"Get in the car." An old woman in thick glasses and a knitted hat gestures from her seat behind the wheel.

Under normal circumstances, we wouldn't consider jumping into a stranger's vehicle, especially not one that had so suddenly stopped in our path. And, in normal circumstances, the grandmother in the car probably wouldn't pick up strangers either. But this is Shikoku and we are wearing the white clothes of the pilgrim.

We are traveling the Shikoku Pilgrimage, following the signs for henro (pilgrims), on a 1,200-kilometer circuit that runs between 88 temples on the island of Shikoku. It honors the founder of Japanese Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi.