Mt. Shosha

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.

Engyoji Temple

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.

Shojin Ryori

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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