Shikoku is most famous, perhaps, for the 88 Sacred Buddhist temples present on the island. Thousands of pilgrims each year visit Shikoku to complete the circuit which is said to help rid an individual of the 88 worldly passions and help them get closer to enlightenment. Despite the fact that there are 88 Sacred Buddhist temples on the relatively small-ish island of Shikoku, we didn’t visit a single one.
Nope, instead we went to a Shinto shrine quite famous for the massive amount of stairs leading you up to the Inner Shrine.
Kotohira is about an hour train ride from Takamatsu, the city we were based in during our stay in Shikoku. We arrived at the station shortly after 10am, making sure we had more than enough time to complete the ascent and descent before evening.
The station, and town, were small and unassuming. It was clear that almost everyone passing through the station was there to do the same thing as us, climb the stairs to the top of the famous shrine. I couldn’t really see any other reason why people would make the trip out to Kotohira.
Once we had made our way through the gauntlet of souvenir and snack shops, we started our climb. There were any number of vendors selling bamboo walking sticks to help, but we passed up all the opportunities, deciding that we would rough it. One step at a time we made our way . . .
As we climbed, we were able to stop and admire some of the scenery.
The fall colors were particularly nice.
And I really liked this stone turtle. I liked it even more because someone had added 1 yen coins to its head for eyes.
And then, inside the Ema-do (a hall dedicated to maritime offerings) we took a little picture together in the mirror. The entire Shinto shrine is dedicated to Omono-Nushi, the god of seafarers and travelers.
Finally, 1,368 steps later according to official count (1,411 steps by our count, yes we counted the entire way down) we reached the top.
From the top we were treated to spectacular views of the surrounding area and also the charming Okusha, the most sacred Inner Shrine. Honestly, after climbing as many stairs as we did I was expecting something a little more spectacular, but it was still nice.
I said a little prayer, asking that I make it safely to the bottom mostly, and we were back on our way.
One stair after another, we made it back down to where we had started.