CITIES: Kyoto, Osaka, Wakana, and Shiga
ACTIVITIES: Visit many different temples around the Kansai area and learn about their intricate histories
SEASONAL BREAKDOWN: All Seasons
about this trip
If Japanese history and Buddhism pique your interest, prepare yourself both physically and spiritually for an intense journey through the thirty-three Buddhist temples of Kansai known collectively as the Sangoku Kannon. On this pilgrimage, you will traverse through the enlightening past of each temple while collecting proof of pilgrimage on a wall scroll. Even if you cannot complete the journey in one run, you can pass the scroll on to be completed in the future, making for a one-of-a-kind memento between family and friends.
why we're obsessed:
Partake in ultimate zen experiences in remote temples in large cities
Glimpse into the Japanese mindset through experiencing the historical customs on your own two feet
Delve deeper into the histories of a number of Buddhist temples and learn about the different Buddhist sects
Sample Itinerary to Get you Started
day 1 (Tokyo)
Travel west from Tokyo and get ready for the beginning of your pilgrimage. Some of the paths during the pilgrimage have steep stairs and hills, making the journey quite the workout. Make sure to get enough rest before starting this memorable trip.
Know that although the 33 temples are numbered, pilgrims are not obligated to visit them in order. Start your trip with temple number 24, Nakayama-ji. Inside, you're greeted by a Juichimen Kannon, or literally Kannon (goddess of mercy) with eleven faces. Don’t be scared of the unusual appearance! As you may have noticed by now, many temples in Japan are famous for bringing you fortunes in a particular area, and Nakayama-ji is one of them. The Juichimen Kannon is believed to have the power to give babies and promote easy deliveries. Also, don’t miss Engyou-ji, a temple that was used in the award-winning movie “The Last Samurai.” The peak of the mountain offers incredible views on the veranda, built in a style called gakezukuri, where the veranda juts out over the hillside due to the mountainous geography. You will witness the traditional Japanese spirit of symbiosis between man and nature.
The thirty-minute uphill walk at Sefuku-ji towards the main building is not easy, but the taste of satisfaction upon arrival is worth it. At Fujii-dera you will find the oldest of Senju-kannon. Kannon is a spiritual figure of mercy, and Senju-kannon is a kannon that has 1000 hands. While enjoying its magical ambience, see if you notice the extra 43 hands - 1043 hands total, with an eye on each. The pilgrimage is not just about the temples. With various species of cherry blossoms at Tsubosaka-dera, you can enjoy the blooming flowers throughout the entire spring season (March-May).
By day four, you might be getting the hang of the tour, but temples you are visiting today are certainly not going to bore you. Hase-dera is temple also surrounded by seasonal flowers, and the surrounding area boasts delicious cuisine including noodles and rice cakes. Be sure to save some time to feed the deer at Nara Park after your visit to Kōfuku-ji.
Get ready for beautiful views today! Find the building right by Rokkakudō, and reach the top floor to overlook the interesting hexagonal roof of Rokkakudō from above. At Yoshimine-dera you will have a decision to make. Although you don't need to proceed further than the gate for the pilgrimage, climb the stairs and you will be awarded with a beautiful view. The effort and time it takes to see the sight will only add to your experience.
At Gyogan-ji (known as Kōdō), the seven statues of Shichifukujin will catch your eye. Shichifukujin literally means “The Seven Gods of Fortune”, and is often used as a symbol of the New Year in Japanese culture.
It's said that Kiyomizu-dera will bring you good fortune with personal relationships. The gate at Rokuharamitsu-ji will capture your attention with its modern and western appearance - all in the midst of a traditional Japanese setting. If it is the right time of year, you will want to set aside some extra time for Daigo-ji and Kannon-ji to enjoy the fall foliage. It’s truly a sight to behold.
Put on a comfortable pair of shoes, and get ready for some long flights of stairs today. Located on an island in the middle of Lake Biwa, Hogon-ji is accessible by steamship. Once you step on the island, stairs will lead you up to the temple. Though physically draining, the surrounding lake scenery will not cease to amaze you. When you reach the temple, you will be rewarded by the beautiful golden statue of one of the three best Benzaiten (Buddhist goddess) in Japan.
(**)Put on a comfortable pair of shoes and get ready for some long stairs at both temples today. Located on an island in Lake Biwa, 宝厳寺 is accessible by steamship. Once you step onto the island, get ready for stairs that will lead you to the temple. But the scenery of the lake around you will not cease to amaze you. When you reach the temple, you will be rewarded by the beautiful golden statue of one of the three best Benzaiten in Japan, or a Buddhist goddess.
Congratulations! Explore the cheerful atmosphere at Kegon-ji. Near the main hall is Mangando, or a building where pilgrims announce and celebrate the fulfillment of their journeys.
DAY 10 (Tokyo)
You made it! If you made it to all the temples, great! But even if you didn’t, remember it's not the final destination, but the journey that counts. Reflect on the last 10 days and be proud of what you have accomplished.