Japan is a fascinating island country in East Asia. Japan, the Land of Rising Sun, has a deep affection for nature and heritage. This country is famous for natural beauty such as cherry blossoms, gardens, hot springs, autumn colours, volcanoes, beaches and snow. There is also an extensive set of historical buildings and beautiful architectures that synchronize with nature.
The intrinsic part of these are the temples and shrines of Japan. Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are places of worship for Japanese people. Buddhism and Shintoism co-exist in Japan, so does the shrines and temples. These religious places are peaceful and beautiful. These worship places reflect rich Japanese cultures and are seen as an integral part of Japanese cities. Japanese people visit shrines and temples for prayer and luck. While travelling in Japan, a visit to these peaceful holy places will enrich your Japan vacation like no other.
Japan reportedly has thousands of Shrines and Temples adorning its cities. We have a comprehensive list for you, which includes the most beautiful religious places to visit all over Japan. Wherever you are travelling in this country, do stop by these stunning places and experience Japan.
List of Japanese Temples and Shrines.
- Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
- Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto
- Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto
- Todaiji Temple, Nara
- Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Kyoto
- Horyuji Temple, Nara
- Kotokuin Temple(The Great Buddha), Kanagawa
- Tofukuji Temple, Kyoto
- Hasedera Temple, Nara
- Okunoin Temple, Wakayama
- Toshogu Shrine, Tochigi
- Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima
- Inner Shrine, Mie
- Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
1. Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
Sensoji Temple is the oldest and most famous in Tokyo. This 6th-century Japanese Temple located in Asakusa is believed to bring you good luck and fulfil your wishes. People cover themselves with incense smoke kept in front of the main hall to bring good luck and to heal their body. Sensoji temple is very close to skyscrapers of Tokyo but transcends you back in time with its traditional atmosphere. Nakamise-Dori, the long path before the Temple, is a busy street full of souvenir shops with the best of Japanese products. Visitors enjoy buying souvenirs and confectionaries from this vibrant shops.
- Opening hours: Open 24 hours
- Entry fees: Free
2. Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto
Kinkakuji is a Zen Buddhist temple known as ‘Temple of the Golden Pavilion’. This Japanese Temple has a stunning architecture dating back to 700 years, with top two floors covered with gold leaf making it shine through all seasons. The serene atmosphere of this Temple is elevated by a large pond surrounding it. One can enjoy a peaceful walk from the gate to the Temple, enjoying different views of the Golden Temple, the serene lake and the beautiful garden which change colours every season.
The springs are full of cherry blossoms, summers creamy green and winter covering the whole landscape with snow. The pond is still and reflects the Temple’s structure like a mirror, making the scenery a breathtaking sight one must see when in Kyoto. This most famous Temple in Japan is recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
- Opening hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Entry fees: Adults- 400 yen, children- 300 yen
3. Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto
Ginkakuji Temple is a unique temple with distinct features like dark buildings, Sand garden, moss garden and stone paths surrounded trees, streams and ponds. This world heritage site is present on the opposite wall of the valley where the Golden Pavilion(Kinkakuji temple) is present. Ginkakuji temple is known as Silver Pavilion. Unlike Kinkakuji, this Temple is not made of Silver. The darker surface of the buildings reflects moonlight giving a silver like an appearance. Blessed with lush vegetation, this Temple is in the list of everyone who visits Kyoto. When you enter the Temple, there is a hall which houses the statue of the Buddhist Goddess of mercy, Kannon. One cannot enter the building but walk in the surrounding pathway.
The Kannon hall is followed by a carefully maintained unique sand garden, which is also known as ‘Sea of Silver Sand’ for its appearance. The Sand Garden is present adjacent to the main hall and Togudo, a tatami mat house. These buildings date back to the founding time of the Temple and is a stunning sight. The path then leads you to moss garden which has ponds and streams, making a peaceful abode. While you visit this Japanese Temple, slowly enjoy every feature of this amazing landscape filled with beautiful architecture and nature of Japan.
- Opening hours: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm(March to November), 9:00 am – 4:30 pm(December to February)
- Entry fees: Adults- 500 yen, children- 300 yen
4. Todaiji Temple, Nara
Todaiji temple houses the biggest bronze Buddha of Japan and is a landmark of Nara. The main hall of the Temple is recognized as UNESCO world heritage site, (i.e.) one of the seven historic monuments of ancient Nara. The main hall of Todaiji is the world’s largest wooden building housing the 15m high Buddha statue. The Todaiji Temple complex has many historic structures, and the significant among them are Nandaimon Gate, Nigatsudo Hall, Hokkedo Hall, Kaidanin Hall and Bell Tower.
Todaiji temple complex is very large and comprises of the northern part of Nara Park too. As a result, there are many deers roaming, making it a beautiful stroll through the temple complex. There are excavated sites of an old lecture hall and former Pagoda signifying the historical richness of the temple region. There is a new addition to the complex the Todaiji Museum which has a great collection of arts and religious artefacts of the region. This must see place in Nara will astonish you with its beauty and history.
- Opening hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in November to March and 7:30 am to 5:30 pm in October to April
- Entry fees: 600 yen
5. Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Kyoto
Kiyomizu-Dera temple is present in the historically rich Kyoto and offers breathtaking views of the city landscape from its balcony. This Buddhist Temple was constructed in 1633 and is a world heritage site. Since then, it has held its spot as the most famous Buddhist Temple in Japan. Kiyomizu means pure water, which is derived from Otowa waterfall running below the main hall, the pure water is considered to improve three aspects of life like knowledge, relationship and long life.
The Temple is perched on a cliff and overlooks the Kyoto city. The Japanese Temple has an ornate gate as entrance followed by many artefacts dating back to hundreds of years. The main hall is a wooden structure and has a verandah which is made without a single nail. The 400-year-old structure stands sturdy and is the prime photo spot for visitors. One has to take a short trek to reach the Temple, and there are 5 ways to it. All the slopes are covered with shops and cafes to keep you energized.
- Opening hours: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Entry fees: Adults- 300 yen, children- 200 yen
6. Horyuji Temple, Nara
Horyuji temple, one of the most revered historical site of Japan, is a beautiful Japanese temple built by Prince Shotoku. The Temple’s main hall is the oldest wooden structures in the world, and the Temple is home to hundreds of ancient treasures. The Temple has many Buddhist statues, relics, paintings and arts from various periods in history. Rightly recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, this Temple is located in Nara and covers a large area of 1Km. Horyuji Temple has an ancient five storey Pagoda which adds to the glory of the Temple. Visit this 1400-year-old Temple to immerse yourself in rich history and experience peace.
- Opening hours: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
- Entry fees: Adults- 1500 yen, children- 750 yen
7. Kotokuin Temple(The Great Buddha), Kanagawa
Kotokuin temple is the home to the Great Buddha statue standing 13.35m high. The Great Buddha statue is a historical monument which dates back to 1252. This old Bronze statue was first gold plated and placed inside a large temple complex. The gold coating and the Temple were washed out during natural disasters like Tsunami and typhoons. The present structure has stood the test of time and is Japan’s second largest bronze Buddha statue.
This Buddha statue in Kotokuin temple is in the open air and represents Amida Buddha. One can go inside the Buddha statue itself and watch how the statue is cast from inside. It is a unique experience in Japan. Visit Kotokuin for the sight of peaceful looking Great Buddha amidst nature and make it a memorable trip.
- Opening hours: 8:00 am to 5:30 pm (April to September), 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (October to March)
- Entry fees: 200 yen, an additional 20 yen for visiting statue interior
8. Tofukuji Temple, Kyoto
Tofukuji temple is one of the five great Zen Buddhist temples of Kyoto and has the oldest Zen Sanmon gate in Japan. The Temple is a historic set of buildings which dates back to the early 11th century and have been through many fires and reconstructions. The Zen Sanmon gate has escaped the fire and stands still after so many years, this gate is a National treasure in Japan.
Tofukuji temple is in a vast area and has four gardens in all four directions. The gardens are designed to express the life of Buddha and was designed by a renowned landscape architect Mirei Shigemori. The gardens express the simplicity of Zen life and are meticulously maintained by the Temple. One can escape the crowd from Gaunkyo Bridge where you can look up the foliage and enjoy the spectacular colours.
- Opening hours: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (April – October), 8:30 am – 4:30 pm(November to early December), 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (early December to March)
- Entry fees: 400 yen
9. Hasedera Temple, Nara
Hasedera Temple is one of the biggest Temple in Japan with 30 buildings built up the hillside of a valley. The temple opens with a Niomon gate and guardian deities at the base. The trek up is a 400 step walk and is filled with many temple buildings and gardens. The main hall is in the top of the hillside and provides a beautiful view of the surroundings. The cherry blossoms in spring and colour foliage in autumn are best witnessed from the top balcony of the main hall. Between the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, the Temple’s Pagoda and other buildings can be seen, making it a breathtaking view.
The main hall houses the large wooden statue of Kannon Goddess, the object of worship in the Temple. There’s a tale that a monk carved two statues of Kannon Goddess at this place and left one statue in the ocean so that it would save people wherever it appears. The statue appeared in Kamakura and is housed in the famous Hasedera temple of Kamakura.
There are many cafes and shops on the way leading to the Temple catering to the visitors of the Temple. The Temple attracts a large number of tourists for its tall statue and fascinating views of cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.
- Opening hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm (April – September), 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (October, November, March), 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (December – February)
- Entry fees: 500 yen
10. Okunoin Temple, Wakayama
Okunoin Temple is the resting place of the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi. This Temple is a significant pilgrimage site and has a important part in Japanese religious history. The visitors enter through the Ichinohashi bridge and walk through the 2 km long, largest cemetery in Japan. There are tombstones from various eras erected in the cemetery, where great monks and lords rest wishing to stay close to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, to attain salvation. The path filled with tombstones, woods and moss, is a scenic pathway. There are still new additions to the cemetery and the unusual tombstone erected for the termites being killed by a Pest Control company is a noticeable new entry.
The path leads you to Gokusho offering hall which has statues representing Jizo Bodhisattva. People cross another bridge behind the hall, the Gobyobashi Bridge from there the place prohibits food, drink and photography. Following the path with stone statues, one can reach Torodo hall, which is the main hall of worship present before the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. The hall has over ten thousand lanterns lit all over the year offering prayers to Kobo Daishi. A visit to Okunoin temple, one of the most sacred places of Japan, is a tranquil experience where one can offer prayers and peacefully meditate.
- Opening hours: 6:00 am to 5:30 pm
- Entry fees: Free
Gokusho offering hall
- Opening hours: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
- Entry fees: Free
11. Toshogu Shrine, Tochigi
Toshogu Shrine is a glorious shrine located in the beautiful forest of Nikko. This shrine was constructed during the reign of Tokugawa Shogunate and is the final resting place of the great Ieyasu Tokugawa. Walking through the beautiful atmosphere of the shrine filled with historic buildings and relics, one is transported back in time to the Warring States Period of Japanese history. The Toshogu shrine is one of the rare shrines that is ornately decorated, and one cannot miss the mix of both Shinto and Buddhist principles in the architecture. It is said that this shrine was constructed before Shintoism separated itself from Buddhism.
There are over two dozen buildings in Toshugo, and significant buildings among them are the five storey pagoda, Yomeimon gate, Honjido hall, main shrine building, large Torii gate and Tokugawa Ieyasu mausoleum. Toshogu is known for exciting carvings, statues and paintings, like sleeping cat, crying dragon, imagined elephants and three monkeys depicting see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil. Tokugawa Ieyasu’s mausoleum can be seen by climbing a long flight of stairs from the right of the main shrine and is present among a dense forest. The landscape is filled with snow in winter and all shades of green in Autumn. One your way to the exit, there’s a large Torii gate against the backdrop of long woods, making it a surreal place. Toshogu Shrine is a historic treasure elevated by the beauty of nature, plan to spend a leisurely time to take in the beautiful atmosphere.
- Opening hours: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (April to October), 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (November to March)
- Entry fees: Adults- 1300 yen, children- 450 yen
12. Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima
Itsukushima shrine is the famous floating shrine of Japan, where the entire temple complex is built in sea. The Torii gate of the shrine located further into the sea looks beautiful with the sea and mountains as the backdrop. During high tides, the Temple looks like it is floating in the sea. The shrine consists of many buildings built over pillars in the sea and are connected by boardwalks.
There is a main hall, a prayer hall and a noh theatre stage in the temple complex. Since the main attraction here is the water backdrop, it is important to know the timing of high tide and low tide. High tides give a floating feel to the Temple, and the low tides let you go close to the Torii gate. Itsukushima shrine is present in Miyajima island(the island where God belongs), this island is known for the New year festivities and first sunrise viewing of the year. Itsukushima shrine is illuminated till 11 pm in the night, though you cannot enter the shrine, the view of them from cruise boats or the shore is very beautiful and worth the wait.
- Opening hours: 6:30 am – 6:00 pm (March to October 14), 6:30 am – 5:30 pm January, February, October 15 to November), 6:30 am – 5:00 pm (December)
- Entry fees: 300 yen
13. Inner Shrine, Mie
The Inner Shrine is the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan. This historical shrine is a pilgrim place that the Japanese people wish to visit at least once in their lifetime. The Inner Shrine was first established around 2000 years old and is rebuilt from scratch every 20 years following an ancient Shinto tradition. The renovations are being done for thousands of years, and the last renovation was in 2013. One can enter the inner shrine through a wooden bridge called Uji bridge built over a river. There are Torii gates at each end of the bridge marking the entry into the divine grounds.
The inner shrine from the start looks ancient and otherworldly. The shrine is in a dense forest with simple wooden structures reflecting the Shinto principles. After entering passing through the Torii gates, one gets a rare opportunity to cleanse themselves in the Isuzugawa river. The river is a sight to behold with thick forests surrounding it. Then, one has to walk a flight of stone stairs, to reach the main hall which enshrines the sacred deity Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. The shrine building also houses the Sacred Mirror one of the three Sacred Treasures of Japan. Although it is not open to public, the place is so peaceful and modest, that it is the most revered shrine in Japan.
- Opening hours: 5:00 am – 6:00 pm(January to April, September), 5:00 am – 7:00 pm (May to August), 5:00 am -5:00 pm (October to December)
- Entry fees: Free
14. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari shrine is famous for the thousands of vermilion Torii gates present very close to each other, forming a trail into the woods. People worship Inari, the Shinto God of rice in this shrine. There is a large Torii gate in the front of the Shrine’s entrance, and then when you pass by, you reach the main hall where offerings are given to the deity. There are many fox statues present in the shrine as foxes are considered as messengers of Inari God. The Senbon Torii meaning thousands of Torii gates is present at the back of the shrine building, and there are two parallel row of gates venturing into the woods.
These Torii gates are donated by people or companies and are in bright vermilion colour which is believed to ward off the evil. Visitors can walk the entire trail of Torii gates and reach the top of Mount Inari for a beautiful view of Kyoto. Visitors are also free to return at any stage of the hike. There are small shrines with small Torii gates and restaurants along the trail for refreshment. This Japanese shrine attracts a lot visitors and the hike though Torii gates is the highlight of the scenic shrine.
- Opening hours: 24 hours
- Entry fees: Free
A visit to the Japanese Shrines and Temples is an experience like no other. Always follow the rules and respect the rituals of the place when you visit. Ask the fellow visitors if there’s a doubt and enjoy the beautiful religious places in peace.