SANUKI, Kagawa Prefecture--With a combined age of 169, Masanao and Saeko Tsujimoto have become probably the oldest couple ever to complete the Shikoku pilgrimage, an arduous 1,200-kilometer trek that features 88 temples.

But the husband and wife, 88 and 81, respectively, are not done yet.

Masanao is already thinking of making the pilgrimage again with his spouse when he turns 90.

The couple’s combined age is likely unparalleled among those who undertake the journey on foot, according to Henro, a publication that specializes in Shikoku pilgrims.

Dec. 5 marked the 57th day of their journey. The couple left their lodge in front of Nagaoji temple here, the 87th stop on the route, at 7 a.m. They arrived at Okuboji temple, also in Sanuki, the 88th and the last stop, just after 2 p.m.

It was the fourth time for the couple to make the pilgrimage.

The latest journey started from Ryozenji temple in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, on Oct. 10, Masanao’s 88th birthday. The couple set a goal of walking an average of 20 kilometers a day, which they managed for the most part.

“I do feel pleased that we completed the journey, but at the same time, I also feel sad that the route is behind us,” Saeko said.

The couple supported each other throughout the trip, which included several difficult sections.

In Kochi Prefecture, they went the wrong way at a mountain pass.

At another time, when they were heading for Unpenji temple, the 66th stop on the route in a mountainous area straddling Kagawa and Tokushima prefectures, it rained all day.

It was so cold that Masanao couldn't stop trembling. He recovered only when he was able to warm himself in front of a stove at the temple’s office.

“I couldn’t have done it just by myself,” Masanao said. “People cheered us along the way. We were given a lot of encouragement.”

The Tsujimotos, who live in Suita, a city in Osaka Prefecture, first began walking the trail in the summer of 1995.

The magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which struck northeastern Japan in 2011, gave them pause for thought.

The two considered going to disaster-hit areas to volunteer their time and help, but gave up on the idea after concluding that elderly volunteers would only be an encumbrance.

They said the only thing they could do was to pray.

On March 11, 2012, the first anniversary of the disaster, the couple set out on a journey of pilgrimage, offering prayers for the successful rebuilding of stricken areas. They donated all the money received from local people by way of “hospitality” toward pilgrims to disaster-hit areas.

During their latest journey, the couple included their granddaughter in their prayers.

To their great joy, the granddaughter sent an e-mail in late November to inform them that she had been given an unofficial job offer from a company she wanted to work for.

The couple broke into smiles as they discussed the news, saying that one of their wishes had come true.

“I am dreaming of setting out again to walk with my wife when I have turned 90,” Masanao said.