What a day trip from Kyoto to Engyogi Temple on Mount Shosha looks like.
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Shoshazan Engyoji Temple is an absolutely wonderful place and a must-see while visiting Japan. Located on Mount Shosha, on the outskirts of Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, it was founded in 966. The Temple Buildings are scattered around the mountaintop, several being 'Important Cultural Properties'. Engyoji is a Tendai Buddhist Temple and it is open daily from 8:30 to 18:00.
How to get to Engyoji Temple and Mount Shosha
From Kyoto, if going by train to Himeji, you can take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen (5570 Yen one way) or Tokaido-Sanyo(2490 Yen one way).
As I was planning my trip to Engyoji Temple, most advice was to take a bus, then the Ropeway/Cable Car to the Temple Grounds Entrance. When I arrived at Himeji Station, I wanted to be sure the information I had was accurate so I went to the Tourist Information Centre located in the Train Station. There I was told that the Ropeway was still closed (usually closed during winter until late March), although on their website it seemed to be open. Eventually, I found out it was closed for maintenance just for that week - I know, lucky me.
I was adamant about wanting to go to Engyoji and they were kind enough to offer me a map which had the choice of 2 ways of getting there if I was willing to hike up the mountain: the Western Course which had steeper slopes or the Eastern Course which was easier to climb. Considering I was wearing sneakers and generally not really prepared for an actual hike, I opted for the Eastern Course which ended up being fun and manageable.
To get there, you have 2 options:
Bus + Ropeway
Take Bus No 8 (280 Yen one way) from the North Exit of Himeji Station to Mount Shosha Ropeway Station - the journey takes about 30 minutes. From there take the Ropeway (600 Yen one way or 1000 yen return ticket). As you exit the Ropeway you can pretty much see the Entrance to Temple Grounds. From the Entrance, it takes about 20 minutes to reach the Maniden/Main Temple.
Bus + Hiking
From Himeji Bus Terminal which is just outside the train station, you can take Bus No. 41, 42, 43 or 45 to Shosha Higashizaka which is close to the base of Mount Shosha. The bus fair is 280 Yen (April 2023) and takes about 25 minutes.
Once you have reached the Higashizaka bus station, cross the street and look for the Stone Statue below. Turn left on that street, walk straight ahead, and then turn left when you see the sign below.
The hike takes around 40-50 minutes and you will walk past the Ropeway Station towards the end of the hike. From the Ropeway Station, you will find the Entrance to the Temple Grounds about a minute's walk away. There you can buy the admission ticket which is 500 Yen. From the entrance, there is another 20-minute walk to the Maniden.
Hiking up to Engyoji
If you decide to hike, like it did, please wear appropriate footwear and make sure you have water and a couple of snacks with you. I'm used to hiking, the sneakers I wore had quite a decent grip so it all worked out for me. The whole trail is a combination of walking and hiking and it's a tiny bit demanding every once in a while, but it is doable if your health allows it.
The views are incredible from every step of the way, so take some time to enjoy them, have a sip of water and some fresh air. There is enough space for others to go past you, so no need to worry about that.
After about 40 minutes or more if you stop for pictures or a bit of rest, you will reach the Ropeway Station. If you enter the building you can find toilets and vending machines. As you walk past the Station, in about a minute you will reach the Entrance to the Temple Grounds. The admission fee is 500 Yen.
From the Entrance, walk for another 15-20 minutes to reach the main buildings. You will go past a few buildings and statues on the way there, including Niomon (reconstructed in 1665) - the main gate to Engyojy Temple. Everything past this gate is considered sacred.
As you can see from the maps, the buildings are scattered in the forest, so there's a bit of a walk in between them, when I say 'please wear comfortable shoes' I genuinely mean it.
The Maniden (Main Hall)
The huge building called the Maniden was built in 970, burnt down in 1921 and was rebuilt in 1933. It's an absolutely impressive structure which stands in the middle of the Engyoji Temple Complex.
As you stand in front of it, to its right you can find a coffee shop, and once you climb up the stairs, to the right, you can find the toilets.
You can walk up the stairs to go inside the Maniden. I believe there is a fee for entering (not 100% sure from my notes, unfortunately). The view from up there is worth the hike. You can also buy souvenirs there.
After visiting the Maniden I walked a bit further towards the Three Halls - Jogyodo (training hall), Jikido and Daikodo (Great Auditorium). All three buildings are listed as 'Important Cultural Proprieties'
Seeing these magnificent wooden buildings surrounded by beautiful natural scenery was breathtaking. I was there in the middle of Sakura Season, which is usually manic everywhere you go, yet for a good while I was alone. It was serene, and, honestly exactly what I needed after all the busy days I had travelled until then.
I can fully understand why it has been used as a filming location. Whenever you search for 'Mount Shosha' or 'Engyojy Temple' you will most likely find mentions of scenes of The Last Samurai being filmed there.
From the Three Halls, I went to Shoro - The Bell Tower and a few other buildings in the same area. As I arrived a bit later in the day, I didn't have time to explore all the buildings, but I was more than happy with what I had seen by then. Next time I will try my best to get there as early as possible.
Once I was done exploring, the cafe was already closed, so I can't provide any reviews for that, but luckily I had snacks packed, which is why I suggest you also pack some just in case.
I slowly made my way back to the bus station, enjoying the views.
The bus station is a bit further down the road from where the bus stopped on the way there - you can see above what it looks like (March 2023).
I only waited for a couple of minutes to get the bus, it was pretty empty so I sat down, realizing for the first time that day how tired I was. After about 20 minutes I arrived at Himeji Station and got the train back to Kyoto.
I highly recommend visiting Enjyoji Temple and hiking up Mount Shosha. I'm sure the Ropeway offers nice views, but making my way up there was a unique experience.
If you travel to Himeji and have time, you might want to pay Himeji Castle a visit - it is absolutely beautiful.
If you have any questions about going to Engyoji Temple, please ask away in the comments below and I will try my best to help.
I hope life is treating you well.