Countdown to infinite walking: $$$
One of the harsh reminders about the temple walk is that it is long and expensive. Emphasis on that last one.
Like any good planner would do, I listed out everything I would need for the trip and the costs during the trek. The current plan is that I will camp as much as possible, which differs from the “inn to inn” a lot of walkers (wisely) do, so my expenses differ from the usual fare. However, to get to the meat of this whole charade, here’s what the expected expenses will be, starting with the “pre-trip expenses.” (Which I will list in Yen)
Tent: 20000 (single-person from Montbell)
Sleeping Bag: 6000
Guidebooks: 5800 (as previously noted here)
Stamp Book: 2000
Walking Stick: 1000
White Jacket: 2250
Straw Hat: 2000
Name Slips: 200
Total: 45610 (roughly $456)
And, before you ask yourself if some of the items above are actually “mandatory,” I would have to answer with a very hasty “yes!” To show off that one is actually on the pilgrimage, it is highly recommended they wear the traditional garb for the trip, which includes the items above. Doesn’t it just look so cool!
As far as finding a place to sleep, of course, there is lodging available. From family owned Minshuku, business hotels or actually staying at the temples themselves, indoor lodging is not out of my reach. However, the time I’m going is not very favorable: “high season” is considered March-May and October-November and many of the family-owned inns, which would be countless in their openings, simply shut down until those times. Luckily, I was able to snag a few temple room restorations, called Shukubo, and a stay at a Toyoko Inn in Tokushima on New Years day. The temples are priced at 6500 yen a night and Toyoko at 5800 yen. This took a little more effort than expected, since I had to coordinate which temples/hotels would even be open during 1) dry season and 2) a holiday. Otherwise, on the off days, the tent and sleeping bag will be my best friends.
(I must add here, for anyone worried about their Japanese, the temples I called were very accommodating and understanding of my poor language skills. Of course, there were some things I didn’t pick up, but just asking the simple questions again to clarify was never a problem.)
Along the lines of food, figuring around 1000 yen a meal would add to a hefty 24000 ($240) if I payed for every single one, but with some meals provided, the total costs for my lodging and food will be around 32300 ($323). (Business Hotels and hotels like Toyoko typically do not serve meals). That’s with having to buy dinner and breakfasts on off days, but always needing to provide my own lunch. Honestly, I’m willing to pay the extra 6000 yen to have some actual nutrition and available baths.
Lastly, as a true mark that one has experienced the trip, “stamps” are to be collected at each of the temples. Each stamp is 300 yen a pop which, just for 23 of them, takes an easy 6900 ($69) out of the wallet. In the end, that’s 26,400 ($260) just for some ink on paper! (Insert “college diploma” joke here)
Now, I know my case is a bit muddled. Some will choose to camp every day, others staying at minshuku every night, but honestly after calculating all the different “parallel universes of spending,” the options were honestly pretty equal. I found buying food for every meal the factor that would bite me in the ass, where the minshuku and temples provide two of them. For a maybe more round-about and thoughtful layout of the costs, I would recommend once again to visit here for a “trip calculator.”
So, all in all, for one prefecture, my trip will be about 78,000 yen ($780). (IMPORTANT NOTE: this number reflects the “pre-trip” and “during trip” expenses.)
I hope that number shows you have to be really dedicated to this thing! And that’s just a faction of what the end result might be, ranging around $4000 for people who do the whole trip at once. “I spent about $6,300 for my walk in 1999, but that included airfare, books, everything,” our henro-sensei Dave Turkington said on shinkokuhenrotrail.
The other big task is actually getting to each temple and in, and, since there are already good breakdowns of how far it takes from temple to temple, I won’t bother with those details. Rather, the Japanese book I mentioned previously actually contains a great, detailed guide on how to walk the first 23 over nine days. It averages about 18 km a day, with exceptions here and there to accommodate for the harder parts of the trip (12, 20 and 21 are all on top of mountains!).
So, that’s the numbers game for me. I mainly wrote this for people trying to research the trip and those looking for a bare-bones example of what the costs/length might be. Since next week is the big one, I’ll write a little sumthin’-sumthin’ as a prologue and something of a “look forward to” before this thing goes silent for a few weeks.