When visiting Japan, there are a few things you must do: drink some (or a lot) of sake with the locals, spend enough time exploring all of Tokyo’s nooks and crannies, and—if you’re a lady who likes anime or manga—pay a quick visit to the girls-only otaku cafe in Osaka. Then there are the breathtaking temples and shrines that can be found around every corner in Kyoto. Each temple is unique in its own way, serving as a place to house sacred objects and worship. It’s places like this where locals and tourists alike congregate to enjoy a peaceful moment that really catch our attention.
1. The Kinkaku-Ji
It’s difficult to find a more beautiful temple than The Kinkaku-Ji. This temple’s gold-leaf facade and reflecting pool location have made it onto many a traveler’s Instagram feed. The grounds of the temple were designed to demonstrate the “harmony between heaven and Earth” through various landscaping placements and other design details.
Sens-ji, located in Asakusa, is Tokyo’s oldest temple, dating back to 645 CE. According to legend, in 628, two fishermen discovered a Kannon statue in the nearby Sumida River. After showing it to their village’s chief, he remodeled his own home into a small temple to house the statue for city-wide worship.
3. Bamboo Path, Tenryu-ji Temple
This temple, located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, has survived eight separate fires before being rebuilt in 1864. What is now on the site is only one-tenth of what was there before the government confiscated it in 1877.
Horyu-ji in Nara Prefecture was founded in 607 and contains the world’s oldest wooden structures, including a five-story pagoda.
5. Toji Temple
This temple pavilion’s five-story pagoda is Japan’s tallest wooden tower, standing 54.8 meters tall.
6.Buddhist Temple in Hiraizumi
Hiraizumi is a town in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan’s Tohoku region known for its historic ruins and sacred buildings, many of which have been designated World Heritage Sites. If you visit any of the buildings, you will be greeted with a calm environment and bright, bold architecture.
This temple isn’t actually in Japan; it’s in O’ahu, Hawaii, but it’s a great example of how the country’s culture has spread to new and different parts of the world. This shrine was built in 1968 as a replica of a 950-year-old Japanese temple. This structure commemorates the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.
The majority of the structures in this temple complex date from the 17th century, with the most picturesque being a five-story pagoda surrounded by dwarf cherry trees.
9. Rock Garden, Ryoanji Temple
This temple is part of the Myshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism and is located in northwest Kyoto. Ryoanji Temple, which translates as “The Temple of the Dragon at Peace,” is widely regarded as one of the most impressive examples of kare-sansui, or dry landscape—a type of Japanese zen garden design.
Since its inception as a training center for Buddhist monks in 728, this temple has seen its fair share of tragedy. During an earthquake in 855, the head of the temple’s Great Buddha statue fell to the ground and shortly repaired afterward. Later, the Lecture Hall was damaged by a number of fires and lightning strikes. In addition, during Taira no Shigehira’s attack on the Ancient Nara temples in 1180, a fire destroyed more than half of the compound.
This temple, like Kiyomizu-dera, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the title “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.” Today, the temple serves as the headquarters of the Hosso School of Japanese Buddhism, which is not surprising given that it was once one of Nanto’s Seven Great Temples.
12. Sanjusangendo Temple
This temple in Eastern Kyoto is best known for its collection of 1,001 Kannon, the goddess of mercy, statues. The temple was built in 1164, but it was rebuilt in 1264 after a fire destroyed the original structure.This temple in Eastern Kyoto is best known for its collection of 1,001 Kannon, the goddess of mercy, statues. The temple was built in 1164, but it was rebuilt in 1264 after a fire destroyed the original structure.
13. The Silver Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji Temple
Ginkaku-ji, located in Kyoto’s eastern mountain region, was originally a retirement villa before being converted into a temple in 1490. The Silver Pavilion was built in 1482 by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who wanted to replicate his great-villa grandfather’s (now known as the Golden Pavilion).
14. The Great Buddha Statue at Kotoku-In Temple
Kotoku-In Temple, located in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, is well-known for its “Great Buddha,” a bronze statue that greets visitors to the sacred space. Nobody knows how old the statue is, but it is thought to be at least 1252. The Great Buddha was preceded by a similar-sized wooden monument that took ten years to complete. After being damaged in a storm in 1248, today’s landmark took its place.
15. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
This Buddhist temple in Eastern Kyoto is one of several monuments in the ancient city designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Kiyomizu-dera, which translates to “Pure Water Temple,” is the home of the Goddess of Mercy, a symbol that has been around for over 1,200 years.