Ensei-ji Temple was originally established as a Buddhist temple in 1254 in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Later, in 1870, a government edict enforcing a separation between Shinto and Buddhism saw the temple merge with Houkou-in Temple in what is now downtown Hagi. Renamed, the temple has been known as Ensei-ji ever since.
Despite it being a Buddhist temple, the torii gate here leaves a strange impression as torii gates are peculiar to Shinto shrines. Visitors can see two small circles made by stones on the torii, an indication that a temple and shrine are both located in the same area. At the same time, an extant Konpira Shrine can also be found here, its form a fusion of both Shinto and Buddhist faiths, making the location here quite uncommon.
A wooden horse with which former Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi and a samurai Takasugi Shinsaku used to play with as children is on display here. A large, red and most impressive tengu mask decorates the Konpira Shrine. It is said that Shinsaku and statesman Katsura Kogoro used to often look upon that mask.
The grounds of the temple, while being compact and small, are very calm and relaxing and visitors can easily get a sense of the history of the buildings here. The grounds are also home to Yamaguchi Prefecture's largest stone lantern and is a must-see sight.
Ensei-ji Temple and Konpira Shrine are located in Hagi Castle Town which is registered as World Heritage Site. Places like the birthplace of Takasugi Shinsaku, now a famous son of Yamaguchi, can be found nearby. In fact, the castle town is quite tasteful with a good atmosphere where many old samurai residences still remain.
Along with the old samurai feeling, when visiting Hagi Castle Town, making your way to see the temple and shrine is highly recommended.