--WHAT DOES IT COST?--
I think it is obvious that the cost of this pilgrimage is going to vary widely depending on whether or not you are starting from a home in Japan or overseas, whether you stay at a minshuku each night or sleep outdoors, whether you walk it in two months, one month, or go around in some other way, etc. There is no way to say what this trip is going to cost each and every henro — we are all different. Having said that, these are some guidelines to use as a benchmark and help you make plans.
Below i have included two tools to help you figure out what the trip might cost you. First is a list of the items that you may need to buy and the range in their approximate prices. At the very bottom of the page is a calculator that uses those costs and should allow you to come up with an approximate total for your trip.
In general, though, it can be said right up front that this trip is not cheap, even if you camp out each and every night. Almost all henro will end up carrying large sums of mney — maybe thousands of dollars.
In the "old days" i carried my money as a mixture of cash and traveler's checks, but traveler's checks are no longer an option — to the best of my knowledge, no banks or post office branches on Shikoku now exchange them. The last time i tried at a bank they told me that there are too many forgeries floating around so all banks have stopped accepting them. In past editions of Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide about a dozen post office branches were listed as willing to exchange them, but in the new 5th edition of the guidebook (2017), that has been removed and it now says that these dozen post office branches only exchange foreign cash currency.
The best option today, and the option almost everyone uses, is to carry some cash and take money out of ATM machines every few days to replinish your supply as needed.
Almost everyone now uses ATM machines to get cash, and these are everywhere because they can be found in most post offices and in every 7-11 convenience store all around the island. There are ATM machines in all convenience stores, but only the 7-11 ATMs allow allow cash withdrawals with non-Japanese issued credit and debit cards.
• 7-11 is your ticket to accessing your money, and everything you need to know about where, when, and how can be found on their web site: www.sevenbank.co.jp/intlcard/index2.html. They say the limit per transaction for foreign issued cards is ¥100,000.
• Every post office indicated in the guidebook Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide will have an ATM machine from which you can withdraw money. It seems that how much you can withdraw with each transactions depends on your card: some cards are limited to ¥30,000/transaction, others are limited to ¥50,000/transaction. Once you find a machine you can choose which language you want to interact with. Then simply follow the instructions. See their web site: www.jp-bank.japanpost.jp/en/ias/en_ias_index.html.
• Post office ATMs are not open 24x7. Plan carefully. Typical small town ATMs are available from 9:00am to 5:30pm, Monday through Friday. 9:00am to 12:30pm, Saturday. Closed on Sunday and holidays. However, the large, central post office in major cities (like prefectural capitals) will have longer hours and can be open on Sunday.
• Banks are usually open from 9:00am to 3:00pm, Monday through Friday. Some branches in the larger cities may keep later hours, and some may be open on Saturdays until 2:00 pm.
A Few Words of Caution
Because you are travelling in a cash oriented country, you are going to end up carrying a lot more cash than you may be used to. However, my recommendation is NOT to carry all of your money in cash. During each week of the walk, withdraw just enough cash from an ATM to cover your planned expenses for the next week, plus a little extra "just in case." If the worst should happen and you lose your money (through foolishness or robbery), if you were carrying everything, you are out of luck and your pilgrimage may be over; if most of your money is still in the ATM, you can't lose everything.
The good news is that the crime rate in Japan is still very low. I never once felt threatened while on the island, and never once felt worried about my money. With common sense precautions, carrying all this money will not be a problem. These precautions include:
Excluding the costs of outfitting yourself, the costs of any books & maps, and the costs of getting there, in general you can use these average costs as a starting point in your plans:
I spent about $6,300 for my walk in 1999, but that included airfare, books, everything else. The cost has obviously gone up since then, but for my most recent walk of Kōchi, Ehime, and Kagawa Prefectures in 2016 the total cost was about $3,500, not including airfare. During this 2016 walk, i usually spent about ¥8,000–¥8,500/day. Of that, ¥7,000 was for lodging each night and the remaining ¥1,500 was for lunch, snacks and occasional miscellaneous.
Anthony Kimple walked the trail in 2005, and either camped out or stayed in a Tsūyadō or Zenkonyado every night. Regarding his total cost, he says:
Sam Miller and Noah Zimmerman walked the trail in 2006, camped out every night. Regarding their costs, Sam wrote:
You can use the table below to come up with an approximate cost for your pilgrimage. It reflects current prices to the best of my ability to determine them. However, just for reference purposes, and because i am asked for this on a regular basis, i am attaching here an Excel spreadsheet of the final costs from my 1999 trip around the island. Since then, prices have gone up, but not a lot.
|Roundtrip airfare between home and Kansai International Airport||Varies|
|Guidebook/Maps: Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide
(If bought at Temple 1. Also available online.)
|Visiting The Sacred Sites of Kūkai
(Only available online & varies depending on where it is shippped to)
|Hiking boots or shoes||$100 and up|
|Back Pack||$100 and up|
|Rain Gear||$125 and up|
|Nōkyōchō (Temple stamp book)||¥2,000 – ¥3,500|
|Kongōtsue (Walking stick)||¥1,500 – ¥2,500|
Usually worn on your belt or attached to the top of your walking stick.
|¥300 – ¥2,000|
|Hakui, or Oizuru (White henro jacket)
(The price is higher if you want one with any writing on it)
|¥1,800 – ¥3,000|
|Sugegasa (Conical sedge hat)
Rain cover extra, but not needed on the very expensive ones.
|¥2,000 – ¥30,000|
|Wagesa (Cotton or silk scarf, the layman's equivalent of a monk's kesa)||¥1,500 – ¥3,000|
|Juzu, or Nenzu (Rosary)
(The price really varies from 1,500 yen up to the tens of thousands of yen)
|¥1,500 – ¥5,000|
|Osame Fuda (Name slips)
(One packet of 200 isn't enough if you visit the bangai temples and/or give them to all of the people who offer you settai — like you are supposed to.)
|¥200 for a packet of 200|
|Candles (Commonly sold in boxes of about 60 candles/box)||¥250/box|
|Incense Sticks (The box i bought had about 150 sticks in it)||¥360/box|
|Kyōhon (Little book with the Heart Sutra and all the mantras and goeika that you chant at each temple)||¥700|
|Fuda-basami (Bag to carry the henro necessities that you don't wear. )||¥1,500 – ¥3,800|
|60 nights lodging||¥7,000/night average|
|Breakfast and Dinner
These are almost always included in the cost of the minshuku, in which case there is no extra charge.
|Breakfast and Dinner
In the rare cases where they are not included in the cost of the minshuku, or you're camping out, you'll have to eat at a restaurant or buy something at the local grocery store or convenience store.
|¥500 – ¥1000/day
|Lunch, Snacks, & Miscellaneous during the day||¥1,000/day at most|
|Stamps in Nōkyōchō||¥300/temple
Times the number
of temples you visit
|Offerings given at each Hondō and Daishidō
People say to give anything between ¥10 and ¥100 at the Hondō and Daishidō of each temple
|¥1,760 – ¥21,600
Plus the Bangai Temples?
|Train from Kansai International Airport to Wakayama City||¥870|
|Train from Kansai International Airport to Nanba Station in Ōsaka||¥920|
|Train from Wakayama City to Mt. Kōya||¥1,690|
|Train from Nanba Station in Ōsaka to Mt. Kōya||¥1,260|
|Bus from Kōya Station into Kōya Town||¥210|
|Train from Wakayama City to Wakayama Port||¥150|
|Ferry to Tokushima||¥2,000|
|Bus from Tokushima Port to Tokushima Station||¥200|
|Bus from Nanba Station in Ōsaka to Tokushima Station
(The bus is MUCH cheaper and faster than a train)
|Bus from Tokushima Station to Temple One||¥390|
|Train from Tokushima Station to Bandō Station
(Then 15 minute walk to Temple One)
|Other train fares if you visit Ōsaka or Kyōto for a few days before returning home||Varies|
|»All prices are one-way. Double as necessary.«|
|Souvenirs that you will buy for yourself.||Varies|
|Omiyage that you will buy for your friends and family at home.||Varies|
|If you live in Japan, you can buy most of the Henro Necessities at www.eitikai.co.jp (in Japanese), with free shipping. For a price, you can even buy Temple Stamp Books already stamped. At present, they do not deliver internationally.|
Select the radio button or check box to the left of every item you want included in your cost, i.e., what you think you will be spending, and then click on the "Calculate" button on the bottom of the page. This gives you a total in Japanese Yen. Enter the current US Dollar/Yen or Euro/Yen exchange rate and click on the "Convert" button to see the total in one of those currencies.
This calculator does not include the cost for things that you need to buy before leaving home, like your airfare, backpack, boots, etc.