Japan is largely associated to its sacred shrines and temples, very distinctive and representative of the traditional Japanese architecture. There are over 70,000 temples in Japan; 2,872 in Tokyo alone. That’s a staggering rate of 2.2 temples per 10,000 citizens in the Japanese capital! Buddhist temples, along with Shinto shrines, are the most common national treasures and religious buildings in Japan, and these can be found in virtually every town and city in the country. These are some of the most stunning:
1. Kotoku-in Temple [Kanagawa Prefecture]
Credit: www.flickr.comKamakura’s most visited temple is famous for holding a Daibutsu or “Great Buddha”; a 13-meter tall bronze statue of Amitābha Buddha from the 13th century, located outside the building. The 121-tonnes statue, the biggest outdoor Buddha statue in Japan, is actually hollow, allowing visitors to view the interior. Kotoku-in is one of Japan’s landmarks.
Address: 4 Chome-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0016Access:By train: 10-minute walk from Hase Station, on the Enoden line.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Kotoku-in TempleWithin Japan: 467-22-0703
2. Kiyomizu-dera Temple [Kyoto Prefecture]
Credit: www.flickr.comKyoto is home to some of the most beautiful shrines and temples in the country. Kiyomizu-dera, located in the Higashiyama mountain range, is a sacred place of worship where visitors, for over a thousand years, have found love and compassion upon paying their respects to Kannon—the deity the famous camera manufacturer owes its name to—. The temple is partially ‘hanging’ from the mountain, with incredible views of the valley and the city’s skyline in the background. A postcard-ready view!
Address: 1-294 kiyomizu higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto PrefectureAccess:By bus: get on bus numbers 206 or 100 from JR Kyoto Station and get off at Gojozaka stop. The temple is a 10-minute walk from there.Recommended period: Fall.Contact:Kiyomizu-dera TempleWithin Japan: 75-551-1234
3. Ginkaku-ji Temple [Kyoto Prefecture]
Credit: www.flickr.comAnother one of Kyoto’s eastern mountains treasures, Ginkaku-ji is a picturesque Zen temple surrounded by moss gardens and ponds. The inside of the two-story building is closed to the public; however, it’s the view from the outside what will really charm you. The building, which was originally designed to serve as a retirement villa, sits next to a unique sand garden, known as the “Sea of Silver Sand”; an essential element in the meditation complex.
Address: 2 Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto PrefectureAccess:By bus: take a local bus at JR Kyoto Station and get off at Ginkakuji-mae. The temple is a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Ginkaku-ji TempleWithin Japan: 75-771-5725
4. Chusonji and Takkoku No Iwaya Temples [Iwate Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsHiraizumi’s historic sacred places and ruins are some of the most spectacular in Northern Japan. Chusonji, which was built in 850, was originally made up of dozens of buildings, most of which were tore down due to war; in fact, only two buildings survived. The remaining structures are now a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site—the first in the Tohoku region. The Konjiki-dō or ‘Golden Hall’, the temple’s main attraction, is a mausoleum built within the complex completely covered in gold and surrounded by another building for protection. Takkoku No Iwaya, on the other hand, was partially constructed and carved into the face of a cliff over a thousand years ago to honor Bishamon, the God of War.
Address: Koromonoseki-202 Hiraizumi, Nishiiwai District, Iwate Prefecture 029-4102Access:By bus: from Hiraizumi Station, take a local bus to the temple.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Chuson-ji TempleWithin Japan: 191-46-2211
5. Todai-ji Temple [Nara Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsNara’s landmark, located in Nara Park, is an architectural wonder. The building, now a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, was established in 752 as the head Buddhist temple in all of Japan. Todai-ji stands out as one of the biggest and tallest temples in the country, and it houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha. Both the temple and the Daibutsu have survived all sorts of catastrophes since its inception, from fire to earthquakes, and have been rebuilt several times.
Address: 406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8211Access:By bus: take a local bus from either Kintetsu Nara or JR Nara stations and get off at Todaiji Daibutsuden. The temple is a 5-minute walk from there.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Todai-ji TempleWithin Japan: 742-22-5511by Virginia Gonzalez