When people talk about Himeji, they talk about the beautiful all-white Himeji castle and the castle’s garden – Kōkōen. Both attractions can be easily accessed from the Himeji Station and are highly recommended. But if you have a day to spend in Himeji, extend your visit to one of Japan’s hidden gems – Engyōji Temple (圓教寺) at Mt Shosha (書写山)!
Mt. Shosha is a lesser-known mountain, especially to international tourists. Thus, when we visited the area, we didn’t need to queue up to board the ropeway to go to the top of the mountain (which was great!).
There is a direct bus that you can take from JR Himeji Station (姫路駅) to Mt. Shosha to get to the ropeway (just a 30-minute trip). There is no need to rush to the ropeway station after you get off the bus as the ropeway runs at a 15 minutes interval.
The view during the 4-minute trip up the mountain is just amazing!
Important: Please be aware of when the last service departs from the summit of Mt. Shosha (refer to timetable HERE). Otherwise, you will have to hike all the way down, which isn’t easy and can be dangerous.
Tip: Before you board the bus, get the bus + ropeway set ticket from Shinki Bus Terminal Infomation Center at Himeji Station! Adult fare is 1,420 yen (140 yen saving!), and for children under the age of 12, the set ticket is 710 yen. Refer to their website HERE to know what the ticket looks like!
Important: Please note in the winter months, they have a window for maintenance for a couple of weeks. Before you go, please check out their website HERE to ensure the ropeway is operating.
From the Sanjō Stop to Engyōji Temple
When you reach the Sanjō stop (山上駅), check the direction indicator for Engyōji Temple (圓教寺). The entrance of the temple is just 600 meters away from the ropeway. There are also free walking sticks for those who want to use one. The trek to the temple and the temple’s precinct are all quite flat. The sticks are probably for those who want to challenge themselves hiking down the mountain.
At the entrance of Mt. Shosha, please remember to donate 500 yen as an entrance fee. The money is used to help maintain the area.
If you really don’t want to walk, there are also three bus services per hour that will take you to the main temple of Engyōji. It will cost you 500 yen per person for a return trip.
Refer to the map on the left for the Micro Bus bus stop. The bus’s timetable can be found at the end of the access information page of the temple HERE.
Just around the Micro Bus bus stop, there is this Big Bell of Mercy (慈悲の鐘).
Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, there is no harm in hitting the bell and making a wish!
It is said that if you pray hard enough, your dream will always come true (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
It is a 20-minute walk from the Big Bell of Mercy to the main gate of the temple. You will see 33 Kanon Buddha statues (left) and some Long Night Light Lanterns (right) throughout the path.
The Kanon Buddha status is a symbol of mercy, and the Long Night Light represents the light of guidance and hope.
These are all of great heritage value, so even if you aren’t Buddhist, you may still want to take a few photos with them!
A Brief Introduction to Engyōji Temple
To the left is the main gate of Engyōji Temple.
Even just the gate itself is an awesome photo-taking opportunity, especially during the fall season!
If you come to Engyōji Temple in the morning, you might be hungry by the time you reach the gate!
Why not stop at the Myokoin Engyōji Kaikan for traditional monk cooking? You will receive a unique souvenir as well!
Please refer to our Mt. Shosha’s Unique Vegan Cuisine article for more information about Shōjin Ryori (monk cooking) at Engyōji Temple!
Not far away from the Myokoin Engyōji Kaikan, you will find the main hall of Engyōji – Engyōji Maniden (摩尼殿).
Make sure you climb up the stairs to experience the historical and peaceful atmosphere. Not to mention the view up there is quite stunning!
One of the scenes in the movie, The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, was filmed here!
Click HERE for a more detailed introduction to Engyōji Temple.
Other Areas in Mt. Shosha
After visiting the main temple of Engyōji, take one of these paths to explore other areas of Mt. Shosha.
Each temple in the area has its own unique quirks waiting for you to discover!
For some reason, these kinds of paths remind us of the scenes in Korean period dramas. But with Korea and Japan being so close to each other geographically, it isn’t surprising that their ancient architecture is pretty similar?
On the way back to the ropeway station, you will pass through this gap between the old trees.
Make sure you snap a photo or two because the view from here is just breathtaking!
How to Get to Mt Shosha?
- From JR Himeji Station’s north exit, take Shinki Bus (神姫バス) towards Mt Shosha (no. 8 bus bound for Mt. Shosha Ropeway at the bus stop no. 10 from the Shinki Bus Himeji Station Bus Terminal). If you want the bus timetable before you go, please contact us HERE as the Shinki Bus website is only available in Japanese and is blocking access from overseas users.
- Get off the bus at the last stop (you will be boarding your return bus trip here as well)
- Take the Mt. Shosha Ropeway to the Sanjō Station. Click HERE for Ropeway’s official website.
- Follow the direction indicator and trek towards Engyōji Temple (圓教寺).
→ There are 2 bus terminals at JR Himeji Station’s north exit. The Shinki Bus terminal is located on the left-hand side when you come out of the exit. The bus color should be orange.
→ Please take note of the last ropeway service because if you miss it, you probably can’t get off the mountain until the next day…
Visit the Venice of Japan – Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!
Just around a 60-minute train ride from Himeji Station, the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is famed as the Venice of Japan. The area with traditional houses and willow trees lined at the banks of the canal is one of the country’s most popular movie filming spots.
On top of the trendy cafes and restaurants, the area also has many cultural facilities, including the Ōhara Museum of Art (which has a collection of international masterpieces), the Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft, and the Kurashiki Archeological Museum.
For more information, please refer to our article on Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!