Overall, the trail is very well waymarked, but this is not to say that you don’t need a guidebook and map. Currently the only English guidebook is the Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide by Buyodo Co. Ltd which has detailed road maps showing the locations of accommodation and supermarkets/restaurants, I couldn’t imagine doing it without this valuable resource. In addition to the guidebook and waymarks, I also carried a GPS (Garmin 62s) with Japanese maps.
If you don’t speak Japanese, it won’t be impossible to do the pilgrimage and I hope these translations will help, but the more Japanese language you know, the more you’ll be able to engage with the local people and get fulfilment from being able to read the signs! I lived in Japan for 7 years and studied the language for even longer, but even having this, I still found the dialect of some of the people I spoke to very hard to understand! In my experience most of the Japanese people I met either didn’t speak any English, or it was very limited, and apart from the occasional sign in English, most were in Japanese.
If you can learn 2 of the 3 alphabets before going (hiragana and katakana), this will help you to interpret most of the signs and even be able to order food in restaurants. And if there’s no time to learn these alphabets, then just learn to recognise the warning signs and characters on this page!
I have divided the signs into three parts – Directions, Warnings and Words of Encouragement.
Words of Encouragement