Shikoku Symbolism and Meaning

shikoku symbolism and meaning 8e52d087

Shikoku is an island located in Japan that holds deep cultural and spiritual significance for the people of the country. It is known for its breathtaking landscapes, ancient temples, and rich history. The island has been a source of inspiration for many artists, poets, and philosophers throughout the centuries. This article will explore the symbolism and meaning behind Shikoku’s various aspects, including its geography, religion, and cultural practices.


Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, yet it holds a unique place in the hearts of many Japanese people due to its rich history, natural beauty, and spiritual significance. The island has been a source of inspiration for poets, artists, and philosophers throughout the centuries. It is home to 88 temples that form the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a religious journey undertaken by thousands of pilgrims each year, as well as numerous shrines and sacred sites. This article will delve into the symbolism behind these aspects of Shikoku, exploring its geography, religion, and cultural practices.

Geographical Symbolism

Shikoku’s unique landscape has played a significant role in shaping its symbolism. The island is known for its lush forests, rugged mountains, and serene coastlines. It is often referred to as the “island of eight hundred thousand gods” due to its numerous shrines and temples. Its geographical features have been used metaphorically to represent the spiritual journey that pilgrims undertake during the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The mountains symbolize the challenges they face, while the coastlines are seen as a path towards enlightenment. The island’s rivers and forests symbolize purification and renewal. The four prefectures of Shikoku – Kagawa, Ehime, Tokushima, Kochi, and Okayama – each have their own unique characteristics that contribute to the overall symbolism of the region.

  • Kagawa Prefecture: Known for its Seto Inland Sea, it represents the connection between heaven and earth. The sea is a symbol of life’s journey, with pilgrims crossing it on boats or ferries to reach their destinations.
  • Ehime Prefecture: Its lush forests represent the path towards enlightenment, where pilgrims find solace in nature.
  • Tokushima Prefecture: The prefecture’s mountains symbolize overcoming obstacles on their spiritual journey.
  • Kochi Prefecture: Its rugged coastlines are seen as a path towards self-discovery and purification.
  • Okayama Prefecture: Its rivers represent the flow of life, guiding pilgrims to their destination.

Religious Symbolism

Shikoku is deeply rooted in Buddhism, with its 88 temples dedicated to Kobo Daishi, a revered monk who founded Shingon Buddhism. The temples are symbols of enlightenment and wisdom. Each temple has its own unique story and symbolism associated with it. For instance, the Ryozen Temple in Tokushima is known for its dragon motif, representing power and strength, while the Koyasan Temple in Kochi represents compassion and mercy.

Cultural Symbolism

Shikoku’s cultural practices also hold deep symbolic meaning. The island is famous for its traditional arts like pottery, textiles, and calligraphy. These crafts are seen as symbols of creativity and perseverance.

  • Pottery: Shikoku’s pottery represents the earthiness of life and the resilience of the people who live there.
  • Textiles: They symbolize the intricate weaving of life’s threads, representing harmony and balance.
  • Calligraphy: It is a symbol of self-expression and spiritual growth.


Shikoku’s symbolism extends beyond its geographical features and religious sites. Its cultural practices are deeply intertwined with its people’s way of life, making it an essential part of their identity. The island’s natural beauty and rich history make it a must-visit destination for those seeking spiritual growth and understanding of Japanese culture.

Shikoku is more than just an island; it’s a symbol of perseverance, enlightenment, and harmony. Its geographical features, religious sites, and cultural practices all contribute to its unique identity. The Shikoku Pilgrimage is not only a physical journey but also a spiritual one, with each step taken on the path representing a new chapter in life’s journey. Whether it’s the rugged mountains or serene coastlines, every aspect of this island holds profound meaning for those who visit or reside there.

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