If you have ever been curious about the Japan/ Hollywood connection, one place you may consider visiting is the Himeji Enyoji Temple in Himeji City.
Situated above Mount Shosha, the location served as Katsumoto’s (Ken Watanabe’s character) temple in the film, The Last Samurai (2003), starring Tom Cruise. The plot was inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigo Takamori. It was the last armed uprising against the new government and ended with Takamori’s death. Filming took place in various places including New Zealand, California and Japan (Kyoto and Himeji).
Access to the temple is easy via the Mount Shosha Ropeway (書写山ロープウェイ). From the ropeway station it is a 10-15 minute walk uphill to reach the Niomon Gate.
The temple is a sprawling monastic complex which was founded in 966. It is the 27th temple along the Saigoku 33 Temple Pilgrimage. The Daikodo, the main temple building, dates back to the 15th century. Major restoration work took place in 1956 but the structure remains all original. The Maniden, is another impressive building within the complex. Rebuilt in 1932, it stands high atop the forest, similar to the viewing stage at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Be sure to visit the other buildings comprising the three main buildings (Mitsunodo) where the monks lived. Along with the Daikodo, there is the Jikido, which served as the lodging and dining hall and now exhibits temple treasures and the Jogyodo, which was used as a lecture hall.
Temples such as this and of this scale particularly are no longer found in Japan. Visitors can elect to spend the night in the temple lodgings, attempt to hand copy one of the sutras or simply relax and meditate in this calm and beautiful setting. In order to spend the night, reservations must be made at least three days prior to your visit.
So come and see for yourself why this amazing location was chosen for The Last Samurai and visit firsthand the places where Ken Watanabe and Tom Cruise delivered their lines.
The temple complex is open from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM.
Address: 2968, Shoshazan, Himeji city, Hyogo 671-2201