The next morning I had one more sightseeing trip to complete before leaving Himeji and moving deeper into the Kansai region of Japan. I walked down to the area by Himeji Station and there I purchased a ticket for a bus that would take me to the mountains just outside the city. Near the bus station there was an expo being held that showcased some of the equipment being used by Himeji’s firefighters.
I got off the bus at the lower ropeway station of Mt Shosha and got on the next gondola going up the mountain. The reason I had come here was to visit Engyoji, a temple located high up on the mountain’s forested slopes that is around 1,000 years old. Near the upper ropeway station there’s a bell that visitors can ring (I might have rung it a little too loud) and from there you begin the hike towards Engyoji. Small Buddhist statues line the trail and after about 15 minutes I reached the official entrance gate of the temple.
After passing through the gate I continued along the trail, passing several smaller temple buildings until I reached the Maniden, a large temple hall that is built over a small cliff and supported by wooden pillars. The Maniden was originally constructed around 970 but it burned down in 1921 and was rebuilt in 1933. Among other things, the Maniden houses a statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon that is only viewable to the public once per year on January 18.
Further down the trail from the Maniden are the centrals buildings of Engyoji. If you’ve seen the 2003 movie The Last Samurai you might recognize this part of Engyoji because a few scenes from the movie were filmed here and at other spots on the temple grounds. The three main buildings here are known as the Mitsunodo. Two of the three buildings were closed to visitors but the middle building that used to be a dormitory and now holds Engyoji’s small museum was open and I went inside it. A large group of school kids was also visiting Engyoji when I was there and some of them said hi to me as I was exploring the temple.
Around the back of the Mitsunodo is a cluster of smaller shrines and temple buildings, including one that honors the monk that originally founded Engyoji. This rear area seems to be mostly ignored by visitors to Engyoji and I had it all to myself for most of the time I was back there.
It was getting into the afternoon when I started making my way back towards the upper ropeway station. I took a different route than the one I used to hike up to Engyoji and passed a couple of small shrines along the road. When the gondola dropped me off at the lower ropeway station I had just barely missed the bus that would have taken me back to central Himeji but thankfully I didn’t have to wait long for another one to arrive. Upon returning to Himeji I would grab my backpack and head to the train station to continue my trek across Japan. Next stop: Osaka.
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