I was told that Himeji (姫路市) would be incomplete without a hike to the temple complex of Shoshazan Engyō-ji (書寫山圓教寺) atop Mt. Shosha (書写). A bus ride and a ropeway got me up to the top of the mountain where a good chunk of The Last Samurai was shot. Being there on the second day of the Japanese New Year / shōgatsu (正月) made for another cultural experience.
I made it up the mountain around 10 a.m. to photograph under the morning sun. I watched as many families followed but to pay respects and spiritually prepare for the upcoming year.
I always like being in the mountains. I just know I will end up living at the base of or amidst mountains. The light was just wonderful, and the mood of the site was really positive. There was a lot of smoke from some fires burning all day. I heard monks singing prayers. Gongs rang every five or ten minutes. And, surprisingly, as a tourist, I did not feel that I was trespassing. There is really something to say about a culture that does not convey any suspiciousness (if not show signs of welcome) on such an important holiday, especially when I am on spiritual ground.
There was more than just elevation beneath my feet, and so I thank you, Shosha.
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