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KS Cover no. 75 2006 August

August 2006 :: 075

Spirited away

Mt. Sosha, Himeji

Shosha-san is situated about 8 km north-east of Himeji and can be reached by bus from either Himeji station or the castle. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the bottom of the mountain where a ropeway accesses the temple district. While the Mountain is called Shosha-san the name of the temple ground is Engyoji. The district consists of nine major buildings which are spread over a spacious, densely forested area on the mountain top.

The lack of paved roads and the meandering paths create, together with the primeval forest, an enthralling atmosphere where visitors feel as if they just traveled backwards in time.

The chronicle about the origin of this district says that in AD 966 the Buddhist priest Shoku received spiritual enlightenment from Monju, the God of Wisdom and Intellect. The God also advised Shoku that anyone who climbed Shosha-san would be purified both physically and spiritually. Following this belief Shoshasan became popular and principal Buddhist priests visited in order to be advised by Shoku. Even until today Shosha-san and its major temple Maniden are visited by many pilgrims throughout the year.

From the ropeway station a path leads to a bell house where the trail splits. Going right it leads uphill towards Niomon Gate. Along this way numerous remarkable bronze statues introduce the spirit of the temple district. Even though it takes only 10 to 15 minutes to reach the gate if making a bee-line it is very likely that it would take much longer since the statues are remarkable and invite closer inspection.

After entering the actual temple district through Niomon Gate several paths can be followed. The temples are situated some distance from each other and can be glimpsed in between the trees which encourages visitors to explore the area further. It is worth while to walk in circles so nothing will be missed.

The central building, however is Maniden, a beautiful wooden temple hall, constructed on massive pillars on a steep incline. The gallery provides a view over the forest. Maniden is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy and enshrines a statue which is said to be older than the original building (Maniden was built in 970 AD, burned down in 1921 and was reconstructed by 1932). The statue of the Goddess and her four guardians, however, can only be seen once a year on January 18th.

Another five minutes walk along forest trails leads to the three massive wooden temple halls: the Daikodo (main hall), Jikido (lodging and dining hall, now exhibiting temple treasures) and Jogyodo (gymnasium). Together they sourround a courtyard in which recently some scenes of the movie The Last Samurai with Ken Watanabe was filmed.

Shosha-san is comparable to other holy mountains such as Koya-san or Hiei-san but less frequently visited and therefore it feels more secluded. This lends a quiet atmophere to Shosha-san which somehow seems to emit the spirit of the prayers and chants of its lengthy existence.

Altogether Shosha-san is a great place to take visitors, take memorable pictures and to relax from city life. With an early start from Osaka it can easily be included in a day trip to Himeji-ko.

Text: Tanja Poppelreuter • Photos: Gary Quigg

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Up to date cinema listings guide so you always know what's on, where and when!

:: ART

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Best events + Kansai event listings


Best gigs + Kansai live listings


Parties not to miss + Kansai club listings

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VADE MECVM., Utsubo Park


Best festivals & listings + hanabi


Japan revealed + Random Walk


Best films + cinema listings


Nihongo to go


I Scream, you Scream, everybody loves ice cream
Japanese ice creams


Life during wartime
Escape from Beirut


A horror movie in heaven
Bokor National Park, Cambodia

Ways & Means

Take the Himeji City Bus number 8 from either Himeji Station or Himeji Castle to the terminal stop Mount Shosha Ropeway (25 minutes, ¥260 one way, departures every 15-20 minutes). Then, take the Mount Shosha Ropeway up the mountain (¥500 one way, ¥900 round trip, departures every 15 minutes).

Note that there are two bus terminals in front of Himeji Station, one for the white Himeji City Buses (on the right side of the main road when exiting JR Himeji Station), and one for the orange Shinki Buses (on the left side of the main road when exiting JR Himeji Station). You need to take a Himeji City Bus.

Note also that the buses back from the ropeway station into the city center are operating as bus number 11 rather than number 8.

Admission to the temple grounds: ¥300

Ropeway Operation Hours:
8:30am-6pm (Mar – mid Oct)
8:30am-5pm (mid Oct – Feb)
Weekends & holidays:
8:30am-7pm (Apr – Sep)
8:30am-6pm (Mar, Oct & Nov)
8:30am-5pm (Dec – Feb)

Engyoji Temple Office
Email contacts in English also available: www.shosha.or.jp
Tel: 0792-66-3327