Discovering Himeji – A Hike up Mt Shosha to Engyoji Temple

Climbing Mt. Shosha (書写山, Shoshazan) might have been made easier by the introduction of modern technology (ropeway), but the ropeway only takes you to midway up the mountains. We were left to make our own way up to Engyoji temple (円教寺, Engyōji), a temple complex with temple buildings spread over forested surroundings.

The rest of the trek up the mountain took a toll on our legs and breath, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with weak constitution. But while the climb may not have been a stroll in the park, the scenery that unfolded before us was more than compensation enough. The rolling greens, the misty horizon, the tall, towering trees that interspersed with little kannon (Goddess of Mercy, 観音) statues at every turn, gave us a sense of peace in our hearts and spiritual strength to push on till we reached our destination.

It has been said that anyone who climbed this mountain would be purified in body and spirit, and I did feel that the mountain grounds were sacred, the trees seemed to have a life of their own, and the air was cool and crisp even though it had been a hot and humid day. We had left the baggage of humanity and civilisation to be cleansed by the very air of the mountain itself.

View of rice farms and mountains.
Little kannon statues lining the dirt path in the mountainous forest.

The path up to the main building of Engyoji Temple (円教寺, Engyōji) is not exactly just filled with trees and kannon figurines to guide your way. You will be able to catch a breather and take pictures at the same time for there are a few picturesque pitstops along the way.

An iron kannon statue sitting on a lotus leaf in the forest clearing.
Stopped to pay our respects.
A little pavilion in the forest clearing housing a large iron bell with some sculpted rocks in front.
Little pavilion housing the Bell of Compassion (慈悲の鐘, Jihi no Kane)
Me attempting to ring the large iron bell in the pavilion.

About 15 minutes into the walk, you will reach Niomon (仁王門). We had thought that this meant we were close, but it took another 15 minute trek to reach the main building.

Battered stone steps leading up to a traditional Japanese-style gate in the forest.
Niomon gate. Once you walk past it, the temple grounds are considered as sacred.

Finally, we reached Maniden (摩尼殿) after a 30-minute climb. The wooden temple hall structure may be reminiscent of Kiyomizudera (清水寺) temple in Kyoto, but it is unlike most temples I have seen. Stripped of gold and iridescent paints, the temple is simple and almost austere, but it only adds on to its sacred beauty.

Stone steps leading up to the temple.
Iron purification fountain on the right with a backdrop of green trees.
This purification fountain is one of the most beautiful I have seen.
Dragon sculpture carved out of iron rising above the iron fountain.
I am particularly captivated by this wonderfully intricate sculpture of a dragon around the fountain.
Wooden temple terrace facing the green forest.
The terrace of the Maniden overlooks an expanse of green trees. I think it would be exceptionally lovely in autumn when the trees are in their vibrant hues of reds.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to explore the rest of the temples, Mitsunodo, the sites of filming for “The Last Samurai”. The next time I go to Himeji I would certainly want to pay these temple halls a visit. Anyway, my next update is still on Himeji, only with a different focus. Make a guess and stay tuned!

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Beauty- and Travel-holic who loves to play and dream, and recording her life moments.

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