A journey of 1,000 kilometers begins with a single log-in.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage, known as Shikoku Henro in Japanese, is famous both for its rich history and sprawling size. This 1,200 kilometer (746 mile) circular route goes around the four prefectures that make up the island of Shikoku, passing through 88 temples and other special sites connected to Japanese Buddhism.

▼ Shikoku Island

Although the journey was originally taken on foot, nowadays it’s very common to take a bus tour and even break the 88 sites up into separate trips, visiting only a few temples at a time. In many ways it’s more of a scenic tour than actual religious ritual, and it’s a big boost to the economy of this relatively rural area.

And now it’s about to get a whole lot easier, because a new service is letting people experience the entire journey from the comfort of their homes in Online Henro. This program allows people to follow along sections or the entire route via Zoom.

This is intended for anyone who may not be able to participate in the real pilgrimage due to physical, financial, time, or distance issues. Previously, virtual pilgrimages have been done before by video, but this is the first time that people will be able to go along remotely in real-time, and even be able to recite sutras and mantras at the temples with their own voice.

They can also interact with the tour guide who will teach them about the customs and procedures along the way while also teaching about the history of the route and locations of interest. In addition, the organizers got the blessing of each temple, and those who take part in Online Henro will receive an official stamp from each stop as well as an official certificate for completing the entire route, just as if they had visited themselves.

▼ The program is being run by senior members of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Association such as Kenji Itami

Considering this journey is a common bucket list item for many Japanese seniors, the demand for such a service is probably strong. But now, with travel being restricted due to the ongoing pandemic, this could be a great way for people to experience the beauty of Japan’s nature from all over the world.

However, it should be noted that this virtual tour is only offered in Japanese at the moment, and considering the religious and historical sites visited, it’s relatively difficult Japanese. But for those up for the challenge it sounds like a really good opportunity.

Source: Online Henro, PR Times
Images: PR Times
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