“We climbed to the summit of Mt. Shosha as a strong wind blew down from the peak.
The pines whispered as they swayed in the breeze.
For us even this sound is a teaching from the Buddha.”
Poem of the Engyo-ji Temple
The Engyo-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple on top of the mount Shosha in Himeji. It is one of the 33 sacred temples in the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage. The temple was first build in the 8th century.
Mount Shosha is far from the center of the city but a bus stopping right outside Himeji JR station can take you there in 30 minutes . Once there, you can walk to the top of the Mount or you can take the ropeway. It is a nice hike. It takes about an hour to reach the entrance of the temple. If you are used to walk or do not have any physical or health concern you should have no problems. Be much more cautioned in summer and take enough water.
The many faces of Kannon Bosatsu
From the entrance to the grounds of the temple, you still must walk another 15 minutes or so. There are 33 statues of Kannon Bosatsu placed alongside of the road. Kannon is a merciful enlightened supreme being, revered in Japan and throughout Asia. There is said that Kannon adopts many forms to help and save people.
At the end of that road you will find several buildings and temples in the middle of the woods. I first encountered the Mani-den, the main temple which is dedicated to Kannon. Although renovated, it keeps the old architecture. Outside there is purification fountain shaped in the form of a Lotus with an emerging dragon.
After visiting the main temple, the path led me to a big statue of a sitting Buddha. With the hill behind, surrounded by trees, Buddha seems to me to be serenely welcoming the visitors.
If you follow in the same direction you will find three buildings: Daikodo, Jikido, Jogyodo. I went into the Jikido. Once a dormitory for monks, now on the 1st floor devotees copy Buddhist texts and various religious objects are displayed on the 2nd.
At this point I decided to go back. On the side of a hill I encountered hundreds of small statues with red bibs. These are representations of Ojizosan, another beloved Bodhisattva in Japan.
Here is a map of the temple grounds:
I want to go back
I visited in summer which added discomfort to the experience. especially because I decided to bike to the mount and hike to the top. But the place is fantastic. The trees, the spiritual atmosphere and the physical act of going up a mountain make this trip memorable.
I particularly enjoyed the 33 statues of Kannon. There are many details in each statue: the heads on top of the heads, the thousand arms, the lotus, the gestures, the peaceful faces and the aggressive ones. All these symbols pointing to the transcendent, exalting the noble values of peace and compassion in contemplation of nature.
Spring is near, so my next visit to the mountain. If you cannot come yet, there might be places near where you can walk in nature. Be mindful. Elevate yourself.