Engyo-ji was one of my favorite spots when we visited Himeji, so I want to share this little tip with you.
Located just outside Himeji city, Engyo-ji temple makes a perfect half-day side trip and can easily follow your mandatory visit to Himeji castle.
We didn’t really know what to expect when we got on the bus headed for Shosha Ropeway. My friend had read something about a mountain full of temples and shrines. We both thought it sounded pretty cool, and as we had an entire afternoon to spare we decided to go, hoping for some great views from the mountain. When we arrived at Shosha Ropeway we each got a return ticket. The price was ¥1000 which is a bit steep for the fairly short ride. I’ve heard there is a hiking trail you can take instead, but we didn’t have time for that, so we coughed up the money.
The view from the ropeway was very nice, as we smoothly flew across the rice fields and forrest. Arriving at the top we got a few refreshments at the vending machines, and started studying a map of hiking trails and sights along the trails. We decided to set Engyo-ji temple as our main goal for the little hike, as suggested by a kind employee. We started the hiking up through the woods and quickly encountered a big bell, which you can ring for world piece. Of course we took the chance to ring the nice big bell and prayed for world peace. As we moved along the path we came by many stone pillars with carvings in them, small buddha statues and different temple buildings, like living quarters etc.
Well into the hike we reached the Maniden temple hall, a magnificent (and I can’t emphasize the magnificence enough) hall standing on pillar many meters high on the hill side. It almost looked as though it was built in the treetops. As we started in disbelief at the beauty in front of us a few pilgrims passed us, politely greeting us. We decided to walk up to the entrance where we took of our shoes, and in complete silence visited the hall and the terrace around it. It really felt like walking in the treetops too. So beautiful and serene. Inside a monk was minding his own business as we looked around.
We were starting to feel a bit of time pressure, as the last ride down the mountain was at 6PM, so we left Maniden hall, and continued through a pretty rough section of the path, which in retrospect cannot have been the main path. However it took us to our destination, Engyo-Ji. There wasn’t a soul at the temple when we emerged from the forrest into the open temple grounds. Such an amazing feeling!
We wandered around, looking at the huge and impressive wooden structures, and really felt like we had been sent hundreds of years back in time. If you want a peaceful and meaningful place to meditate this would be the perfect spot. This specific place was even featured in the Hollywood movie The Last Samurai from 2003 we learned.
Feeling the time pressure, and fearing having to hike down the mountain in darkness we left Engyo-ji and headed back in direction of the ropeway station. In a hurry, but still with enough time to ring the bell for world peace again, we made it just in time for the second last ride down.
You can take bus number 8 from either Himeji Station (stop number 10) or Himeji Castle (bus stop number 1). Stay on the bus till the end station “Shoshazan Ropeway”. See my guide on how to take a bus in Japan.
When you arrive at Shoshazan Ropeway you can buy a ticket to go up by the ropeway, or hike up yourself. Please check when the last ride down is, so you don’t miss it.