About 25 minutes by bus from Himeji Station, and a world away, is Mt.
Shosha, Himeji's highest mountain and home to the temple complex of Engyoji.
Founded in 966 by Priest Shoku, Engyoji was once a major training center
for priests of the Tendai sect. Eight of its buildings and seven of its
Buddhist statues have been designated Important Cultural Properties.
In 2002, Hollywood movie "The Last Samurai" was shot, and it has become a popular
sightseeing spot on tours that visit movie sets.
In just minutes a ropeway will carry you up the mountain, lush with natural
beauty. From the ropeway station, it's a 15-minute walk through the woods
to the main gate of the complex.
One of 33 pilgrimage sites in western Japan, Engyoji attracts pilgrims from all over Japan. They go to its main building, the Maniden, to have
special scrolls stamped with the temple seal. Here, a millennium ago, visionary
Priest Shoku saw a celestial being in a mountain cherry tree and was moved
to carve a statue of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, out of the rooted
tree and build a temple around it. Temple and statue were destroyed in a
fire in 1921, but the Kannon statue now in the rebuilt Maniden is carved
of wood salvaged from the original tree.
Walk through towering forests to the Jikido, a unique structure that once
served as lodgings for priests in training. With the Daikodo and Jogyodo,
it makes an exotic three-sided courtyard. The stage that fronts the Jogyodo
is built to give the Buddhist statue inside the Daikodo the best view of
performances. Continue on to Okunoin, where you may pay homage to Priest
Shoku and stop for a moment of spiritual quiet.
Himeji, located on the Inland Sea, is built on a plain dotted with fourteen
mountains and hills. From the observation point on Mt. Shosha, take in the
panorama of city and mountains, sea and islands.
If the season is right, enjoy shojin ryori (vegetarian cuisine), served
on Edo period lacquerware, at the elegant subtemple of Juryoin. Or stay
the night at the subtemple Myokoin or the Engyoji Kaikan.
Don't miss the new Shosha Art and Craft Museum, just a three-minute walk
from the ropeway station at the foot of Mt. Shosha. Designed by Miyawaki
Mayumi, this harmonious museum is set in an alluring bamboo garden. The
permanent collection features the free-spirited paintings, calligraphy,
and ceramics of Shimizu Kosho, abbot of Todaiji Temple in Nara, traditional
toys, and local crafts. Three times a week local artisans are at work in
the demonstration room, making dolls, tops, papier-mâché masks
and figures. Spin a top, paint a mask, ring the huge Myochin tempered metal chimes, and have a good time. The small museum shop
also stocks the crafts. (Open 10:00 to 5:00; closed Monday, the day following
a national holiday, and December 25 to January 5. Tel: 079-267-0301)
Art & Craft Museum
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