For most people planning the Shikoku Pilgrimage, one of the first and most important questions is what accommodation is available and how to book a place to stay there.
Here you can find out everything you need to know about accommodation on the Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail!
Henro House is an association of accommodations that offers overnight stays for walking pilgrims on Shikoku. Henro Houses are located in all four provinces of Shikoku, directly on the pilgrimage trail or at least nearby.
Overnight accommodation can be booked online via the Henro House website. Before the first booking, a free registration on the organisation’s website is required.
After registration, overnight stays can be booked online or by phone, in English or Japanese, up to 30 days in advance.
Information about the location and features of the accommodation, availability of accommodation, cost (between 3,000 and 4,000 yen) can be found on the Henro House website.
Meals are not included. In some houses, dinner and breakfast can be booked as an option. The additional costs for these meals are indicated on the website.
Very different types of accommodation have joined together under Henro House.
Once I stayed overnight in a private house. There, a couple offers a room, which is empty after the adult children have moved out. For overnight stays, for one to a maximum of two pilgrims.
Occasionally, business hotels offer some of their rooms on the Henro House website at a low cost for pilgrims to stay overnight.
Typically Henro Houses offer overnight accommodation in dormitories, with several other pilgrims together.
Use of washing machine and dryer is offered for a small fee. Wi-Fi is mostly available and free of charge.
I highly recommend staying at Henro House. The owners are often particularly hospitable, warm and helpful.
I have felt very well looked after during my overnight stays in Henro Houses.
Only once have I stayed in a Henro House that I would not book again.
Minshuku 民宿 and Ryokan 旅館
A minshuku is a family-run, traditional Japanese guesthouse offering accommodation with dinner and Japanese breakfast.
A ryokan also offers accommodation with dinner and Japanese breakfast. Often with more service and comfort than in a minshuku and accordingly at a higher price. There can be great differences in the range and price of ryokans. Therefore, ask for the price before booking.
Many ryokans, as offered to pilgrims on Shikoku, differ little from the minshukus on Shikoku. In 2018/2019, I usually paid 6,500 yen for an overnight stay in the minshukus, including dinner and breakfast. In the ryokans where I stayed during the pilgrimage, I paid on average 800 yen more. Also including dinner and breakfast.
The prices are always per person, not per room.
Payment is made in cash, credit cards are mostly not accepted.
It is possible to stay overnight without food at a reduced price.
In minshuku and ryokan there is the possibility to make your own tea after arrival. A kettle, teapot and tea cups can be found in the room. You sleep with a futon on tatami mats. Yukatta (Japanese pyjamas) and towel are provided. The bathroom is used by all guests one after the other. The use of a washing machine and dryer is possible for a small fee.
Some minshukus and ryokans do not have Wi-Fi.
For dinner and often also for breakfast, there is rice, vegetables, fish, in several preparations, and green tea.
The guesthouse owners get the food for the guests in the morning. Therefore, a reservation is necessary at the latest in the early morning.
Arrival at the minshuku and ryokan should be around 5.00 pm. Dinner (approx. 6.00 pm) and breakfast (approx. 6.30 am) are served at the same time for all overnight guests.
Shukubō 宿坊 – Overnight stay in temple
The following temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail offer overnight accommodation (as of June 1, 2023):
|6||Anrakuji (安楽寺)||Kamiita (上板町)||Tokushima|
|7||Jūrakuji (十楽寺)||Awa (阿波市)||Tokushima|
|19||Tatsueji (立江寺)||Komatsushima (小松島市)||Tokushima|
|24||Hotsumisakiji (最御崎寺)||Muroto (室戸市)||Kōchi|
|26||Kongōchōji (金剛頂寺)||Muroto (室戸市)||Kōchi|
|37||Iwamotoji (岩本寺)||Shimanto (四万十町)||Kōchi|
|44||Daihōji (大宝寺)1||Kuma-kōgen (久万高原町)||Ehime|
|58||Senyūji (仙遊寺)||Imabari (今治市)||Ehime|
|75||Zentsuji (善通寺)||Zentsuji (善通寺市)||Kagawa|
|81||Shiromineji (白峯寺)1||Sakaide （坂出市）||Kagawa|
1for bus groups only
Temple accommodation is often booked by large groups of pilgrims arriving in buses.
If rooms are available, individual pilgrims are also accepted. At temples 44 and 81, accommodation is offered exclusively for bus groups and not for individual travellers.
Participation in a religious ceremony after dinner or before breakfast is possible. An overnight stay without food at a reduced price is offered.
The facilities and services offered at the Shukubō are comparable to those in minshuku and ryokan.
Washing machine and dryer for use for a fee; shared bathroom, futon on tatami mats.
Hotel / Business-Hotel ホテル
Often furnished in a western style, with a bed and a bathroom in the room. No meals are offered. Japanese breakfast can be booked, sometimes supplemented with American breakfast.
Business hotels are often cheaper than hotels.
Flexible arrival times.
Tsuyadō 通夜堂 and Zenkonyado 善根宿
Overnight accommodation in the temple for pilgrims who walk the path. A place to sleep, together with other pilgrims. No meals, no bath. In Tsuyadō and Zenkonyado, overnight accommodation is traditionally free, or on a voluntary donation basis. If necessary, ask at the temple whether it is possible to stay overnight in the Tsuyadō. After an overnight stay in the Tsuyadō, you should leave 1,000 yen in the donation box before you leave.
Private overnight accommodation. Same facilities as Tsuyadō. After staying in a zenkonyado, you should leave 1,000 yen in the donation box, or more if you used a futon.
The number of places to stay in Tsuyadō and Zenkonyado is small. In emergencies, if you can’t find any other accommodation, ask at the temple. Or, for Zenkonyado, ask private people if it is possible to stay there overnight. If you have the financial resources, it makes more sense to stay overnight in one of the many other accommodations, some of which are very inexpensive. It is better not to plan ahead for your pilgrimage with free overnight stays in Tsuyadō or Zenkonyado.
In many older books, blogs and videos, there are reports of overnight stays outdoors; in henro huts and parks, at rest stops (michi no eki) and train stations. Due to the recent significant increase in the number of pilgrims, locals are meanwhile critical of outdoor overnight stays.
The wild camping discussion
Published by Oliver Dunskus in the Facebook group “Shikoku 88 Ohenro Pilgrimage”, which he administrates:
Dear fellow Henros, the question about wild camping is strongly discussed in our group. Some people think it is ok, some people disagree. I have now asked someone whose opinion may be considered as a reference: Naoyuki Matsushita is the editor of the “Shikoku 88 Route Guide” a major authority on the Henro subject. This is what Naoyuki writes about wild camping in Shikoku, i think it leaves no open questions as he is crystal-clear:
“In Shikoku we appreciate the growing interest of foreign pilgrims in Shikoku pilgrimage. But this is bringing a new problem: if you want to camp outside the official campsites, you must obtain the approval of the land managers.
According to a survey, wild camping pilgrimage is estimated to be 5% among Japanese pilgrims, but 30% foreign pilgrimage. This disturbs the daily life of local people and creates anxiety and an insecure feeling. Some complaints have been reported to me, for example bad manners, sleeping at outside the lodging, campfire beside tent etc. In the past, with less pilgrims, this used to be a minor problem but with the recent increase it is no longer tolerable. We are concerned that this situation may lead to conflicts between locals and pilgrims. This may affect the hearts of kind people on the Shikoku pilgrimage. I am worried about it. I am in a dilemma. I want foreigners to come to Shikoku for a pilgrimage. I want to spread the spirit of Henro to the world. I want to deepen mutual understanding between foreigners and Japanese. But, I do not want wild camping to increase. I have the following requests
• Please do not camp outside the official camping areas
• Please do not camp or sleep in the rest huts
• If you stay in a Zenkonyado or a Tsuyado where sleeping is permitted, please donate 1000 Yen or 2000 Yen If you have used the futon into the offer box
• Please do not camp/sleep in the rest huts mentioned in my Route Guide”
Official campsites located near the pilgrimage route are listed in the “Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide”.
Wild camping is prohibited by law.
For pilgrims walking the pilgrimage route, it is advisable to book accommodation not too far in advance. This allows the daily route to be adapted at short notice to the physical condition and ability.
On the other hand, in some regions of Shikoku overnight accommodation is limited. And these places are in high demand at certain times.
For overnight stays during the week, it is usually sufficient to make a reservation the day before. Some pilgrims, mostly Japanese, book early in the morning on the day of the overnight stay.
For overnight stays at weekends, it is better to book at least two days in advance.
On holiday weekends and especially during the “Golden Week” at the end of April/beginning of May, many Japanese pilgrims and tourists are on the move. Overnight stays during these times need to be booked much more in advance.
Reservations are mandatory for overnight stays at Henro House. Reservations must be made by 1.00 pm on the day of arrival and can be made no earlier than 30 days before the overnight stay. Reservations can be made online or by phone, in English or Japanese.
Overnight stays in minshuku, ryokan and shukubō must be reserved by telephone. Booking via the internet is rarely possible.
The owners of minshuku and ryokan sometimes speak little English, so telephone reservations can only be made in Japanese. Often a Japanese-speaking fellow pilgrim will be found who can and will help with booking an overnight stay by phone. Another option is to ask the owners of the accommodation you are staying in to book your overnight stay in the next accommodation by phone.
If a booked accommodation cannot be reached on the planned day or only much later than 5.00 pm, be sure to call them and let them know.
Hotels, especially in the larger cities, can be reserved online via the well-known international booking portals.
Very helpful for planning and booking accommodation by phone is the “Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide”. This guide lists a variety of accommodation options, each with telephone number. The location and distance to the pilgrimage route can also be found there.