I had only one full day left on the island of Shikoku and I spent most of it on a trip to the town of Kotohira. It normally takes a bit over an hour to reach Kotohira from Takamatsu by train, though on occasion there are direct limited express trains that can get you there faster.
Kotohira is home to Kompirasan, a major Shinto shrine that is located on the slopes of Mt Zozu. The path leading to Kompirasan begins with a shopping street full of stores and restaurants that cater to the shrine’s visitors.
To reach the main hall of Kompirasan you have to climb a lot of stairs—785 to be exact. Despite being one of the more difficult Shinto shrines to reach on foot, Kompirasan is a very popular shrine and you’ll see people of all ages making the climb. Along the path there are many smaller shrine buildings and monuments where visitors can stop if they need a break from the stairs. On the day I was at Kompirasan the air was cool and there was a slight breeze, making for very good climbing weather.
After a lot of climbing there’s a large building that could be mistaken for Kompirasan’s main hall but this is actually a secondary hall called Asashi-sha. When you reach this building you are getting very close to the real main hall, so don’t despair if you’re feeling tired at this point.
Just beyond Asahi-sha are the final sets of stairs that lead up to Kompirasan’s main hall. In additional to the beautiful architecture, reaching the main hall rewards you with a view of the town of Kotohira and the nearby area. It was really cloudy on the day I visited but on clear days the view is really nice from up there.
Right next to the main hall is an area full of photographs of various naval vessels. Kompirasan is a shrine dedicated to seafaring and it’s common for sailors to pray here for safety on the seas. Along with all the photos, there’s a mini submarine on display.
Most people visiting Kompirasan turn around after exploring the area around the main hall but there’s actually an inner shrine that’s even further up the mountain. Reaching the inner shrine requires you to climb an additional 583 stairs and it took me about 20-25 minutes to reach the end of the trail. In total, there are 1,368 stone stairs from the bottom of the path all the way to the inner shrine at the top, so if you’re looking to burn some calories while sightseeing then Kompirasan is a great place to visit.
After getting some photos of the inner shrine and taking a break, I started the long descent back down to the bottom of the Kompirasan trail. I didn’t stop too many times on my hike down but when I got back to the stores near the bottom I did a little window-shopping.
On the shopping street leading up to the stairs there’s a public foot bath where climbers can relax their feet. Entrance is free and it felt nice to soak my feet in warm water after ascending and descending so many stairs.
As a reward for all the climbing I did, I treated myself to an ice cream cone before leaving Kotohira. This particular cone came from a small shop called Konpira Pudding (こんぴらプリン) and had a mix of green tea and pudding ice creams, with some honey drizzled on top of it. Not a bad way to end the day if I do say so myself.