Most Americans probably think of Japanese food as sushi, ramen, and chicken teriyaki. But of course, in actual Japan, there is a lot more to it. The small restaurants and street food stands serve various kinds of brothy noodle soups and mysterious pickled vegetables, breaded pork chops and barbecued meat skewers. Sweet and savory stuffed buns and dumplings, and bento boxes full of a dozen things most Americans, including me, probably could not identify.
The Japanese island of Shikoku is well-traveled — but not by tourists. For more than 1200 years, thousands of pilgrims every year have walked the “Henro,” 800 miles to 88 of the island’s temples. Today, about 200,000 pilgrims visit the temples every year, sometimes walking, sometimes in cars or using public transportation. The Henro and many of the 88 temples are believed to have been founded by a monk named Kukai, who is a hero to the people of Shikoku.
Sometimes, all the travel planning in the world leads to surprises. For example, when I planned our Japan itinerary, I thought Tokushima on the island of Shokoku was going to be a small town and our accommodation there would in a small wooded village. Wrong.