The Castle Town of Himeji, Japan
The Castle Town of Himeji, Japan
We stayed in Himeji for two nights, having moved west from Kobe, but not yet starting to walk our pilgrimage in the Chugoku westerly region of Japan.
Himeji is a castle town, with a beautiful ancient castle surrounded by a large park planted with Sakura (cherry trees).
The wide main street leading from Himeji train station to the castle is lined on both sides with shops selling food and gifts to the many tourists who come to enjoy the blooming cherry trees in the castle’s garden.
The town has many small eateries, and the streets near the castle hosted a food festival while we were there.
Honoring the coming of spring and taking the time to enjoy the beautiful sakura blossoms, are ancient traditions in Japan, which have continued to today.
It was lovely to see the many people who had come to sit under the cherry trees.
Most brought picnic baskets or coolers, and sat on blankets or plastic tarps, while drinking and eating.
Beside the castle, Himeji is also well known for the Shoshazan Engyo-ji temple, dedicated to the Goddess Kannon.
Although the Engyo-ji temple is not part of our current pilgrimage, I wanted to visit it because it is part of the more famous Kannon 33 Temple Saigoku pilgrimage, and I wanted to pray for my sister at this amazing temple.
It is temple number 27 of the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage.
Mount Shosha is not very steep, but there is a ropeway that takes visitors to the top.
From the ropeway it is a short but steep forest walk up to the main hall and the rest of the temple complex.
The temple was founded on top of this mountain in the year 966 AD, and it is comprised of a few buildings, courtyards, halls and shrines, all surrounded by an old growth forest.
Along the forest path leading to the main hall are 33 bronze sculptures of the Goddess Kannon, or Kuan-Yin as she is known in Chinese culture.
Each statue depicts the Goddess in a unique pose.
In some she had many arms, each holding different symbols, in others she was sitting on a lotus flower with glowing flames around her head or with an aura of misty clouds.
It was easy to see that this mountaintop temple is a serene, holy place, but unfortunately it is also a popular stop for international cruise ship passengers.
They come in huge groups, each with a guide, and for them this was just another sight to see during their trip to Japan.
We even saw one cruise ship passenger flying a noisy drone over one of the most ancient of the temple halls.
He did not try to hide, he simply had no clue that he was doing something wrong, flying a drone that sounded like a huge nest of hornets over a sacred temple.
Below the temple in the town of Himeji, we saw a sign forbidding drones, with a hefty fine for those who do so.
But it is not only foreigners and visitors to Japan who misbehave.
I have been seeing Japanese ladies push to get a seat on the bus, and many high school students ignoring elderly people on the train or bus, some even putting their bags on the seat next to them, to prevent others from sitting near them during rush hour.
Not cool at all…
Tomorrow we start walking the pilgrimage.
I ask Kannon, the Goddess of compassion and love, to be with us and to enlighten my mind and heart….
God knows I need her, as my heart feels a bit heavy with worries.
Sending you many blessings,