March 7, 2019

Shikoku Henro Budget & Free Lodging Guide (English & Japanese)

This post is an update from the Henro free/budget lodging list that I had compiled back in 2015 because information at the time was hard to find online, but more readily available after I started meeting other henro on the road. The henro whom I exchanged lists with spoke Japanese, so the information sometimes differed from the English ones, which is why I compiled them. This updated accommodations and lodging list is not necessarily exhaustive, but I have added more information based on information received from pilgrims after 2015. I also have an upcoming FAQ for notes I’ve included for solo female travellers, based on the considerations I usually factor in for my trips.

This post includes:

  1. Tips for Finding Places to Say
  2. A Friendly Request from Shikoku Locals & Ryokan Owners
  3. Useful Henro Lodging Terms
  4. Henro Lodging List
  5. Additional Sources
  6. Photos for Nojuku Henro, Zenkonyado & Tsuyado

1. Tips for Finding Places to Stay

Shikoku temple TsuyadoOne of the best temple tsuyado that I stayed at.

Bring a Print Copy of This List (in a plastic bag) With smartphones and cheap data plans available now, travelling in Japan is much easier than a few years ago. Nonetheless, I do not recommend that you rely only on your smartphone. It can die daily during long walks. You can save this article in your offline reader, such as ‘Pocket‘, which is one of the 10 apps to travel Japan I suggest. I also suggest printing a copy of this and putting it in a plastic bag (with your passport and some cash) in case it rains.

Share Tips with Other Henro Other henro are like your weather forecast. They tell you about route updates, where to eat, and whether a tsuyado is still open. Doing thorough research is important, but don’t think of this trip as something you have to do alone. Greet the people you meet, offer information to help others, and listen to what they have to say. Often, people will ask you if you have a sheet of paper and write or draw information for you.

Learning a Few Japanese Words Opens Dozens of Doors Shikoku has changed a lot since I went in 2015, but it is still the Japanese countryside and little English is spoken. Speaking some Japanese shows a willingness on your part to learn a bit about the local culture, which in turn, helps locals feel more confident about hosting you. Local ryokan owners want to ensure that you can have a comfortable stay and that there are no cultural misunderstandings or conflicts, which is often why they may hesitate to host someone from abroad. Download an offline dictionary and translation app. Also use Duolingo and learn a few words, especially ones related to directions, food, time, common courtesies, and making reservations. People are friendly and willing to go out of their way to help, so make it easier for yourself by having the right words on hand. I have prepared a list of lodging-related words in the section below for you to point to.

2. A Friendly Request from Shikoku Locals & Ryokan Owners

A ryokan in ShikokuThe ryokan I stayed at before walking to Cape Ashizuri

Since writing my blog in 2015, I have been contacted by travel professionals and ryokan owners. Some ryokans have closed their doors to foreign visitors because of past experiences. I’d like to believe these incidences were unintentional and cultural misunderstandings, but please take the time to respect etiquette by:

  • NEVER not showing up for your booking (phone to cancel by noon)
  • Always give notice if you must cancel or will be late (arriving after 5pm). The honour system in Japan is that 24-hour no-shows are are still paid for in full.
  • Cleaning up wherever you go and stay — even at a ryokan you paid for
  • At tsuyados, make sure you put all the bedding back and follow clear instructions by temple staff

Ryokans are small businesses and the families have to prepare meals and stay up worrying about guests who don’t show up. I’ve been informed several times of this and it is cited as the main reason some ryokans have given up serving foreign visitors. If you are making reservations, please learn to some Japanese. If you do not want meals, you can say ‘sudomari onegaishimasu’ rather than rejecting a meal after arriving. Please be considerate of local practices to ensure future pilgrims can also enjoy the same things you have. Thank you!

3. Useful Henro Lodging Terms

Ishite-ji, Matsuyama TsuyadoA massive prayer hall tsuyado at Ishite-ji in Matsuyama.

Tsūyadō 通夜堂 — Free lodging for pilgrims provided by temples, usually huts or other buildings in temple compounds. Arrive before 5:00pm and ask the temple. Phone ahead during peak seasons (around March – May, October – November). Most temples do not allow mixed gender lodgings and only have one room.

Zenkonyado 善根宿 — Free/cheap lodging provided by locals for pilgrims.

Zenninyado 善人宿 — Lodging offered to pilgrims in someone’s home

Michi no Eki 道の駅 — Roadside stations with washrooms, gift shops, and usually a small restaurant to serve highway truck drivers and coach buses. Shops close at night, but toilets are usually open 24/7. Listed ones have outdoors rest area with a roof for more comfortable camping.

Henro Goya 遍路小屋・へんろ小屋 — Henro huts. There are over 50 built by local communities. There is a list with a map here ヘンロ小屋の案内 and I think JPilgrim at the bottom of this post also has most of them mapped in English.

Daishido 大師堂 — Small shrine buildings. The ones listed in this directory are run by local communities and can be used. If it is not listed here, assume they are not available for sleeping in. As a courtesy, please ask locals before using them. Some have keys. Please clean up all your rubbish and put things away as instructed to ensure they stay open. Some have closed in recent years.

四阿 /東屋 / 休息所 — Rest huts. They are public structures, so make use of them if you feel comfortable.

Unattended Train Stations — These are usually small stations that are just outside small towns. Many will have toilets, though they may not be cleaned regularly.

Minshuku 民宿 — Paid accommodation. Like a small bed & breakfast, these are usually the cheapest paid options. Some listed here have discounted rates for henro. Check out the places in the Henro House directory.

Ryokan 旅館 — Paid accommodation. Also a bed and breakfast, though it could be multi-storey. The term can also be used for small hotels, especially in the Japanese countryside.

Sudomari 素泊まり — Stay without meals at a reduced price for pilgrims. When making a booking, you can also say: ‘Sudomari onegaishimasu’ to make it clear that you only want a room and no meals.

4. Henro Lodging List (Updated 2019)

Shikoku pilgrimage henro hut 81Henro hut #51 close to Temple #82.

The people who walk the henro are diverse. Some are city dwellers who have only ever slept in the comforts of home and hotels. Others are free spirits who have trekked the Himalayas. After a few years of feedback from readers and fellow henro, I am adding a bit more context to my information to help you better decide what works for you.

Also, I suggest checking out this useful map from JPilgrim.

Shikoku henro budget lodging list PDF screenshot

This list is available as:

Please note this list has not been updated since 2019 and is not actively maintained.

Some Notes of the Entries in this List

My list comes from English, Japanese, and Chinese sources. The information ranges from 2010-2016. After 2015, more henro huts were being built (at least 55 now). I have not physically verified all of these places and cannot verify their state now, but I have made an effort to add updates sent by other pilgrims. The JPilgrim map seems the most updated. Please try to verify and exchange information with other henro when you start walking.

I have translated Japanese & Chinese information into English. English-only entries below mean that they were not on my Japanese nojuku sheets.

Try searching for Couchsurfing and AirBnB hosts as well. There are more AirBnB listings now than when I was walking and they may be good options.

Places I’ve stayed are in bold. Where possible, I have left comments to give further information as I am a shoestring backpacker. I care about cleanliness more than comfort and power outlets are an optional luxury to me as I didn’t need a smartphone all the time.

Closed locations are on this list, but they are crossed out. I kept the listings in case people have old lists and it is clear that they were not missing from this list, but rather that you should not go to them.

Again, a gentle reminder from local ryokan owners: There have been cases of no-show amongst foreign walking henro. If you decide not to stay, please notify the ryokan and say:

Moshimoshi. Sumimasen. [Your name] desu. Yoyaku kanseru kudasai.’ Kanseru = cancel.

Giving notice if you cannot arrive is basic guest etiquette. I have known of ryokan owners who stay up waiting for their guest to arrive / return. They need to specially prepare your meal for you, so providing notice is out of consideration for their preparation. Your cooperation will help future henro by keeping ryokan doors open to foreign guests. Thanks again!

5. Additional Sources

If you’re confident about your smartphone, then I recommend you use the JPilgrim (2016) as it’s the most visually appealing and has complete information that’s the most updated I know of. Also have a look at the map of Henro Houses, which came from another pilgrim’s recommendation.

More recent useful sources


6. Photos for Nojuku Henro, Zenkonyado & Tsuyado

Hagimori-san’s zenkonyado near Nishibun Station, Geisei VillageHagimori-san’s zenkonyado near Nishibun Station, Geisei Village

Susaki Henro Hut, KochiSusaki Henro Hut on Route 23 has 2 power outlets

Henro hut on ShikokuA henro hut with blankets

Henro Hut on ShikokuBasic henro hut on Shikoku

Zenkonyado at Tsuro close to Cape AshizuriKanehira-san’s (legendary) Zenkoyado at Tsuro

Zenkonyado at Tsuro close to Cape AshizuriKanehira-san’s Zenkoyado at Tsuro. Laundry machines don’t work.

tea osettai at henro hut 81Osettai tea for pilgrims outside Henro Hut 51

If you haven’t already, you can check out my Shikoku packing list and my post on cost considerations.

If you would like the occasional update, please leave your e-mail and look out for an e-mail when I have more information up on Shikoku! Thanks!

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