In previous posts, I’ve 1) lamented the fact that I’ve never done a “outdoorsy/physical” challenge, and 2) fessed up that I plan to hike the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan someday. (A quick recap: it’s a 1200 kilometer, Shingon Buddhist pilgrimage around the smallest of Japan’s four main islands with stops at 88 temples of significance.) But with so many hiking options out there, why Shikoku?
Well, it’s in Japan, and Japan is lovely. The people so kind, so many thoughtful details in everday life. And the route itself actually quite on the beaten path — alongside roads, through villages. I hear many pilgrims are disappointed that’s it’s less a walk in the woods and more a walk along sidewalks. But as a not-at-all confident hiker, the proximity of civilization is very comforting.
But the main reason I’m fixated on Shikoku is a very practical one. There’s lodging and food all along the route. So I don’t have to carry a tent, or sleeping bag, or sleeping pad, or stove, or much food. Of course, this means I actually have to make it to my lodging for the evening; I can’t just bail and pitch a tent for the night. And I’ll have to make reservations in Japanese. But I find these challenges way less daunting than carrying a bunch of gear for hundreds of kilometers.
But still, I’m not confident enough to tackle a 1200 kilometer hike all at once. Instead, later this year I will hike a one-week section of the trail. I’ll find out if I’m pleasantly surprised by my abilities, or if I need to do way more training in order to complete the whole thing. I’ll get some experience with my gear. And I’ll learn whether or not I really want to hike for two months straight …