What is O-henro?
One can start the pilgrimage from any temple, but most pilgrims begin with first stop and continue along in order.Some people also start from Temple 88 and work their way around in the opposite order; it is said that the spiritual benefit is three times greater if the pilgrimage is undertaken this way.
In recent years, a popular way to go about completing the Shikoku 88 is "block visiting". Pilgrims decide a length of time and area they are going to, and then they complete different sections of the pilgrimage at different times, breaking up the 88 into smaller increments. Many people cannot spend the month or two it would take to complete the pilgrimage all in one go, so many people use long weekends or vacation time to do what they can while they can.
Transportation for O-henrosan includes buses, bicycles, and special taxis. Considering fitness level and overall health is important when choosing how to do the pilgrimage, and while many O-henrosan do walk the whole thing, many others still use a combination of transport styles. The important thing is the journey itself, not necessarily how it is taken.
Though of course pilgrims can wear whatever they like on their journey, the traditional outfit of the O-henrosan is the white "hakui" vest or jacket, with a "sugegasa" straw hat and the "kongo-zue" staff. This reminds O-henrosan of their sacred task and also signifies their status to others. Many O-henrosan personalize their attire, and including traditional elements means that many local people will want to interact with and help you. Do what feels right for you!
Temple 1, Ryozenji, is affectionately known as "Ichiban-san". It is usually quite busy and full of pilgrims getting ready to start their journeys. Many stores selling O-henro goods surround Ryozenji, so it is a veritable one-stop shop for all pilgrims could possibly need to get their best foot forward.
A gorgeous location where you can view all of Kochi City`s urban area and Urado Bay. In the Edo Period (1603~1868), it was said to be the center of Tosa culture as a temple school. Chikurinji`s gardens are nationally recognized, and the Buddhist icons in the Treasure House have all been designated Important Cultural Properties.
As it is also close to the world-famous Dogo Onsen, Ishiteji is popular not only with O-henrosan but also tourists. It is a bustling place with many shops along the temple`s path. The Nio Gate is designated a National Cultural Treasure, and the main temple, pagoda, Goma-do Hall, as well as the belfry with its bell have all been desginated Important Cultural Properties.
Temple 66, Unpenji, is 2,600 meters above sea level. It boasts Japan`s most advanced ropeway, which starts from the foot of the mountain and and goes to the peak at a brisk clip of 10 meters per second, covering a distance of 660 meters. It is well worth the visit even if you are not doing the pilgrimage, and is a very popular local attraction.
Zentsuji is the home of the Zentsuji sect of Shingon (Tantric) Buddhism. It is also Temple 75 of the pilgrimage. It shares the spotlight with Mount Koya of Wakayama Prefecture and Kyoto`s Touji Temple as the three sacred sites of Kobo Daishi, who was born in what is now Zentsuji City.
The last temple, Okuboji. Under the Daishi-do there is a short course where you can "visit" all 88 temples, and it is said those who complete the course can receive the same spiritual benefits as the actual pilgrimage. O-henrosan can also offer their kongo-zue staff and sugegasa hat at Okuboji, and they will be laid to rest in a ceremony to commemorate the end of the O-henrosan`s long journey.