal price is, so you are perfectly entitled to bring your own food from the convenience store and eat it in your room (not the outer dining hall).

The figures below are rough estimates and based on the assumption of 1 portion per person. I can imagine that some people will need two portions per meal.

MealsB
Ryokan/minshuku surcharge for dinners¥1,000 – ¥2,000
Ryokan/minshuku surcharge for breakfasts¥1000 – ¥1,500
Restaurant fixed meal (teishoku)¥1000 – ¥2000
Restaurant meal (onigiri & udon noodles)¥400 – ¥600
Convenience or supermarket bento¥400 – ¥1000
Meal replacements & energy drinks¥200 – ¥400
Vending machines (per drink)¥100 – ¥300

5. Temple Visits: ~¥30,000 / US$300

shikoku pilgrimage temple stamps
Getting a temple stamp.

Generally, temple stamps cost ¥300. I have encountered cases where they costed ¥200 and I think one instance where it was ¥500. Some people also put monetary offerings into the collection boxes and the amount is up to you.

This section will hover around: ¥300 * 88 = ¥26,400.

You may also have additional expenses if you buy charms of souvenirs.

Pilgrimage-related gear is in another section below.


6. Essential Walking Henro Gear

You can find a detailed list of items in my pilgrimage packing list post. The bottom line no matter what you bring is to make sure you can comfortably walk with your bag for a full 8 hours / 20 kilometres. Below is a general guide for weight to get you started:

  • Cis-males: 12-15kg
  • Cis-females: 6-10kg

Trans and genderqueer friends, please make an appropriate decision based on your muscle mass.

Please do not try to carry more to prove a point. I have an athletic bent, so I am all for training, but starting with too much is not so much training as it is risking. If you are planning to walk and camp, you will need to last for 20+ days, likely with inadequate sleep for a few nights. Please do what is comfortable and please try walking with your gear at home before your trip. If you wake up the next day and you are not sore, you should be fine. Most people (myself included) overpack initially. A sign that you have packed too much is when your shoulder hurts within 3 hours. If you feel mostly fine during your 8 hours of walking, but are sore the next day, that is probably a good amount.

This section focuses on prices and the larger items that people may have to buy. It does not include daily items, which are covered in my packing list post. Depending on the season, you may need to purchase light-weight clothing, as Japan has rainy season in June and typhoons from summer through to September.

I think the Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide is an essential book. Even if you have a smartphone with all your preloaded maps, the book not only helps with the route, but provides interesting nuggets of history and culture at each temple.

Guidebook/Maps: Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide
(Temple #1, Tokushima Station basement souvenir shop & Amazon)
~¥1,800
Backpack with back support (15-30 litres)US$100-US$300
Hiking boots / Comfortable walking shoesUS$100+
Light rain gear$125+

For people planning to do camping The packing list for the Shikoku pilgrimage is a lighter version of packing for a multi-day trek.

Sleeping Bag¥1,600 / US$ 16
Tent (optonal)US$100-US$300
Mosquito net (Optional, season dependent)US$100+
Headlamp / mini flashlightUS$20+

7. Pilgrimage-Related Gear: ~US$200

Buying the usual gear will include: the stamp book, sedge hat, white vest, walking stick, bell, osamefuda, candles, incense sticks. That will probably be between US$150 – US$200 depending on which styles you choose.

I think some of the gear is practical, even for walking. If you are a follower of Shingon Buddhism, then you will likely already know the symbolic significance of each item, in which case, of course, get what you need. Speaking to other laypersons who want to do the Ohenro for cultural reasons, I highly suggest you ask yourself the “5 Whys” if you want or don’t want to buy these items. I explain why this step is important in the pilgrimage-related gear sections in my budget post and my packing list.

The prices below are ballpark figures as many items have different sizes and versions. You can purchase all of them at Temple #1, when you begin your journey. Also remember that the more you buy, the more you have to carry.

Tip: Lots of walking sticks are left at Temple #1 and Temple #2 by pilgrims who have finished their journey. They are free to take.

I bought the temple stamp book, the sedge hat (large), walking stick bell, osamefuda (name slips), incense sticks. I left out the candles, but you can get those as well to do the whole temple routine.

Nōkyōchō (Temple stamp book)¥1,500 – ¥3,500
Miei collection book¥1,500 – ¥2,000
Sugegasa (Conical Sedge hat – small/large)¥1,200 – ¥3,000
Sugegasa rain cover¥500 – ¥800
Hakui (White pilgrim jacket)¥1,800 – ¥3,500
Pilgrim white pants¥1,500 – ¥3,000
Wagesa (Cotton or silk scarf)¥1,500 – ¥3,000
Kongōtsue (Walking stick)¥1,500 – ¥2,500
Walking stick cap / cover¥300 – ¥500
Bell (for walking stick)¥300 – ¥2,000
Osamefuda (Name slips) (pack of 200)¥200
Candles (per box of 60)¥250
Fudabasami (Pilgrim bag for worship items)¥1,500 – ¥3,800
Incense sticks (per box of 150)¥360
Juzu (Rosary)¥1,500 +
Kyōhon (Heart Sutra & Mantras)¥500 – ¥700

8. Additional Costs

Visas

The big additional cost can be a visa, which doesn’t apply to most people whom I’ve seen write about the pilgrimage because most of us have 90-day visa-free access to Japan. Please check your country before buying plane tickets.

Hot Springs / Onsen: ¥400 – ¥1500 per entry

If you are doing nojuku, camping, onsen will be a wonderful luxury. These hotsprings are where you can get cleaned up. I took detours to go to onsens. Even if you are not camping, having a good soak after a long day is a good luxury to indulge yourself with.

Laundry

Laundry is a must, unless you are on a bus-henro tour and manage to finish the whole thing in five days. Ryokan and minshuku may have laundry machines and I remember using one for free in Kochi. Cities will have coin laundries, so look out for those! I don’t remember how the laundry worked in other places because I tended to do laundry when I was showering.

Extra Stamps at Bangai Temples

Bangai temples are the additional temples that are not part of the 88, but have close association with the route or Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. In total, there are 20 Bangai temples, which brings you to a total of 108 potential temple visits.

Travel and Health Insurance

You will have to check with your travel agents, credit card companies, or insurance agents to figure out how much this would cost.

I have had accidents in Japan and did not have insurance, and a late-night hospital visit was definitely under US$100. Yes, it’s expensive, but in the grand scheme of things, it is not US extortionist prices. If you have an emergency, be prepared to spend US$100 and at least get it checked. If it is something serious, at least the doctor can advise you to go home immediately (which actually did happen to a henro I met).

ATM Fees / Bank Surcharges

Forget credit cards. Japan is a country that runs on cash, especially outside of Tokyo and tax-free chain stores. You need to pay ryokans and minshuku in cash. Local restaurants are in cash. Temples take cash.

I suggest you draw cash once, so that you incur only one transaction fee. You can do this at the airport because you will need to immediately start using the cash. Otherwise, do it at convenience store ATMs, which will be more readily available than banks.

If your local money exchange has good rates, consider coming to Japan with the cash in hand. Take out ¥10,000 (US$100) bills because you can break them at a convenience store by buying a ¥100 (US$1) item. Locals do this frequently too.

Souvenirs

Souvenirs can range widely, but forget whatever typical souvenirs you see on travel sites covering the major cities of Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto. Just remember that if you are walking, you will have to carry everything with you, which means you might want to pick up light items, or nothing at all until you leave. Generally, however, buying souvenirs on Shikoku will be more unique and reasonably priced than if you cross back over to Osaka or Kyoto.

For ¥300 you could buy a temple stamp and make that a souvenir. You can ask temples to write temple stamps on a piece of paper (as I did for the whole trip because I did not buy the book) and that would be one of the most unique things to give to a friend from Japan.

For ¥500 – ¥1,000 you could buy a charm. Every temple is different and usually has items that represent it. If you are a culinary person, this is also the price bracket for most local sauces and ingredients. You can either go to a supermarket, or go to the shop at the main train station in the major cities of Tokushima, Kochi, Matsuyama, and Takamatsu. You can also go to supermarkets, which sell local brands that differ even as you move between cities.

For ¥1,000+ you can buy many other local crafts. For example, Imabari towels are famous. Matsuyama is probably the best city on Shikoku to buy local crafts from shops in the downtown area.


You can also use this handy Shikoku Planning cost calculator as a quick ballpark estimation.

Finally, you can learn more in my Shikoku Pilgrimage daily expenses breakdown.

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