Top 10 Best Temples to Visit in Japan
There are many Buddhism temples and Shinto shrines in Japan, with about 81,000 shrines and about 77,000 temples, where you can enjoy wonderful scenery and learn about Japanese culture. Many people may come here for good fortune, but the mysterious scenery will also make you feel energetic just by going there. Visiting these famous temples during your Japan tour can help you get closer to Japanese culture and also make for an eye-catching social media post.
- Senso-Ji (Tokyo)
- Izumo-Taisha (Shimane Prefecture)
- Kiyomizu-Dera (Kyoto Prefecture)
- Itsukushima-Jinja (Hiroshima Prefecture)
- Meiji-Jingu (Tokyo)
- Nikko-Toshogu (Tochigi Prefecture)
- Ise-Jingu (Mie Prefecture)
- Haruna-Jinja (Gunma Prefecture)
- Hase-Dera (Nara Prefecture)
- Mitsumine-Jinja (Saitama Prefecture)
Senso-Ji is a Buddhist temple as the symbol of the popular Asakusa area of Tokyo. It is also known as a tourist attraction. Founded in 628, it has a history of over 1300 years and attracts an annual number of visitors reaching 30 million. The "Kaminarimon" at the entrance is a must-see spot when you come to Asakusa, where you can enjoy Japanese old-fashioned streets and gourmet food.
As a Buddhist temple, prayer is one of the main reasons for visiting Sensoji, especially during the New Year. About 2.8 million people visited the shrine in the first three days to pray for a good start for the coming new year, which is also a good time to enjoy the extra Japanese festive atmosphere with many food stalls set up in the precincts. When you arrive at Sensoji Temple, be sure to wash your hands and mouth at the chozuya before your prayer, from future fortunes to recent troubles. Then you can also spend 100 yen for an "omikuji" (paper fortune), just to understand your recent fortune.
When you enter from Senso-Ji's symbolic Kaminarimon Gate, there are souvenir shops and food stalls lined up about 250m from the main hall. At a stall called Nakamise, you can eat freshly made Ningyo-yaki on the spot, which is often sold as souvenirs at Japanese confectionery stores, but freshly made sweets have a different flavor. These long-established gourmet shops will give you a sense of history, and they can be enjoyed by children and the elderly alike.
Izumo-Taisha (Shimane Prefecture)
Located in Shimane Prefecture in western Japan, Izumo-Taisha a Shinto shrine that symbolizes Izumo, the home of Japanese mythology with a history of a thousand years, which is a tourist spot with a majestic atmosphere that overwhelms tourists and is worth visiting at least once in your life. The first thing to do is walk up the driveway to the main gate, the Otorii of Kiyotame, where you can admire a row of pine trees that has been selected as one of the 100 best pine trees in Japan.
It is said that Izumo Taisha has its own worship itinerary, which is different from the other shrines in that you purify your hands and mouth at the chozuya before going to the worship hall. But at Izumo Taisha, you visit the Haraesha first before going to the chozuya. Haraesha is a small shrine on the right side of the approach to Izumo Taisha after passing through the Otorii, where the four gods are enshrined, and it is considered more respectful to cleanse the impurities accumulated here before visiting. When visiting and praying in Izumo Taisha, it is recommended to bow twice, clap your hands, and bow once.
Kiyomizu-Dera (Kyoto Prefecture)
Kiyomizu-Dera is a huge Buddhist temple in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, which is said to take an average of an hour to walk around, even outside of the off-season. Kiyomizu-Dera is also a historic temple with more than a thousand years of history. The highlight is the main hall "Kiyomizu Butai", which is recognized as a national treasure, located on a small cliff. In addition, the height from the bottom of the cliff is 18m, and the view of Kyoto city from Kiyomizu Butai is the best, where you can look down on the city of Kyoto, and a wonderful view spreads out in front of you, especially during the season of cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.
Another highlight of Kiyomizu-Dera is the 31 meters tall three-storied pagoda, which is also the largest three-storied pagoda in Japan, with vivid red coating that is wonderful and very impressive. During special nighttime visits, it also lit up in order to create a magical atmosphere.
Itsukushima-Jinja (Hiroshima Prefecture)
Itsukushima-Jinja, a World Heritage Site, is a coastal Shinto shrine located on Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Prefecture, one of the three scenic islands in Japan, along with Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and Amanohashidate in Kyoto Prefecture, which can be reached by ferry from the mainland. Although the official name is "Itsukushima", but it is often called by the popular name "Miyajima". As the place where the goddesses of the sea are enshrined, there are various benefits that you can pray for, such as safe navigation, traffic safety, family safety, passing exams, prosperous business, and marriage. Itsukushima Shrine is designated not only as a world heritage site but also as a national treasure and an important cultural property. For example, Maruto Shrine and the Kobutai are national treasures and important cultural properties, as well as the famous Otorii gate floating in the sea.
The Otorii gate of Itsukushima Shrine is the largest wooden torii gate in Japan measuring 16.6 meters high, 24.2 meters long, and weighing about 60 tons. It is not buried in the sea but stands on the sea with its own weight. The entire island of Miyajima and the sea surrounding it are considered a sacred area, and the Otorii gate is the symbol of the entrance to this sacred area. You can see the Otorii up close as well as from the land, when the tide is low, you can even walk near Otorii.
It takes about 30 minutes to visit Itsukushima-Jinja. But if you want to see the Otorii gate in the sea with both high and low tide, you will need at least 6 hours. So there are two things to keep in mind before visiting Itsukushima Shrine. Firstly, it is recommended comfortable walking shoes to cross the gaps in the ground. The second is that it is a one-way street and there is no turning back, so please follow the official worship route.
Meiji-Jingu is a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, built in 1920, whose main hall is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. It is a popular shrine about a 10-minute walk from JR Harajuku Station, and is visited by more than 3 million people every year. Not only the main shrine but also the garden is a must-see. The whole site is so full of greenery and a sacred atmosphere that you will forget you are in Tokyo, covering about 700,000 square meters it is an urban oasis with 170,000 trees of about 230 species, and more than 50 species of birds inhabit in the area.
Meiji Jingu is full of highlights such as Japan's largest Myojin torii made from 1,500-year-old cypress, the majestic main shrine, and the irises that are in full bloom in mid-June. In addition, there is Kiyomasa's Well, which is said to bring good luck if you use it as wallpaper for your mobile phone. Another highlight is Kameishi, a strange rock that looks like a turtle, which symbolizes a happy family or happily married couple and home safety. It is recommended to take your time and walk around to find these spots hidden in the woods in the middle of Tokyo.
Nikko-Toshogu (Tochigi Prefecture)
Nikko-Toshogu is a Shinto shrine, also one of Japan's leading historical tourist spots, which is registered as a World Heritage Site for its precious buildings and works of art. It enshrines Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Edo Shogunate's first shogun(general). There are 8 national treasures and 34 important cultural properties in the precincts.
The precincts are dotted with many sculptures and are decorated with splendid and colorful decorations. If you don't have time, you can see the three wise monkeys, Yomeimon, and Nemuri Neko as a priority. Yomeimon is one of the symbols of Nikko-Toshogu. As a national treasure, this golden gate is said to be one of the most beautiful gates in Japan, where you can see colorful sculptures based on Japanese folklore. Of the 12 pillars that support the Yomeimon, only one is upside down. It is intentionally turned upside down to show that it is "unfinished", meaning that "a building starts to collapse as soon as it is completed". So, it would be a fun activity to find the inverted pillar.
The famous three wise monkey sculptures are on the Shinkyusha, which was used to hold the horses that serve the gods. It is said that because monkeys have protected and cared for horses since ancient times, they are also said to be the guardian deities of horses. The three wise monkeys of "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil" are the most famous.
At the secret gate of the East Corridor, you can see the popular Nemuri Neko(Sleeping Cat). It is said to have been made by Hidari Jingoro, a legendary sculptor who is said to have been active in the Edo period. Surrounded by peonies, it is said to have been named after "Nikko" (Sunshine) because it looks as if it is sleeping comfortably under the sunlight. The cute sleeping face is very popular among all tourists. It's a small sculpture, so be careful not to miss it.
Ise-Jingu (Mie Prefecture)
Ise-Jingu is located in Mie Prefecture in central Japan. It refers to a general term for 125 Shinto shrines in the area, and the main shrines are divided into inner and outer shrines. The outer shrines are dedicated to Toyoke Okami, the guardian deity of industries such as clothing, food, and housing. The inner shrines enshrine Amaterasu Omikami, the ancestress of the imperial family and considered Japan's supreme deity.
In the precincts, there are many highlighting spots such as "Kotai Jingu" where Amaterasu Omikami is enshrined, "Mitarashiba" where you can go down near the river to wash your hands, and "Uji Bridge" which spans the Isuzu River. In addition, Oharai-machi and Okage-yokocho are lively streets lined with souvenir shops and restaurants located in front of the Naiku gate.
Since the area of Ise-Jingu is really large, one of the most recommended ways to enjoy it is to forget about the time and wander around in the precincts surrounded by forests. There are many things to discover while walking around, but there is no 'Omikuji'(fortune paper) here at Ise-Jingu. That is because in ancient times it was not easy for people from all around Japan to travel this far to reach Ise-Jingu, so anyone who was able to visit was considered already lucky enough.
Temizuya at Jinja
Haruna-Jinja (Gunma Prefecture)
Haruna-Jinja is a Shinto shrine in Gunma Prefecture. It is with a history of 1400 years that enshrines the god of Mount Haruna. The shrine itself is built on Mount Haruna. From the Zuishinmon gate, you will have to climb about 500m to the main shrine at the end of the approach. After passing through the Zuishinmon Gate and crossing the Misogi Bridge, you will see a stream on your right, and you will immediately feel the fresh air. The right side of the approach is lined with old cedar trees, creating a calm atmosphere. Since the road to the shrine is completely close the nature, many people also use it for hiking.
The main shrine of Haruna-Jinja built in 1806 is designated as a national important cultural property. It is said that the main shrine is connected to the three large rocks in the back. When viewed from the front, it looks like an ordinary shrine, but when viewed from the back right, you can finally understand the characteristics of this main hall. It looks like the building is digging into the rock, or rather the rock is swallowing a part of the building.
Hase-Dera (Nara Prefecture)
Hase-Dera is a Buddhist temple located in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture. It is about a 15-minute walk from Hasedera Station of the Kintetsu Osaka Line and about 1 hour and 20 minutes train from Osaka. Of course, it is possible to go by car, but the scenery around Hasedera Station and the approach to Hasedera Temple are wonderful, lined with cafes, shrines and temples, and just walking around is exciting, so please try going by train.
Hase-Dera is a temple that is said to have been built in the Nara period. It is known as a temple to stop at when visiting the 33 famous temples of western Japan. The beautiful corridor in the temple, lined with historic wooden pillars is designated as an important cultural property, built in 1039 of the Heian period with a history of 1000 years, which has helped worshipers on rainy and snowy days.
As well as enjoying the seasonal flowers as a "flower temple", there are many maples in autumn, so it is also recommended for autumn leaves viewing. There is no doubt that you will be healed by the majestic atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Mitsumine-Jinja (Saitama Prefecture)
Mitsumine-Jinja is a Shinto shrine located in the mountains of Okuchichibu, Saitama Prefecture. Surrounded by the power of nature, it is said to be the best power spot in the Kanto region. Some sacred trees in the shrine are said to be 800 years old, and At the back of the shrine, there is an "Enmusubi tree"(marriage tree), where two trees stand close to each other like a married couple, it is said to bring good luck to couples and those who want to get married soon. In addition, the "Yohaiden" is popular as a superb viewpoint where you can see the sea of clouds if you are lucky.
At the entrance of the shrine, there are three torii gates which are rare even in Japan. Enshrined in front of the torii is a wolf, not a guardian dog. Wolves in Shinto are often written as "great gods" and are known as messengers of the gods of virtue. If you want to learn more about wolves, there is a museum next to the torii that you can stop by.
There are many other beautiful temples and shrines besides those introduced in this article. For sure, in the temples and shrines mentioned above, you will be able to soak up all the great history and culture of Japan. Sometimes you can be surrounded by lush greenery when you are walking inside these spots, where you can feel the power of nature. If you are planning to take a Japan tour and visit these amazing temples, please don't hesitate to contact us, just simply tell us your interests and needs, and one of our travel experts will create a tailor-made itinerary for you within 24hrs.
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