10 Must Visit Historic Temples in Japan | FAST JAPAN
Todaiji Temple - Nara

10 Must Visit Historic Temples in Japan

There are many historic temples all throughout Japan. Every temple enshrines a different deity. Depending on the temple, there are different benefits. Many temples are World Heritage Sites.

#1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera Temple - Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the most famous and important temples, cultural heritage sites, and historic monuments in ancient Kyoto. Built before the Capital Relocation Edict in Heian Kyo, the temple is counted as one of the oldest temples in the former capital of Japan.

The main feature of the temple is the main hall, called as “The Stage of Kiyomizu,” which has an outstanding presence that shows visitors the art of “Kake-zukuri (懸造)” which enables buildings to stand on steep ground without any nails. It was donated by Iemitsu the third Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Some characteristic gates and structures intrigue tourists because of the beautiful construction. There are two main great gates, Nio-Mon and Sai-Mon painted with the Ni technique, the technique derived from China when Buddhism was prevalent to all Japanese traditional ritual sites.
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Kiyomizu-dera Temple 

Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama District, Kyoto City, Kyoto

Access: Take public bus from Kyoto Station #206 or #100, stop at Gojosaka bus stop, walk 10 minutes

Admission Fee:
400 yen (Adults & High School Students)
200 yen (Junior High School Students)

Hours: 6:00 AM – 5:30 PM

Phone: 075-551-1234

Website: Kiyomizu-dera Temple


#2. Kinkakuji Temple – Kyoto

Kinkakuji Temple - Kyoto

Kinkakuji Temple was originally named Rokuonji Temple (鹿苑寺). “Kinkaku” means golden cabinet. The design of Kinkakuji Temple is strongly influenced by Chinese Rinzai Zen Buddhism from the 11th century. Also, “Rokuon” derives from the Dharma name from the founder Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, the third Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate.

Used as Yoshimitsu’s residence, the temple served as the house to the minister, and the core of Kitayama culture, the aristocratic and extravagant tide of the period. The pond and pine trees surround the golden structure, the garden is wide enough to walk around. The temple has many important cultural assets inside. Some of them are on display and can be seen in the building.

The outward appearance of the Kinkakuji Temple always leaves visitors speechless. The reflection pond projects the graceful temple as “sakasa Kinkakuji Temple” meaning reverted Kinkakuji Temple, and the phoenix statue at the top also gives viewers a dignified impression which implies long life for the founder.
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Kinkakuji Temple

Address: 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita District, Kyoto City, Kyoto

Access: 12 minute walk and take bus from Kitano Shiraume-cho Station

Admission Fee:
400 yen (Adults & High School Students)
300 yen (Junior High & Elementary School Students)

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Phone: 075-461-0013

Website: Kinkakuji Temple


#3. Ginkakuji Temple – Kyoto

Ginkakuji Temple - Kyoto

Ginkakuji Temple of Rinzai sect was built by Yoshimasa Ashikaga, the eighth Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate to replicate the Kinkakuji Temple. The original name of the temple is Jishouji Temple (慈照寺) meaning merciful luminous temple. Many arrangements and parts of the site mimic Kinkakuji Temple, so visitors can see some similar designs.

Contrary to the former source and inspiration, Ginkakuji Temple is regarded as the center of Higashiyama culture, the origin of traditional Japanese Noh (能), the tea ceremony, flower arranging, renga or chained Japanese poems, and architectural aesthetics. People in Edo period coined the temple as ginkaku, “silver cabinet,” with kinkaku, and cherished both of them as treasures.

The main hall of the temple is Kannon-Den consecrates Kannon who helped suffering people in the real world. The technique named Shoin-zukuri mean scripting office style, was used to construct the temple, it became an essential method for Japanese structures. The outside walls are coated with black lacquer, unlike Kinkakuji Temple.
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Ginkakuji Temple

Address: 2 Ginkakuji-cho, Sake District, Kyoto City, Kyoto

Access: 20 minute walk and take bus from Mototanaka Station

Admission Fee:
500 yen (Adults & High School Students)
300 yen (Junior High & Elementary School Students)

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM (Summer)
9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (Winter)

Phone: 075-771-5725

Website: Ginkakuji Temple


#4. Todaiji Temple – Nara

Todaiji Temple - Nara

Todaiji Temple is a symbol that represents Nara; the city embraces the temple and ancient Japanese Buddhism of the Kegon sect. A big statue called “Nara no Daibutsu” is familiar to every Japanese person, it is a symbol of Japanese Buddhism.

Todaiji Temple was built to consolidate ancient Japanese Buddhism as “sou kokubunji” meaning to be the leader of the national Buddhist temples. It was also built with Tang Chinese architectural techniques, they have been centered as the representative of Tenpyou culture, which refers to Japanization of ancient Chinese Culture in the eighth century.

It is said that Todaiji Temple had many beautiful designs when it was finished, but war resurgence burnt the temple many times. Nandaimon or the big south gate and the main hall still look very exotic. A pair of Kongo Rikishi Zou or muscular guardians of Buddha are waiting for visitors at the gate, the masks are glaring at trespassers, like Kabuki actors.
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Todaiji Temple

Address: 406-1 Zoushi-cho, Nara City, Nara

Access: 19 minute walk from Nara Station

Admission Fee:
500 yen (Adults & High & Junior High School Students)
300 yen (Elementary School Students)

8:00 AM – 4:30 PM (November – February)
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (March)
7:30 AM – 5:30 PM (April – September)
7:30 AM – 5:00 PM (October)

Phone: 0742-22-5511

Website: Todaiji Temple


#5. Sensoji Temple – Tokyo

Sensoji Temple - Tokyo

Sensoji Temple is popular among tourists because of the big red paper lanterns at the Kaminarimon Gate, it is the oldest temple in Tokyo. Located in accessible places from the main area of Tokyo and Narita Airport, many visitors and locals visit the temple.

Sensoji Temple was highly developed from the beginning of the Edo period by both patronages of the Tokugawa shogunate and common people living in Asakusa. The pathway to the temple from Kaminarimon is called Nakamise-dori, local merchants sell sweets and souvenirs.

Passing through Nakamise-dori, visitors reach the Houzomon gate, there is two strong guardians greeting visitors. There is a big incense pot called Jokoro (常香楼). Many tourists inhale the smoke because it is said to cure and purify diseases.
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Sensoji Temple

Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Access: 7 minute walk from Asakusa Station

6:00 AM – 5:00 PM (April – September)
6:30 AM – 5:00 PM (October – March)

Phone: 03-3842-0181

Website: Sensoji Temple

Also Check: 3 Reasons Why Asakusa Sensoji Temple is a Must Visit Destination for Travelers


#6. Yamadera – Yamagata

Yamadera - Yamagata

Yamadera, also known as Risshakuji Temple of the Tendai sect, is in the middle of Zaou National Park. Spreading over the mountain surface, the overview of the temple appears very mysterious.

The temple is said to be founded by Ennin (円仁), the highest master priest of the Tendai sect, and his religious successor, An-eh. Many warlords and governors donated their devotion to secure the temple time after time so that Yamadera can last ever.

Yamadera is one of the four temples that are destined places for pilgrimage by well-known Haiku poetry in the seventeenth century. Matsuo Basho wrote a poem at the temple, “How still it is here Stinging into the stones, The locust’s trill” (D.Keene translated).
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Address: 4456-1 Yamadera, Yamagata City, Yamagata

Access: 30 minute drive from Yamagata Station

Admission Fee:
300 yen (Adults & High School Students)
200 yen (Junior High School Students)
100 yen (Children)

9:30 AM – 4:00 PM (Apr – Nov)
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (Dec – Mar)

Phone: 023-695-2816

Website: Yamadera (Japanese)


#7. Byodoin Temple – Kyoto

Byodoin Temple - Kyoto

Byodoin Temple is easily recognizable because it is on the ten yen coin and part of the roof, the Phoenix statue, is on the 1,000 yen bill. This representations how the temple is significant to Japanese culture.

Originally established as an aristocrat house, the temple was handed to the imperial treasury, then owned by the Fujiwara regent clan until the middle of the eleventh century. The only original building is Amida Hall called Houou Dou (Phoenix hall) due to conflicts during medieval Kyoto.

In Houou Dou, there are many important ancient artifacts, relics, and treasures. The appearance and atmosphere makes visitors feel like they have time-traveled to the Heian period.
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Byodoin Temple

Address: 116 Uji-renge, Uji City, Kyoto

Access: 10 minute walk from Uji Station

Admission Fee:
600 yen (Adults)
400 yen (Junior High School Students)
300 yen (Children)

Hours: 9:10 AM – 4:10 PM (Inside of Houou-do)

Phone: 0774-21-2861

Website: Byodo-in Temple


#8. Horyuji Temple – Nara

Horyuji Temple - Nara

Horyuji Temple is the best place to learn how Japanese Buddhism started and got incorporated into politics. Prince Shotoku founded the temple as his new residence after moving from Asuka, a part of Nara.

On the west side, the Garan Pagoda complex is acknowledged as the oldest existing wooden building in the world. At the temple, there are many national treasures.

Visitors can also enjoy many historic architectural designs inside, learn about the five-story pagodas and Golden Hall in the west part to better understand the temple.
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Horyuji Temple

Address: 1-1 Horyuji Sannai, Ikaruga, Ikoma District, Nara

Access: 20 minute walk from Horyuji Station

Admission Fee:
1,500 yen (Adult)
750 yen (Child)

8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Spring, Summer & Fall)
8:00 AM – 4:30 PM (Winter)

Phone: 0745-75-2555

Website: Horyuji Temple


#9. Zenrinji Temple – Kyoto

Zenrinji Temple - Kyoto

Zenrinji Temple, also known as Eikando (永観堂), was originally built as a Shingon sect temple but transferred to the Jodo sect  by Priest Eikan, one of the high priests in the eleventh century. The fame and popularity of the temple is integrated into the station name and the neighborhood.

At the temple there is beautiful maple trees spread over different of elevations. Locals love the view of Zenrinji Temple, a common phrase is “When the autumn comes, Eikando should be decorated with maple leaves”.

Buildings at the temple are so beautiful, there look postcard perfect. There is so many connecting corridors, locals and visitors are always surprised.
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Zenrinji Temple

Address: 48 Eikando, Sake District, Kyoto City, Kyoto

Access: About 30 minute taking trains and walk from Kyoto Station

Admission Fee:
600 yen (Adults)
400 yen (Students)

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Phone: 075-761-0007

Website: Zenrinji Temple


#10. Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei – Shiga

Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei - Shiga

Enryakuji Temple on Mt.Hiei is a designated World Heritage Site because of its tradition and history that has been continuing over one thousand and two hundred years. Around Mt. Hiei, Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan, Enryakuji Temple gives visitors solemn impressions similar to the Notre Dame in France or Canterbury in England.

Enryakuji Temple was founded by Saicho, the highest Tendai priest in the eighth and ninth century. Three main parts Todo (東塔), Saito (西塔), and Yokawa (横川), constitute the whole temple with other areas in relation to a colleges and a university.

Konpon Dou is the central hall and its said to govern every Japanese deity and Buddhist icon as a way of mixing Shintoism and Buddhism. A torch stands before the hall called “Fumetsu no Houtou” (Everlasting Sacred Torch) the flame has been buring for twelve centuries.
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Enryakuji Temple

Address: 4220 Sakamoto-honmachi, Otsu, Shiga Prefecture

Access: 15 minute walk from Cable Enryaku Station

Admission Fee:
1,200 yen (Adults)
800 yen (High & Junior High School Students)

Hours: Depends on the area and the season

Phone: 077-578-0001

Website: Enryakuji Temple


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