Even though Engyo-ji is only 45 to 60 minutes by bus and ropeway from the Himeji train station, this quiet, mountain-top Buddhist temple gives the impression of being much more remote. Engyo-ji has managed to avoid the advance of the modern Japan that has grown around the base of the mountain and has maintained a world of its own. Today, Engyo-ji is best known as one of the film locations for the recent movie “The Last Samurai”. Though most of the movie was filmed in New Zealand, a few of the scenes from the winter hideaway for the Samurai were filmed at Engyo-ji. Engyo-ji is also used for Japanese television period dramas. The temple is number 27 of the 33-temple Saikoku pilgrimage. This pilgrimage located in western Japan is dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of Mercy.
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Inuyama Castle is located on the southern side of the Kiso River in the sleepy town of Inuyama. The site of the castle was initially occupied by the Harigane Shrine, and the shrine was moved to Shirayamadaira so that the castle could be built on the steep hill. Inuyama Castle holds the distinct honor of being the oldest castle in Japan, though the date of its original construction a bit of a debate. The castle as it stands today was constructed in the year 1537 by Oda Nobuyasu, an uncle of the great warlord Oda Nobunaga. Inuyama Castle is only one of four castles in Japan designated as a National Treasure (Hikone, Himeji and Matsumoto Castles are the other three).