- A round of pilgrimages. A term common to Shinto and Buddhism, it refers to the practice of visiting a series of shrines, temples and holy sites such as caves, waterfalls etc in a defined circuit, usually of 33 or 88 shrines and/or temples. It may be carried out as an act of piety, in order to gain merit from the kami and buddhas, to pray, to atone for something or as an ascetic practice (shugyo). In the Tokugawa period pilgrimage provided a legitimate reason for travel and a rare opportunity for adventure, as reflected in okage-mairi and the popularity of Ise-ko groups. In the past pilgrims walked the routes and some still do, but the majority now use some form of transport. There are examples of pilgrimage circuits developed around railway routes by consortia of temples, shrines and transport companies, such as the Hankyu railway's shichifukujin route from Osaka. The best-known example of a pilgrimage circuit is the '88 stations of Shikoku', famous for its associations with Kukai (Kobo Daishi). It now comprises only Buddhist temples, but before shinbutsu bunri many doubled as shrines, enshrining a shintai statue credited to Kobo Daishi, for example. There are similar circuits in Kyushu and the Western provinces (saikoku) and various 33-station routes in Tokyo and Kyoto.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.