A Pilgrimage To Mt. Shosha And Engyoji Temple

If you're staying overnight, you might consider a half-day trip to Mount Shosha (called Shoshazan in Japanese; tel. 079/266-3327), the 360m-high (1,200-ft.) mountain retreat of Engyoji Temple, founded more than 1,000 years ago by a holy man who received enlightenment from the God of Wisdom and Intellect. Since then, Japanese have flocked to the mountain to seek purification of both body and spirit. Many make it a fun day's outing as well, bringing obento lunch boxes with them to enjoy under the wooded trees (you'd be wise to do the same, as there are no dining facilities on temple grounds). No doubt, the fact that scenes from The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise were shot here boosted its popularity. But I like this 3- to 4-hour excursion mainly for the lovely hike. The temple buildings spread along the mountaintop are a bonus.

To reach Shoshazan, take bus no. 8 from in front of Himeji Station or Himeji Castle 25 minutes to the last stop (fare: ¥260). From there, board a ropeway (cable car) that departs every 15 minutes and costs ¥900 round-trip (half-price for children). Be sure to check when the last ropeway departs the mountain (5pm in winter; 6 or 7pm in summer).

After paying an admission of ¥300 for admission to temple grounds (children get in free), you'll walk 20 minutes to reach the Maniden, the main temple building. An impressive, cliff-side wooden structure dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, it was first constructed in 970, burned to the ground almost 1,000 years later, and was reconstructed in 1932. Other highlights among the many other structures spread along the mountaintop are the Jikido, a former dormitory for priests-in-training (this, together with Jogyodo and Daikodo, make up the Three Temples, where The Last Samurai was filmed) and the five mausoleums of the Honda clan, rulers of Himeji Castle in the 17th century.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.