Japan has four main islands. This excellent Financial Times article by Barney Jopson discusses the circumambulatory pilgrimage around one of those islands – Shikoku. I have circled the island myself, but in a car, though I climbed up to several temples by foot. The variety of motivations of those doing this pilgrimage was amazing.
The article shows the complex way Japanese handle their religious traditions.d Watching a tradition very different from your own can sometimes help you to see the silliness of your own.