I get the sense that some western pilgrims expect the Shikoku pilgrimage to be a sort of “Japanese Appalachian Trail.” Woods, wilderness, nature.
It’s really not like that at all.
The bulk of the path follows alongside roads, with only some sections of off-road hiking trails. Maybe I’m wrong but I feel like a lot of people are disappointed by the amount of road-side walking, on cement.
Here’s some typical scenery:
It is like this a lot.
You also have to walk through tunnels. Sometimes these have raised sidewalks, both other times you’re basically walking in the roadway. The longest tunnel I walked was over a mile long. That one had a button you can push when you enter the tunnel, to alert drivers of a walker.
As someone who was rather scared of the hiking aspect of the pilgrimage, I didn’t really mind the road aspect of it. Sure, the busy roads are a huge drag, with exhaust and traffic noise. But the small roads are quite delightful, and I think provide fun things to see, like this pachinko parlor:
Or beautiful countryside views:
Lastly, a few photos of Matsuyama. With a population of about half a million, it’s the largest city on Shikoku.
It’s most famous for its castle (which I posted about earlier) and Dogo Onsen, one of the oldest and most famous onsen (hot spring baths) in Japan. It’s quite acceptable to walk around town in your yukata, on your way to the onsen for a soak.
So to recap: don’t come to Shikoku and remote expect mountain hikes. But do enjoy the urban and rural scenery, and the off-road trails, too.