Shosha Mountain and Engyoji

North of Himeji on top of Shosha mountain there is a thousand year old Tendai Buddhist temple complex called Engyoji (圓教寺). You can take a cable car most of the way up the mountain or you can walk up a steep rocky trail to get there. I like to walk. It is a very popular place to visit in the fall when the Japanese maple leaves turn orange and red. I was there a few weeks ago but decided to go back to see the leaves changing colors. I took a day off in the middle of the week when I had no classes to teach and got to enjoy the serenity and beauty of this beautiful temple complex when there were few people around.

At the start of the trail, just above a small Buddhist temple the kanji for heart/mind is carved into the rocks.

心 (shin/kokoro meaning heart and/or mind)
As the trail ascends through the forest and up the rocky ridgeline there are many small devotional figures.

One often sees stone Jizo figures on the side of trails. Jizo is the Japanese name for Kṣitigarbha one of the major Bodhisattvas venerated in Mahayana Buddhism. Jizo is a protector of travellers and also of small children, so Jizo figures are frequently seen by trailsides. But Jizo is also responsible for the care of small children both in this world and in the afterlife, so people who have lost children often leave offerings at the feet of Jizo statues.

The trail is steep but well traveled. Even early in the morning, on a weekday it is rare not to see other hikers.

The trail joins the main temple road at the top station of the cable car. From there the road climbs steeply, passing 33 statues of different forms of Kanzeon Bodhisattva (also known as Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit and Quanyin in Chinese). Kanzeon (観世音) means the one who hears the cries of the world, and is often seen depicted with hundreds or thousands of arms and hands each one of which hold something that someone in need may require.


Another version of Kanzeon
Kanzeon with eleven faces looking for those in need in all directions.
The main gate of the temple.

Above the main gate the road continues upwards through a section lined with stone fenceposts bearing inscriptions. I am not sure but I think these inscriptions are in honor of benefactors of the temple.

Stone fence, close-up.
Another small Jizo figure on the side of the road.
History written in stone.
Temple guests would stay here.
Maniden, the main temple for liturgy and devotional activities sits on a hillside overlooking the entrance road.
A dragon fountain keeps the water basin filled so visitors can wash before entering the temple.
Side doors and screens of the Maniden.
The front porch with doors open to let in air and light.
The front porch.
Here people pray to an image on the Buddha, recite sutras, or offer incense and candles.
Next to one of the upper courtyard surrounded by temple buildings is a small cemetery for some local VIP’s.
Maple tree in the courtyard outside the Jikido, a main training hall for monks.
View from the balcony of the Jikido.
Lion-dog guardians decorate the corner posts of the building.
One of the temple buildings housing an important altar.
The lanterns in this temple building have the name of the founder of the temple 性空上人 (seikushounin) written on them.
Incense bowl and heavy cord for ringing a bell above before making an offering.
Decorative ceramic roof beam end cap.
Upper bell tower.
Banners reading 南無地蔵菩薩 (at one with Jizo Boddhisattva)
Hundreds of Jizo statues line the hillside below the Maniden temple building.
At one with Kanzeon Boddhisattva

It is such a privilege to be able to spend time at Engyoji. Every time I come here I see new things and feel refreshed. Thank you Kanzeon and Jizo, and I hope to visit you again when I can.