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 hundred.

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
Example: Main hall of Todaiji in Nara
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.

Lecture hall
Example: Lecture hall of Toji in Kyoto
Lecture halls are for meetings and lectures and often also display objects of worship. Lecture halls are called kodo.

Pagoda
Example: 3-storied pagoda of Kofukuji in Nara
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 the form of a representation.

Gates
Example: Sanmon Gate of Kenchoji in Kamakura
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.

Bell
Example: Great Bell of Kenchoji in Kamakura
On New Year's Eve, temple bells are rung 108 times, corresponding to the Buddhist concept of 108 worldly desires.

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.

Questions? Ask in our forum.

Best Temples of Japan

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

1

Osorezan

Sacred mountain resembling Buddhist hell.

95
34
votes
Visited by
68 users
2

Kiyomizudera

Temple famous for its large wooden terrace.

94
2121
votes
Visited by
3801 users
3

Todaiji Temple

Large temple with a big Buddha statue.

93
1730
votes
Visited by
3204 users
4

Kinkakuji

Temple building covered in gold.

92
2307
votes
Visited by
4186 users
5

Ginkakuji

Beautiful temple not actually covered in silver.

87
1553
votes
Visited by
3035 users
6

Okunoin Temple

Temple where Kobo Daishi is enshrined.

93
274
votes
Visited by
457 users
7

Yamadera

Scenic temple on a steep mountainside.

92
133
votes
Visited by
261 users
8

Hasedera Temple

Large temple complex on a hillside location.

90
44
votes
Visited by
117 users
9

Kokedera

Called moss temple because of its garden.

88
126
votes
Visited by
326 users
12

Byodoin Temple

Temple with a beautiful Pure Land Garden.

86
505
votes
Visited by
1085 users
Anything we can improve?  Let us know
We strive to keep Japan Guide up-to-date and accurate, and we're always looking for ways to improve. If you have any updates, suggestions, corrections or opinions, please let us know:
Thank you for your feedback.
Page last updated: February 3, 2016