One of the absolutely musts of any visit to Japan is seeing the breathtaking temples and shrines. Many you will find tucked around every corner of Kyoto, but throughout Japan there are many beautiful temples, each one special in either housing sacred objects or a place of worship. Check out the list of the some of the most stunning temples across Japan.
1. Kiyomizu-dera "Pure Water Temple"
Located on a hillside overlooking a valley and the city of Kyoto, this temple was built in honour of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, without a single nail in 778. The temple was also built around the Otowa Waterfall, and it is said that visitors who drink from the waterfall can get their wishes granted.
2. Kinkakuji Temple
Kinkakuji was originally built in 1397 as the home of a shogun, or military chief. With its gold-leaf facade and mesmerizing reflecting pool, the temple fits it's title of the Golden Pavilion. The gardens surrounding is then meant to represent an earthly paradise in contrast to the golden temple to illustrate the "harmony between heaven and earth."
3. Senso-ji Temple
Senso-ji Temple is another Temple built in honour of the goddess Kannon and dates back to 645 making it Tokyo's oldest temple. Legend has it that two brothers repeatedly tried to return a statue of the goddess to the Sumida River, but each time the statue returned the next day and a temple was built in that location. The temple is at it's most beautiful at nighttime when illumination highlights its intricate architecture.
4. Meji Jingu Shrine
Among Tokyo's bustling streets and lofty skyscrapers is one of the major tourist attractions of the city, a idyllic and serene temple located right at the heart of the city. The shrine is surrounded by lush forest of evergreen trees, blocking out the sounds of the city and creating a quiet ambiance. Meiji Jingu Shrine is also famous for its exquisite architecture as well as its collection of exhibits that are believed to be the personal belongings of Empress Shoken and Emperor Meiju.
5. Todai-ji Temple
In Nara you will find the Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world which also houses the largest Buddha Statue in Japan. Constructed in 752 on the order of Emperor Shomu the Temple's Great Buddha Hall, houses Rushana Butsu, the "Cosmic Buddha." Many visitors also enjoy the friendly herds of deer that roam the site.
6. Sanjusangendo Temple
Formerly called Rengeoin Temple, this temple is unique for the sheer number of religious statues it contains. The Great Hall houses 1,001 "life-sized" images of the goddess Kannon. The temple name literally means "Hall with thirty three spaces between columns," describing the architecture of the long main hall of the temple.
7. Kotoku-in Temple
The Kotoku-in Temple serves as a home to the world famous Kamakura Daibutsu, a towering bronze statue of Buddha. This monumental statue is more than 40 feet in height, and dates back to the year 1252. It was originally enshrined inside a temple hall, but the building was washed away by a tsunami in 1498. This cultural icon is now a national treasure and has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
8. Kotohiragu Shire
Perched on Mount Zozu, the Kotohiragu Shrine can be a challenging temple to reach with over 700 granite steps. Yet it still draws a cluster of tourists every day, who want to experience the tranquil setting as well as take pictures of its exquisite architectural that showcases a unique blend of Buddhist and Shinto elements.
9. Toshogu Shrine
Set in a verdant forest, the Toshogu Shrine is a lavish complex that is made up of over a dozen beautiful buildings. Here you get to feast your eyes on charming wood carvings and a collection of Buddhist and Shinto decorations.
10. Ninja Temple
Built during the Edo Period by the Maeda rulers and lords, the Myoryuji Temple is an intriguing and fascinating temple you cannot afford to miss during your trip to Japan. Although the temple is not associated with ninjas and assassins, it earned the moniker "Ninja Temple" due to its secret chambers, traps, trick doors, hidden stairways and other deceptive defenses.