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Old Tiger On Shikoku Henro

Part One: Osaka to Tokushima

The Shikoku Henro, Japan’s oldest pilgrimage, is an 88 temple pilgrimage of 1,142 km going around Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands. Osaka was the start of my pilgrimage. I’m an old tiger and needed a day’s rest in urban mania after a long haul journey. I happily succumbed to being mauled by malls like Hankyu, Hanshin, Daimaru, Isetan, Whity Umeda, UniQlo, Lucca - a contrast to the pilgrimage ahead. A guiding motto of the pilgrimage is ichi-go, ichi-e, "Happiness in the moment, and detachment from these useless concerns". Osaka seemed the right place to supposedly leave it all behind. 

Maybe just a day in Osaka was insufficient to form an opinion of it, not that I really wanted one, only wanting to stuff myself with tarts and cake and pastry. But I did sense a little that Osaka was all business. But then it is, after all, Japan’s economic powerhouse, its role since the Edo period.

The buildings around Osaka Station looked functional and down to earth, all steel and glass, although impressive, too. I didn’t notice any historical monuments or sculptures, no architecture that reflects some aspect of its past. But according to the Osaka Prefectural website, Osaka was already inhabited more than 10,000 years ago. It was the star of Japan’s politics and culture since around the 5th century A.D. Osaka University, Japan's 6th Imperial University, was started in 1838, as Tekijuku, a private "place of learning". Osaka’s Sumiyoshi-Taisha Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan founded in 211. My own small discovery was an Antique Book Street behind the station. Osaka has historical achievements, too. At home, we happily imbibe Suntory whiskey and Asahi beer, both being founded in Osaka in the 1800s. Instant ramen, a home staple, was discovered by Osaka denizen Momofuku Ando in 1958. I spotted on a tourist map a Jan-Jan Yokocho Street, containing only about 200 historical temples and shrines, yet this was not mentioned among any of the best places to go in Osaka.

The first hour or so of the bus journey to Tokushima was industrial sites, traffic jams, flyovers, iron grid barricaded dividers, which gave way soon to greenery and wild flowers peeping through. Bits of the sea became visible, like a promise. I began to see cultivated land, traditional farm houses, layers of hills edging the sea. We cruised over the grand Akash-Kaiyo-Ohashi Bridge into Awajishima Island, then it was Shikoku, and soon enough Tokushima, the actual start of the Shikoku Henro.

The bus station was quiet. There were people but no noise. I noted two department stores should I get withdrawal symptoms after leaving Osaka. As I walked to my hotel through the quiet street with people on bicycles and Mom and Pop shops, a corner café or two, sculptures on the grassed road dividers, flowers carved into the canal bridge railings, no one bumping into me with a hand-phone, I felt this is the town for an old tiger. 

Hopefully helpful

Bus to Tokushima: JR Shikoku ticketing office and bus departure outside Osaka Station Central Exit. Time 2.5 hours.

Ferry: Can be taken from Wakayama. Check your train arrival times with the ferry departure times.

In Tokushima, I took a 25 minute boat ride from the Hyotanjima Cruise Boat Pier. Y200 for what they call “insurance”.  

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