Japan’s Best Temples: A Guide To 10 Amazing Places

Kongobu-ji Temple In Koyasan 

Kongobu-ji Temple is one of one hundred temples within Koyasan, making it the perfect place to explore. The temple is also the head temple for the Shingon Buddhists.

Not only is this temple incredibly important to the faith, but it has a plethora of beautiful features to see. 

Before entering the temple, you’ll stumble upon the country’s largest rock garden. Within the garden, large rocks have been meticulously placed to mimic a dragon coming out from the surrounding clouds. 

Kongobu ji Temple Official Website

Once you go into the temple, you’ll be able to admire various screen doors adorned with natural scenery, as well as one room that has been covered in gold leaf.

There are many more features scattered in and around the temple that’ll make for a truly memorable experience. 

Senso-ji Temple In Tokyo

The Senso-ji Temple is an architectural wonder. The beautiful structure is illuminated at night when you’re able to still see all the complex detail that went into the temple’s design.

The temple has been in place since the 600s, and it’s the oldest temple in Japan

Senso-ji Temple Official Website

According to legend, a statue of Kannon was drawn to the location of the temple.

There were two brothers who kept taking this statue to the Sumida River, only for the statue to go back to its original spot the next day. Instead of continuing this effort, the Senso-ji Temple was built to house the statue in this spot.

You’re able to explore parts of the temple as well as the accompanying pagoda, and there are also souvenir shops around to purchase trinkets and other items to remember your temple visit. 

Daisho-in In Hiroshima 

On Miyajima Island in Hiroshima, you may miss the Daisho-in Temple unless you know what you’re looking for.

As you walk up the stone stairs surrounded by hundreds of small Buddhas, you’ll make your way to the temple nestled within the forest. 

Daisho in Official Website

The temple grounds and its surrounding area are a great place to hike, though there is also a tramway that takes you to the top of Mount Misen, which is close by.

The mountain offers a breathtaking view of the temple, the surrounding nature, and the famous Itsukushima Shrine’s bright orange torii gates. 

Kinkaku-ji In Kyoto  

The Kinkaku-Ji Temple is often referred to as The Golden Pavilion given its famous gold facade. It’s a truly breathtaking temple surrounded by a lush pond on three sides.

Kinkaku Ji Temple Official Website

The temple’s original structure was built in the 1300s but was rebuilt in the 1950s after burning down. 

The temple is also surrounded by smaller shrines and some lovely Zen gardens, making it a tranquil spot to visit. 

Chikurin-ji Temple In Kochi 

This picturesque temple is home to a bounty of historically significant art and mementos that anyone with a penchant to learn about Japanese history will appreciate.

Chikurin ji Temple Official Website

Many of the statues and other items in the temple date back to Japan’s Edo period

The temple grounds are also quite expansive, and there’s a beautiful pagoda that sits within various trees, including cherry blossom trees.

It’s an important temple to devoted Buddhist monks who stop there during their Shikoku Pilgrimage. 

Todai-ji Temple In Nara 

The Todai-Ji Temple is very important to the history of Buddhism in Japan. At one time, the temple was also considered the biggest wooden structure in the world.

While it’s no longer the largest, it does house the world’s biggest Buddha statue, which is made of bronze and stands 16 meters (52.4 feet) tall. 

Todai Ji Temple Official Website

Since the temple has been such an important structure for Buddhism since it was built in the 700s, it has been classified as a World Heritage Site. The Kegon school of Buddhism also has its headquarters stationed within the temple. 

The temple itself is also a beautiful sight to see from the outside, with its dark wood contrasting the white window coverings. 

Seiryu-ji Temple In Aomori

The Seiryu-Ji Temple is a lesser-known temple, though not because it shouldn’t be visited. In fact, there’s quite an enormous sitting Buddha statue that is 70 feet tall.

The Buddha, known as Showa Diabutsu, can often be seen with visitors sitting around it and meditating. 

Seiryu Ji Temple Official Website

Around the temple, there is also a museum dedicated to Buddha, as well as a very large pavilion. Unlike many other temples, you’re able to wander around the temple both inside and out, with no rooms being off-limits. 

Seiganto-ji Temple In Nachisan 

Nature lovers would enjoy visiting the Seiganto-Ji Temple as it’s surrounded by expansive trees, a waterfall, and lush greenery. This is due to its scenic location amongst Mount Nachi.

The pagoda is a brilliantly colored structure, which creates a lovely juxtaposition against all the greenery.

Seijanto Ji Temple Official Webite

Apart from how beautiful the pagoda and temple grounds are, the temple is actually one of the oldest buildings in the Kumano area where it resides.

Nachi Falls is also close by, and the waterfall is the tallest in Japan. The main hall of the temple is more humble in design than the pagoda, but it’s still worth a visit to experience its spiritual significance. 

Kiyomizudera Temple In Kyoto 

There are several smaller buildings that make up the Kiyomizudera Temple grounds, which are a short distance from the famous Otowa Waterfall.

Given the belief that this waterfall flows with powerful water that can heal ailments, cups are available for visitors to drink from the waterfall. 

Kiyomizudera Temple Official Website

When you stand along the fenced deck of the temple, you can look out below at the surrounding colorful trees for a truly breathtaking and photo-worthy view.

The Jishu Shrine is among the grounds as well, as is the pagoda where visitors pray for safe childbearing. The gardens surrounding the temple are also gorgeous, and you can stroll through them as you admire them.

The temple is one of the most popular destinations in Kyoto, which makes sense given how many sights there are to see within and amongst the temple grounds. Occasionally, there are events held around the temple, and the temple becomes illuminated in color at night for an even more breathtaking sight. 

Shitennoji Temple In Osaka 

The Shitennoji Temple has been in place for more than 1400 years, making it one of the oldest still standing in Japan today.

The temple is also known for its design, inspiring many temples built afterward to also build temples in the same symmetrical manner.

Shitennoji Temple Official Website

Believe it or not, before it was a temple, it was actually a government building. 

When you stand in front of the temple, you can see the pagoda in the background. The pagoda is just as much of an architectural wonder as the temple is, with the same colors incorporated into its design.

There’s also a lovely garden to stroll through, and a temple treasure house where you can see various artifacts and learn about their historical value.  

Temple Etiquette

There are a few things to remember when you go to visit any of Japan’s thousands of temples. You want to respect and honor the importance of these temples and to the people of Japan regardless of your own affiliation. Some temples are free to visit, while others do ask for a small fee. 

There’s a cleansing process you are asked to participate in before you enter a temple. It consists of going to the temple’s water basin, either called a chozuya or temizuya to clean your hands and mouth. 

Sensoji Temple Tokyo

You take the ladle and pour water on your left hand first, then switch the ladle into your left hand to cleanse your right hand.

You will then pour water into your left hand to put in your mouth to rinse it. You then gently spit out the water on the rocks by the basin and rinse off the ladle for the next person to use. 

You’ll be asked to take off your shoes when you enter the temple. You should also bow when entering the temple.

When you enter the hall of the temple, there’s usually a box for putting coins into. If you see a bell near the box, you should ring it two or three times before offering a small prayer.  

When making your way through the temple grounds, you should avoid being too talkative to respect those who are visiting to pray and meditate.

While it may be hard not to want to discuss the beauty of what you’re seeing with the people you’re with, you don’t want to disrupt anyone’s worship.

Staying Overnight At A Japanese Temple

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.