In Japan, both Buddhism and Shinto are a deeply ingrained part of culture and life. With one of the richest and most profound histories in the world, the temples in Japan are an essential part of everyday life. For visitors to Japan, visiting temples and shrines is an important look into history and a way to understand both religious aspects of life and culture. There are endlessly stunning and meaningful shrines throughout the country. Here is a look at 5 of the most beautiful shrines in Japan.
Arguably one of the most well-known and famous shrines not only in Japan but around the world is the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Located in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is known for the tens of thousands of torii gates that lead up to the shrine, and the scenic mountain hike. Beyond the iconic red gates, the Fushimi Inari is also known for the foxes. Due to the large crowds, comprised of locals and tourists, Fushimi Inari can be very busy. It is worth hiking the approximately 4 km hike to the top, where space is much quieter and less crowded. The Fushimi Inari Shrine has been a spot of worship for 1300 years and is a site not to be missed. Visit this iconic shrine on a tour from Kyoto.
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
Kumano Nachi Taisha
Kumano Nachi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Pilgrimage routes in the Kii mountains of Japan. One of three Kumano Shrines, it is found in the Kumano region, more specifically in Katsuura. It’s also close to Seigantoji and Nachi Taisha, one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in Japan. Kumano Nachi is worth visiting and provides a meaningful look into the combination of both Shinto and Buddhist influences.
1 Nachisan, Nachikatsuura, Higashimuro District, Wakayama 649-5301, Japan
Instagram and photo-worthy, the Chureito Pagoda is likely one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan and attracts many tourists daily. With iconic Mount Fuji as the backdrop, the Pagoda faces the notable peak and is found in Arakurayama Sengen Park. It takes approximately 400 steps to reach the top but is worth the trek for the view from the top. It’s recommended to head out early in the morning to avoid the crowds and to enjoy one of the best views in all of Japan.
3360-1 Arakura, Fujiyoshida 403-0011, Yamanashi Prefecture
Kinkakuji, The Golden Pavillion
One of the most visited and popular temples in Japan is Kinkaku-ji. Also referred to as Rokuon-ji, it is a stunningly beautiful golden temple in Kyoto. A Zen Buddhist temple overlooking a mirror pond, it’s surrounded by a striking Japanese strolling garden. Easily one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan, it is also one of the most famous. Kinkakuji is a National Special Historic Site as well as a National Special Landscape, and Preservation of History. The original purpose of the building was to serve the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu for his retirement in 1397. Later it was turned into a Zen temple in 1408. Due to the Shrine’s popularity, visiting early will help you avoid the crowds. It will also allow you to enjoy a tranquil walk or cycle throughout the grounds.
1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
Found in eastern Kyoto, Kiyomizudera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. This Buddhist temple dates back to 780 when it was built on the Otowa Waterfall. It is known not only for the temple but also for the wooden balcony that juts out over the falls. Kiyomizudera translates to Pure Water Temple, and the name is in relation to the stunning waterfalls. Beyond the falls, the view from the overview showcases Cherry blossoms and maple trees as well as the city of Kyoto. Kiyomizudera is one of the best places to visit during cherry blossom season.
294 Tatsumicho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan