Pilgrimage to religious sites and secular travel culture have been closely linked for many centuries in Japan. Pilgrims in the Japanese Buddhist context usually visit a series of temples that form a fixed set or ‘circle’ of Buddhist sites thought to be miraculous. The circulatory Buddhist pilgrimage to thirty-three sites in and around the old capital of Kyoto – the Saikoku pilgrimage – is one of the most enduring complex religious institutions known. The article examines possible reasons for the undiminished success of the pilgrimage, highlighting the role of foundation legends and miracle tales in the management of memory. The narratives reveal bureaucratic site administration and are connected to the act of mapping of paths both through the physical and the spiritually endowed landscape.