One of the most rewarding trips of my life was a five-day solo odyssey I made a few summers ago around the Japanese island of Shikoku. Shikoku has been a place of pilgrimage since the ninth century, when the beloved scholar and monk Kobo Daishi established a path of 88 Buddhist temples that circle the island. Completing this circuit is supposed to give you great wisdom, purity, and peace, but I was on a pilgrimage of another kind. My wife grew up on this island, and I had first visited it with her some 20 years before. Now I had returned to see if the singular beauty, serenity, and slow pace of the place I remembered—and the country kindness of its residents—had survived.
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