Temples

Temples are the places of worship in Japanese Buddhism. Virtually every Japanese municipality has at least one temple, while large cultural centers like Kyoto have several thousands.

Temples store and display sacred Buddhist objects. Some temples used to be monasteries, and some still function as such. Structures typically found at Japanese temples are:

Main hall

The sacred objects of worship, such as statues, are displayed in the main hall. Main halls are called kondo, hondo, butsuden, amidado or hatto in Japanese.

Example: Main hall of Todaiji in Nara.

Lecture hall

Lecture halls are for meetings and lectures and often also display objects of worship. Lecture halls are called kodo.

Example: Lecture hall of Toji in Kyoto.

Pagoda

The pagoda, a structure that has evolved from the Indian stupa, usually comes with three (sanju no to) or five (goju no to) stories. Pagodas store remains of the Buddha such as a tooth, usually in form of a representation.

Example: 3-storied pagoda of Kofukuji in Nara.

Gates

Gates mark the entrance to the temple grounds. There is usually one main gate, and possibly several additional gates, along the temple's main approach.

Example: Sanmon Gate of Kenchoji in Kamakura.

Bell

On New Year's Eve, temple bells are rung 108 times, corresponding to the Buddhist concept of 108 worldly desires.

Example: Great Bell of Kenchoji in Kamakura.

Cemetery

Most cemeteries in Japan are Buddhist and are located at a temple. The Japanese visit their ancestors' graves on many occasions during the year, especially during the obon week, the equinoctial weeks and anniversaries.

The best cities to visit temples are Kyoto, Nara and Kamakura. One of the best places to overnight at temples is Mount Koya.

Best Temples of Japan

  • Sort by japan-guide rating
  • Sort by user rating
  • Sort by most visted

1

Kiyomizudera

Temple famous for its large wooden terrace.

95
1838
votes
Visited by
3289 users
2

Osorezan

Sacred mountain resembling Buddhist hell.

94
29
votes
Visited by
60 users
3

Todaiji Temple

Large temple with a big Buddha statue.

93
1523
votes
Visited by
2825 users
4

Kinkakuji

Temple building covered in gold.

92
2050
votes
Visited by
3705 users
5

Ginkakuji

Beautiful temple not actually covered in silver.

87
1354
votes
Visited by
2651 users
6

Okunoin Temple

Temple where Kobo Daishi is enshrined.

93
226
votes
Visited by
381 users
7

Yamadera

Scenic temple on a steep mountainside.

91
103
votes
Visited by
213 users
8

Hasedera Temple

Large temple complex on a hillside location.

91
39
votes
Visited by
105 users
9

Kokedera

Called moss temple because of its garden.

88
109
votes
Visited by
280 users
11

Sanjusangendo

Temple with 1001 human sized statues.

88
671
votes
Visited by
1223 users