Temples & Shrines
Japan temples and shrines are historical and cultural places of worship with beautiful architecture and vast gardens. Many are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are visited by tourists year-round.
Temples are Buddhist places of worship and often function as monasteries. Shrines house gods of the Shinto religion.
When visiting temples and shrines, remember to act respectfully, the same as you would if you were visiting famous churches in Europe.
15 Most Notable Japan Temples and Shrines
1. Izumo Taisha Shrine
Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture is possibly the oldest and tallest shrine in Japan. Visitors go to the shrine to pray for good relationships and marriage.
2. Byodo-in Temple
Byodo-in in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture was built in 998. The Phoenix Hall features 1,000 year-old Buddhist statues and other national treasures. The image of the Phoenix Hall can be seen on the Japanese 10 yen coin.
3. Yama-dera Temple
Yama-dera is a mountain temple in Yamagata Prefecture built in 860. Visitors must hike up nearly 1,000 stone steps in order to reach the temple grounds. The trek takes approximately 30 minutes and can be quite strenuous. Once at the top, the temple offers fantastic views of the valley.
4. Todai-ji Temple
Todai-ji in Nara was built in 752 and is the largest wooden structure in the world. Inside is the largest Buddha statue in Japan, measuring 15 meters tall and consisting of 437 tons of bronze and 130 kg of gold.
5. Kinkaku-ji Temple
Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto Prefecture was built in 1397 and is covered in gold foil. The golden pavilion shines brilliantly in the sun and casts a beautiful reflection on the pond.
6. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto Prefecture was built in 780 and sits at the top of a steep hill. The walk up to the temple takes around 10-15 minutes, but you can stop along the way at the many souvenir shops on both sides of the street. At the top, the temple offers stunning views of the city.
7. Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto Prefecture was built in 711 and is one of the oldest and most popular shrines in Kyoto. It is the main Inari Shrine in Japan and famous for its thousands of torii gates.
8. Itsukushima Shrine
Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Prefecture dates back to the 6th century and is famous for its large torii gate standing in the water. During high tide, the shrine and the gate look as if they are floating on the water.
10. Ise Jingu Shrine
The two Ise Shrines in Mie Prefecture are some of the oldest and most respected Shinto shrines in Japan.
The Inner Shrine, or Naiku, was founded over 2,000 years ago and features the Sun Goddess. The entrance to the shrine has a beautiful wooden bridge with large torii gates on both sides.
The Outer Shrine, or Geku, was founded over 1,500 years ago and features the guardian of food, housing, and clothing.
11. Ninna-ji Temple
Ninna-ji in Kyoto Prefecture was built in 888. The main feature is the Goten where there is a beautiful pond, rock garden, and buildings connected by covered corridors.
12. Okuno-in Temple
Okuno-in at Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture is a popular pilgrimage area. The temple features the largest cemetery in Japan with over 200,000 tombstones. Inside the main hall are 10,000 lanterns.
13. Kumano Nachi Taisha
Kumano Nachi Taisha in Wakayama Prefecture is said to be 1,700 years old and is a main destination on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. The area features Japan’s tallest waterfall, Nachi no Taki, at 133 meters.
14. Nikko Toshogu Shrine
Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture was built in 1617. It features 55 buildings, including a beautiful five-story pagoda, in vibrant colors and gold leaf.
15. Horyu-ji Temple
Horyu-ji in Nara Prefecture was founded in 607 and includes the oldest wooden structures in the world, including a five-story pagoda.
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!