Engyoji Temple is a complex of Buddhist buildings in Himeji, South Hyogo Prefecture of the Kansai region of Japan. It’s famous for its long history, outstanding architecture, beautiful autumn leaves and for being the filming location of The Last Samurai. However, the best-kept secret about this place is the spirituality and peace that is felt as soon as you arrive. Although is a quick bus ride from the city center, not many tourists visit it. Maybe that is what makes it even more special.
Founded in 966 at Mount Shosha by Shoku, a holy Buddhist priest, Engyoji Temple still conserves the authenticity and spirituality of centuries ago. It is said that Shoku was enlightened by the God of Wisdom and Intellect informing him that anyone who climbed the mountain would be purified. Still until today, Engyoji is temple number 27 out of the 33 of the Saigoku pilgrimage.
There are more than two dozen beautiful and historical buildings inside the complex. Each of them has a special architecture, deep historical importance, and spiritual influence. Take your time to visit and truly enjoy each of them.
Maniden is the main building of the complex. It was built in 970 and had to be rebuilt in 1932 due to an unfortunate fire in 1921. Pilgrims particularly visit this temple. It is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy for whom Shoku carved a statue. This main statue and its four guardians can only be seen on January 18th.
Other impressive buildings are the massive wooden halls called Mitsunodo. It includes Daikodo (the great auditorium), Jikido (lodging and dining hall) and Jogyodo (gymnasium). Daikodo was once the main building of Engyoji and was a famous training center for priests. Jikido was constructed to enshrine Monju, the God of Wisdom and Intellect. Inside this building, the treasures of the temple are displayed. Additionally, it is here where a famous scene of The Last Samurai was filmed. Jogyodo was once used for ceremonial music and dance performances.
There are many other buildings to explore and enjoy. Some small ones are fascinating for its well-preserved details. Being completely surrounded by nature just makes it even more rewarding to slowly walk and discover.
It will take four minutes to get to Engyoji’s entrance where you find the ticket office of the complex. Entrance fee is ¥500 per person. You will then just need to follow the quiet path with trees at both sides. It will guide you to all the temples.
Two suggestions before you go to Mount Shosha. First, although the place doesn’t get really crowded is better to go in the morning. You will experience a much peaceful and silent atmosphere. Second, many people go on a half-day trip. I would definitely spend a full day if you have the time. Just walking and appreciating the temples with nature all around them will reward you with the spiritual feeling of ancient times.
Engyoji will celebrate its annual autumn festival from November 25 to 27. If you plan to visit Himeji on these dates it might be really worth going to the festival.