The sacred and pilgrimage sites in Japan have played important roles in shaping the religious
aspects of the culture. The countryside of the nation is 80 percent mountainous and has
inspired religious practices involving trekking through the hilly terrain. People of the past saw
mountains as deities and created shrines that are said to enshrine their spirit. Later on when
Buddhism was introduced to Japan the belief started to meld together to create another
perspective on the spirits in the country.
There are two types of pilgrimages you can experience. The first is reijo, which goes to sacred sites like the Kumano route of the Kii Peninsula. It visits the Three Grand Shrines that are connected by the hiking trails. The other one is junrei, which is a circuit type of pilgrimage. A good example is the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage route where travelers go to 88 individual temples.
The original purpose of these pilgrimages was to offer prayers to the many deities, bodhisattvas and Buddha(s). Hiking through the mountains to reach the religious sites invoke a sense of harmony with the surrounding nature and thus bringing you closer to the deities residing in the land. Today you can see monks dressed in white garbs trekking through the trails.
Tohoku | Yamagata | Dewa Sanzan
Dewa Sanzan Pilgrimage
Dewa Sanzan refers to three sacred mountains in Yamagata, which are Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono.
Kanto | Tochigi | Nikko
Nikko Pilgrimage Route is part of the Nikko National Park and is known as one of the top 100 places to view cherry blossoms.
Chubu | Ishikawa | Kaga Onsen
Mount Hakusan is a 2702-meter-high dormant volcano and is one of the three most sacred mountains in Japan.
Kansai | Wakayama | Koyasan
Koyasan is the center for an important Buddhist sect known as Shingon Buddhism. It is located on the forest covered mountain top of Mount Koya.
Kansai | Wakayama | Kumano
Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route
The Kumano Kodo is a series of ancient pilgrimage routes located in Wakayama Prefecture, which in 2004 received the listing of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shikoku Pilgrimage Route
88 Hallowed Grounds of Shikoku – A Pilgrimage 1200 Years in the Making.