TYPES OF LODGINGS
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese style inn or hotel. Rooms typically have tatami flooring, there are communal baths and guests can dress in traditional yukata. Meals include breakfast and dinner.
One of the best I stayed at was during my first pilgrimage in 2011 and was a place called Sanyoso. It was situated in a beautiful location facing the sea and not too far from Shoryuji (#36). The regular price with two meals was ¥8000 but I managed to stay for ¥5000 without meals. The facilities were excellent and the service extremely friendly.
A minshiku can be thought of as a smaller cheaper version of a ryokan and are often family owned establishments. Alternatively referred to as 'pensions', 'bed & breakfast' or 'guesthouses' the facilities they provide vary from place to place.
Minshuku typically provide breakfast and dinner. It's a good idea to book in advance or as early as possibly on the same day, especially for minshuku close to the temples. If you don't want to have meals you can ask for sudomari which means stay only. The cost is ¥1500 or so lower without meals. I personally never booked in advance and when I wanted to stay inside I was always able to find something.
There are many good minshuku like lodging places around Shikoku. One I know about although I have never stayed there is Minshuku Okada. It's situated just before the final mountain trail leading to Unpenji (#66) and is very popular with walking pilgrims because it is so well known. Another I personally like if the definition is anything to go by is Tabi-no-yado Misono which is actually a private home in Tano Town, Kochi. The owner is a Yamamoto-san and she is very welcoming and very entertaining too. Meals include dinner and breakfast, plus rice balls to take with you when you leave.
One of the nice things about minshuku is that you get a chance to meet and chat with other ohenro-san. I stayed at very few minshuku but they are an important part of the pilgrimage because many like Minshuku Okada have a long association with the pilgrimage and are well worth staying at.
It is probably a good idea to book in advance close to public holidays, especially long weekends and in particular in and around Golden Week. Golden Week typically falls at the end of April and early May. Many people take paid holidays around these days and you may find paid lodgings of all kinds a lot busier.
You will find hotels in all the major cities and along major trunk roads close to the larger cities and towns. The major cities like Tokushima, Kochi, Matsuyama and Takamatsu all have a good selection of hotels. Prices naturally vary depending on the level of comfort but you can expect to pay anything from about ¥3500 upwards.
I stayed at only one hotel during my second pilgrimage in 2015 and that was just after visiting Enmeji (#39). Details of the hotel were available in the stamp office and the name of the particular hotel was Hotel Flex in Sukumo. For ¥3500 I had a small comfortable room with air conditioning and ensuite facilities. The cost of using the washing machine was ¥100.
Shukubo refers to paid temple lodging and is well worth trying out during the pilgrimage. You can basically think of it like a ryokan but at a temple.
During my first pilgrimage I stayed at Kongofukuji (#38) and Zentsuji (#75). At Kongofukuji (#38) they had traditional tatami floored rooms and a very large communal tatami floored dining room with guests seated together. I remember it having a great atmosphere. Zentsuji (#75) was another I stayed at and wanted to stay at simply because it is Kukai's main temple in Shikoku. The shukubo can accommodate a lot of guests and has excellent facilities. My room had a regular bed, the hot spa was really great and there was a large dining room with long tables and chairs. In both cases I joined the morning prayer service. The cost including two meals was around ¥6,000 for each.
The shukubo I stayed at at Koyasan had generally much better facilities. I stayed at Daien in 2011 and Jofukuin in 2015, and both were great. You are looked after by the temple monks. Meals are served in your room. The monks also take care of preparing your bedding in the evening. Also like the temples in Shikoku, you are invited to join the morning prayer service. Cost including two meals was ¥10,000 on each occasion.
There are about 19 temples around Shikoku that provide shukubo services.
Tsuyado refers to free temple lodging and is definitely worth trying out during the pilgrimage. My first stop during each of my two pilgrimages was in the main gate at Anrakuji (#6). Facilities vary quite a bit with some places more comfortable than others. Comfort aside, they all provide a great place for those who are doing the pilgrimage on a budget.
Stopping in the main gate at Anrakuji (#6), sleeping on a concrete floor with a giant bell hanging over you definitely adds to the romance of the pilgrimage. If that wasn't enough, I was told that is also home to a friendly child ghost.
I am aware of about 13 temples around Shikoku that provide a tsuyado and I have personally stayed at 7 temple tsuyado amongst the 88 temples. I've stayed at one or two provided by other temples too. One that I particularly like and have stayed at twice is Meitokuji. It's situated about 10km past Shishikui in Kochi. Another one I stayed at in 2015 is provided by Hosenji which is about 5km on from Tatsueji (#19).
The only temple where I stopped in a tsuyado and was invited to join the morning service was at Senyuji (#58). I stopped at Senyuji (#58) in both 2011 and 2015 and it has the added advantage of allowing you use the communal baths after the paying guests have finished using them. It's also great to be able to join in the prayer service in the morning.
A daishido is a Buddhist prayer hall dedicated to a priest with the title 'daishi' such as Kukai. Each of the 88 temples has a main hall called the hondo as well as a daishido. The daishido referred to here relates to what seem to be separate places of worship that can be found around Shikoku and some allow walking pilgrims to stay.
One I stayed at that I really liked very much was Asanami Daishido which is along the trail on the way to Enmeiji (#54). This particular one was easily one of the best places I stayed at during the whole pilgrimage.
One of the nicest aspects of doing the pilgrimage are the zenkonyado. The zenkonyado are a blessing for walking pilgrims, especially those who are looking to do everything on a budget.
I stayed in numerous zenkonyado during each of two my pilgrimages and the experience is one I would describe as enriching. Some zenkonyado are very simple but all provide a level of service that no amount of money could buy. By that, I don't mean the places are luxurious, what I mean is that the places are a gift from the ordinary people of Shikoku who want to help the walking pilgrims.
Some have a history going back decades and the walls of many are covered with the osamefuda of pilgrims who have stayed. One such example is Sakae Taxis which is just after Kanonji (#16). Another is Hagyuan on the way to Sankakuji (#65) where the walls have photographs of groups of monks who have stayed as well as ordinary walking pilgrims.
Possibly one of the friendliest zenkonyado would be Utangura just after Goshoji (#78). The place is operated by Irie-san and his wife Noirko-san and the pair of them provide a truly wonderful place to stay. Both are incredibly kind and helpful. For the small sum of ¥1000 you enjoy something really special.
There are currently (as of November 2015) 54 designated ohenro huts. These are provided by local communities and come in all shapes and sizes. Most are really only suitable as a place to stop and rest but some double as good places to stay in for walking pilgrims.
During my second pilgrimage in 2015 I discovered that many new huts had been built since my first pilgrimage in 2011. I ended up camping in 3 ohenro huts - Shishikui (#6), Saga (#13) and Uchiko (#38). The Uchiko (#38) hut in particular turned out to be a real surprise because it had a separate hut with a shower and was more than big enough to accommodate my tent.
The ohenro huts are not the only huts you will come across. There are actually many more other huts dotted all around Shikoku with many very close to the ohenro trail.
Some of these are particularly good for staying out and although not all are suitable or very inviting because of their isolated locations. One such hut was one I stopped at in Tosa, Kochi. It was in a great location with shops just 1km away on the approach to the hut.
A michi-no-eki is a road side station and these are found all around Shikoku. They vary in size and typically comprise restaurants and shops so can be a good place to stop to rest and eat. In 2011 I stopped at a few michi-no-eki and the one at Mima was one I particularly thought was good because of the excellent facilities there. It is always a good idea to seek permission before you do decided to stop at one. Generally they are fine but I did discover during my 2015 pilgrimage that some michi-no-eki are not available to stop at. One in particular that I do know is the michi-no-eki in Yasu, Kochi.
Besides huts and michi-no-eki there are other places where you can consider sleeping out at. These include -
- official camp-sites
- under bridges
- public parks etc
Maybe the most important thing that you need to be mindful of is trespassing on private residential property or stopping anywhere where you might inadvertently cause inconvenience to local people. The people of Shikoku are extremely helpful towards pilgrims and walking pilgrims in particular. If you are unsure about whether it is OK to stop at a place or not, always try to ask or try to be as discrete as possible.
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