Day T minus 2 – in the Land of the Rising Sun

Hello from Kyoto, the former capital of Japan and home to numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples with their tranquil gardens and ancient imagery. Kyoto is also home to some great coffee shops, all sorts of cuisine, romantic bars along the river and everything that is so exquisitely Japanese. Everything from Geisha, tea ceremonies, fine pottery, confectionery… well, everything. And Starbucks too.

When the cherry blossom sweeps across Japan in late March and early April everyone stops work to celebrate the briefest moments of pure beauty. I saw it in 2005 when I took a little tour of the Kyoto gardens. But is the autumn even more spectacular with millions of maple leaves exploding in shades of deep red?

In 2015 I returned to find out and it was during that trip that I found myself at Temple 75 on Shikoku, Japan’s 4th island. I saw pilgrims dressed in extraordinary attire, bowing, praying, chanting, ringing the bell and lighting incense. They were on a Buddhist pilgrimage around Shikoku visiting 88 temples. It reminded me of my 25 year old dream to walk a pilgrimage from my home to Santiago de Compostela and when I saw these people I knew my time was coming.

After completing the Camino, I became drawn to the idea of walking this Shikoku 88 Temple pilgrimage. But there are some big challenges. Shikoku is less developed than the rest of Japan. There are no Shinkansen bullet trains. No one speaks English and it’s a little bit wild. So, two years ago I signed up for a Japanese class and teacher Emma taught us a lot of useful conversation. At the end of the year I switched schools and Miyuki took over, leading me through all the verb and adjective conjugations. What a journey! And finally I’ve taken more classes here in Kyoto. I think I could really get a grip on this language after a few more years but there is no time to lose: the Olympic Games are coming to Japan in 2020 so here I am.


Almost as soon as I met Paul on the Via Podiensis in 2017 he suggested walking this Shikoku pilgrimage. But we went to Rome instead. He recently drove his Vespa from his home in Southern California to the frozen north of Canada. The ultimate road trip. I hope there will be plenty of comments from Paul as I attempt this journey into rural Japan and perhaps it will whet his appetite for another pilgrimage.

So, here’s the plan. I start on Friday the 13th. A little old rickety bus will take me from Kyoto over the sea to Shikoku, drop me off and then make a hasty retreat. I will get my uniform and walk about 5 Km to nail 3 temples (you used to nail your name card to each temple but nowadays you drop it in a bin for burning). That will leave me with 85 temples and 1195 Km before my flight home on 16 November.

I’m not a Buddhist and I’m not going to go on and on about Buddhism and the temple rituals. But it’s a religious pilgrimage and I’ll respect it and look for a comfortable level of participation. I’ll write about it tomorrow so if you’re kind enough to follow the journey you’ll probably want a quick overview of what it’s all about.

It’s ok after all

A 10 second self timer is barely long enough

Grade 1 Sumo wrestlers

21 comments on “Day T minus 2 – in the Land of the Rising Sun

  1. Tassie Kaz

    At long last you’re on Your Way…nearly!
    Having walked before you, I’m looking forward to each instalment & the memories they’ll evoke. I’ll also know any ‘creative licence’…a writers prerogative of course! 🤭
    Wishing you a wonderful journey…what an experience awaits.
    With you in spirit all the way.
    Gambatte dear Tim!

    • Hi Karen
      This is the home of creative license! Thank you for your warm wishes. Did you say Spirited Away?

  2. Hi Tim, from the terrace of the Parador at Arcos de la frontera. I shall follow you every step of the way with total admiration and a pinch of envy. What a pilgrimage. It is the ultimate journey and I have been reading about it since Santiago.
    Good luck Peregrino and truly best wishes.

  3. Jane Van Buren

    Hello fellow pilgrim, I felt so happy to see your blog pop up in my email this morning. I think of you often among my fond memories of the Camino Francesa. I have travelled to Thailand, Cambodia and India in the past three years so I have some familiarity with Buddhism. However I look forward to following your journey and hearing about your learnings. Take care. Buen Camino.
    Jane xo

    • Hi Jane yes those beautiful days walking to Compostela. I’ll never forget them. It’s so nice to hear from you especially at this time when I’m just about to take my first steps on the way

  4. Hi Torin I can see you now! Are you still on the Camino but slightly off course perhaps? Thanks and I will need all the best wishes…

  5. Tassie Kaz

    PS. Most people undertaking the pilgrimage on foot do so on their own…so you won’t be ‘alone’ in that respect!
    So excited for you…& yes, spirited away… 😄

  6. I too will be following you every day waiting with anticipation for the next update and amazing photos. Take care and enjoy x

  7. 2saunter

    Tim I will be following you with avid interest as I am a Camino behind. I’m currently enjoying a beer in Miradolo Terme and contemplating tomorrow’s jog in the dark to connect with Danilo’s water taxi. いい方法 (buen Camino in Japanese according to Google translate)

    • I also following your amazing journey down the VF. Don’t forget to say hello to Danilo assuming you don’t miss the boat. It’s further than you’d think from Miradolo Terme.

  8. Vikki McLean

    Hey Tim!

    I’ve been waiting for your Japanese adventure to start, now here it is! I’m really looking forward to exploring the countryside and temples with you from the comfort of my chair. Enjoy your first step and remember Lao Tzu’s words, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

    Vikki x

    • Hi Vikki, it’s great to hear from you. Lao Tzu is right. A single step.

  9. Hi Tim – Well that day has finally arrived ! I look forward to your daily updates. My very best wishes to you for a safe and happy pilgrimage- David

    • Hi David thank you and you are having an amazing time on the continuation of your pilgrimage to Jerusalem

  10. Miyuki

    I’m so happy to read your journey and so excited what may come! I hope the heat is not killing you there.
    All the best!

    • はいげんきです。こんにちは、みゆきせんせい it’s so humid but today was much better. Perhaps あきis coming at last. It’s so nice to hear from you. テイム

  11. Philippa Thomas

    What an auspicious day to begin your pilgrimage! Looking forward to your posts – safe travels Tim, Philippa & Peter

    • Hi Philippa, great to hear from you again. I think it’s ok in Japan although I did take a fortune slip at a temple and it said my trip would be fine if I change my travel date.

  12. Wow!what a pilgrimage this will be. Amazing. I followed your blog when you and Paul walked the Via Francigena and when I saw this one, well, I just had to read on….

    Good luck, learn lots and have fun.

    • Hi Jenny, I remember your kind comments last year and I’m happy for your support in this challenge. I hope it will be fun. Tim

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