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Note: The opinions and views expressed in this user report are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of japan-guide.com.

January 27, 2020 - Best of Japan - Temples

Japan is a land of contrasts and I have been lucky enough to travel around this country more than most. For my last series for Japan Guide after visiting all 47 prefectures, I will be showcasing my favorite locations in Japan. This post will cover what I consider to be the best, most unique or important temples in the country.

Located on the Northern tip of Honshu on the Shimokita Peninsula, Bodaiji Temple (or Osorezan temple) is known as Buddhist hell due to its harsh volcanic environment. It's a bit difficult to get to this temple due to it's remoteness and large amount of snow that is found here in winter - but it's worth the trek if you want to see something different. Due to it also being in Northern Aomori, there is also not that much to do close to the site as well.

When it's sunny the acidic lake shimmers blue

The next temple which I think is a standout in Japan is Eiheiji, which is based close to Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture. This sprawling temple is home to the Soto Sect of Buddhism and was first found in 1244 by Master Dogen. As can be seen - it often looks best in winter covered in snow.

One temple I visited on my last trip was Ishiyamadera temple, located close to Otsu in Shiga Prefecture. This large temple is found close to Kyoto and holds many National treasures. It's also home to potentially one of the most spectacular walkways found in the middle of koyo (fall colors) due to the large number of maple trees on the ground. This is a temple you spend more than an hour walking around.

Kenninji temple is located right in the middle of Kyoto - but I've found that it has just the right amount of different facets of what I like in a temple. It's got some nice Zen gardens, a strolling garden, interesting screens and even some artwork that it commissions. Call this the Licorice All Sorts of Kyoto temples.

Muro-ji Temple is located in the mountainous region around Sakurai in Nara Prefecture. The large temple has many atmospheric stone walkways and is often refferred to as the womans Koyasan - as this temple was viewable by both genders before the Meiji Restoration. It's main draw card is the 5 story pagoda built in the 8th century viewed below.

Located at Mt Koya in Wakayama Prefecture, Okunoin temple is Japans largest cemetery and holds the body of Kobo Daishi who is often seen as the most important native Buddhist in Japanese history. This atmospheric temple is very photogenic and includes strange tombs for companies and lots of moss. Note that one large area does not allow photography - if you visit please make sure you follow the requests.

Another impressive sprawling temple found in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture is Onjo-ji temple. It's often also called Mii-dera and is the main temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. It also looks as though it will get rather crowded here in fall season - but this is true of many temple in the general Kyoto area.

The Reigando temple is located in the hills outside of Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture. This particular temple is difficult to get to due to only being accessible via windy roads with no public transport options. It's home to hundreds of statues which are covered in moss and an interesting cave temple you can enter.

When I visit temples there are a couple of things I like: that being gardens, flowers, old buildings and wooden carvings. Rengubuji temple found on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture has all of this and more. Many of the buildings are National treasures from memory but that's also common on this post.

Shinnyodo Temple is located in Kyoto and is the only temple which I will put a season caveat on. This is my favorite fall temple in the whole of Japan and it's burnt a very strong imprint into my memory. It's on the top of my list to visit in autumn, not so much in other seasons.

Located as far away as possible from the foreign tourist crowd, Takidanji Temple is found in Mikuni town (Fukui Prefecture). This temple was the first location in the prefecture to be awarded a Nationally Designated Site of Scenic Beauty. My lens was fogged up at the beginning of my visit and what's inside the temple is as pleasant as what's outside. This is a temple for people who like statues, gardens and moss.

My next temple is probably the most expected on this list - Todaiji Temple found in Nara. It's home to the biggest and I think oldest large Buddha in Japan. Note that it's best visited early so you miss the school and tour groups which never seem to stop at this location.

One of my favorite places in Japan would be Usuki Sekibutsu which is found in Usuki, Oita Prefecture. It's home to a large number of stone Buddhist carvings with some being over 1000 years old. On another note - I found it intriguing how there are impressive temples in the North of Kyushu but not in the south.

One of the more photogenic but strenuous temples to reach on this list is Yamadera which is located in Yamagata prefecture close to the Miyagi prefecture line. It makes a good half day trip from Sendai or Yamagata - just make sure you check train times as they are not always that common here. It may also be a lot of steps up (about 1500 from memory), but it's rather easy steps and I've had worse climbs.

My last temple on this post was Yoshiminedera temple, located on the Western outskirts of Kyoto along another windy road. When I visited in the drizzle in the middle of winter, I'm pretty sure I was the only visitor here among this huge site. It's found on the side of a rather steep hill but some ingenious thinking has allowed for rather easy walkways to be planned to get you up to the top without much of a sweat.

In general temples have been one of my favorite places to visit in Japan due to their history and aesthetics. This post should not been seen as a definitive list of sites you must visit - but may help guide you to explore some places off the beaten track. My next post will cover many of the Industrial Heritage sites which helped Japan become the first industrialized nation in Asia after the Meiji restoration.

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List of Posts:
2020/04/04 - Best of Japan - More Temples
2020/03/29 - Best of Japan - More Residences
2020/03/29 - Best of Japan - More Nature
2020/03/01 - Best of Japan - Historical
2020/02/22 - Best of Japan - More Shrines
2020/02/18 - Best of Japan - More Gardens
2020/02/15 - Best of Japan - Art & Events
2020/02/14 - Best of Japan - History & Museums
2020/02/12 - Best of Japan - Residences
2020/02/06 - Best of Japan - Views
2020/02/05 - Best of Japan - Animals
2020/02/04 - Best of Japan - Shrines
2020/02/02 - Best of Japan - Nature
2020/02/02 - Best of Japan - Festivals
2020/02/02 - Best of Japan - Castles
2020/01/30 - Best of Japan - Gardens
2020/01/27 - Best of Japan - Industrial Heritage
2020/01/27 - Best of Japan - Temples
2020/01/11 - Iizuka - Fukuoka
2020/01/11 - Tosu - Saga + Fukuoka Prefecture
2020/01/10 - Iriki to Kagoshima
2020/01/09 - Satsuma Food - Kagoshima
2020/01/09 - Ibusuki to Iriki - Kagoshima
2020/01/08 - Jigenji to Ibusuki - Kagoshima
2020/01/08 - Chiran - Kagoshima Prefecture
2020/01/07 - Tarumizu to Jigenji - Kagoshima
2020/01/06 - Kagoshima to Tarumizu
2020/01/05 - Sengan-an Area - Kagoshima City
2020/01/05 - Shiroyama Area - Kagoshima City
2020/01/04 - Kagoshima City - Day 1
2020/01/03 - Yakushima Drive - Kagoshima
2020/01/02 - Yakusugi Land - Yakushima
2020/01/01 - Shiratani Unsui - Yakushima
2019/12/30 - Cold & Soggy Kyoto
2019/12/29 - Kasuga Taisha to Station - Nara Prefecture
2019/12/29 - Todai-ji Area - Nara Prefecture
2019/12/28 - Kodaiji Area - Kyoto Prefecture
2019/12/28 - Takao - Kyoto Prefecture
2019/12/27 - Amanohashidate - Kyoto Prefecture
2019/12/27 - Yoshiminedera & Ine - Kyoto Prefecture
2019/12/26 - Imperial Kyoto
2019/12/25 - Southern Shiga Prefecture
2019/12/25 - Iga Ueno - Mie Prefecture
2019/12/24 - Omi Hachiman - Shiga Prefecture
2019/12/24 - Higashi Omi - Shiga Prefecture
2019/12/23 - Nagahama - Shiga Prefecture
2019/12/23 - Chikubu Island - Shiga Prefecture
2019/12/22 - Otsu to Nagahama - Shiga Prefecture
2019/12/21 - Arima Onsen - Hyogo Prefecture
2019/12/21 - Kobe Day 2 - Hyogo Prefecture
2019/12/20 - Kobe Day 1 : Hyogo Prefecture
2019/01/11 - Obscure Kyushu : Kashima & Dazaifu
2019/01/10 - Obscure Kyushu : Arita
2019/01/10 - Obscure Kyushu : Takeo
2019/01/09 - Obscure Kyushu : Kurokawa to Ureshino
2019/01/08 - Obscure Kyushu : Aso to Kurokawa
2019/01/07 - Obscure Kyushu : Yamaga to Aso
2019/01/06 - Obscure Kyushu : Yamaga
2019/01/06 - Obscure Kyushu : Kumamoto Castle Sites
2019/01/05 - Obscure Kyushu : Outer Kumamoto City
2019/01/04 - Obscure Kyushu : Minamata
2019/01/04 - Obscure Kyushu : Izumi
2019/01/03 - Obscure Kyushu: Kirishima
2019/01/02 - Obscure Kyushu : Hitoyoshi
2019/01/02 - Obscure Kyushu : Yatsushiro
2019/01/01 - Obscure Kyushu : Amakusa
2018/12/31 - Obscure Kyushu - Munakata to Amasuka
2018/12/30 - Obscure Kyushu - Munakata
2018/07/18 - Hidden Honshu: Fukuyama
2018/07/17 - Hidden Honshu: Tomonoura
2018/07/17 - Hidden Honshu: Iwakuni
2018/07/16 - Hidden Honshu: Tsuwano
2018/07/15 - Hidden Honshu: Hagi's Residences
2018/07/15 - Hidden Honshu: Hagi's Shrine District & Temples
2018/07/15 - Hidden Honshu: Hagi's Castle Town
2018/07/14 - Hidden Honshu: Iwami Ginzan
2018/07/14 - Hidden Honshu: Izumo
2018/07/13 - Hidden Honshu: Yonago
2018/07/13 - Hidden Honshu: Matsue's Gardens
2018/07/12 - Hidden Honshu: Mikuni
2018/07/11 - Hidden Honshu: Awara Onsen
2018/07/10 - Hidden Honshu: Kanazawa's Museums
2018/07/09 - Hidden Honshu: Kanazawa's Samurai District
2018/07/09 - Hidden Honshu: Kanazawa's Castle District
2018/07/08 - Hidden Honshu: Sado's Shukunegi
2018/07/08 - Hidden Honshu: Southern Sado
2018/07/07 - Hidden Honshu: Northern Sado
2018/07/06 - Hidden Honshu: Getting to Sado
2018/07/05 - Hidden Honshu: Sakata
2018/07/04 - Hidden Honshu: Akita
2018/07/03 - Hidden Honshu: Kakunodate
2018/07/02 - Hidden Honshu: Nyuto to Tamagawa Onsen
2018/07/01 - Hidden Honshu: Morioka to Nyuto Onsen
2018/06/30 - Hidden Honshu: Matsumae
2018/02/23 - Southern Odyssey - Taketomi
2018/02/23 - Southern Odyssey - Ishigaki City
2018/02/22 - Southern Odyssey - Ishigaki Island
2018/02/21 - Southern Odyssey - Iriomote
2018/02/20 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa to Iriomote
2018/02/19 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa WW2 Sites
2018/02/19 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 5 Southern Attractions
2018/02/18 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 4 Naha
2018/02/17 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 3
2018/02/16 - Southern Odyssey - Ocean Expo Park
2018/02/16 - Southern Odyssey - Ie Island
2018/02/15 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Hanami Report
2018/02/15 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 1
2018/02/14 - Southern Odyssey - Amami to Okinawa
2018/02/13 - Southern Odyssey - Amami Day 3
2018/02/12 - Southern Odyssey - Amami Day 2
2018/02/11 - Southern Odyssey - Amami Day 1
2017/07/04 - Shikotsu Lake to Noboribetsu - Hokkaido
2017/07/03 - Otaru to Shikotsu - Hokkaido
2017/07/02 - Otaru - Hokkaido
2017/07/02 - Yoichi - Hokkaido
2017/07/01 - Biei to Sapporo - Hokkaido
2017/06/30 - Sounkyo Onsen to Biei - Hokkaido
2017/06/29 - Shibetsu to Sounkyu Onsen - Hokkaido
2017/06/28 - Hokkaido: Wakkanai to Shibetsu
2017/06/27 - Rebun Island - Lake Kushu & Kafuka
2017/06/26 - Rebun Island - Momoiwa Course
2017/06/25 - Rishiri Island - Hokkaido
2017/06/23 - Imaicho - Nara Prefecture
2017/06/22 - Asuka & Sakurai - Nara Prefecture
2017/06/22 - Nara Yamoto 4 Temple Pilgrimage
2017/06/21 - Yoshino - Nara Prefecture
2017/06/20 - Sakai - Osaka Prefecture
2017/06/19 - Osaka - Namba Area
2017/06/19 - Western Osaka
2017/06/18 - Kansai & Hokkaido Trip Intro & Central Osaka
2017/02/06 - Closed Kurume - Fukuoka
2017/02/05 - Miyazaki to Kobayashi
2017/02/04 - Obi Castle Town - Miyazaki
2017/02/04 - Nichinan Coast - Miyazaki
2017/02/03 - Gardens & Museums of Miyazaki City
2017/02/02 - Shrines of Takachiko - Miyazaki
2017/02/01 - Usuki City - Oita
2017/01/31 - Hita & Surrounds - Oita
2017/01/31 - Yufuin Onsen - Oita
2017/01/30 - Hells of Beppu
2017/01/30 - Oita City - Oita
2017/01/29 - Kitsuki Castle Town - Oita
2017/01/28 - Hiji Castle Town - Oita
2017/01/28 - Templing in Kunisaki Hanto
2017/01/27 - Nakatsu to Yamaga Onsen
2017/01/27 - Eastern Kyushu Trip Info & Nakatsu
2016/08/02 - Ohori Park - Fukuoka
2016/08/01 - Fukuoka's Gion Temple Cluster
2016/07/31 - Unzen Onsen - Nagasaki Prefecture
2016/07/31 - Shimabara - Nagasaki Prefecture
2016/07/30 - Nagasaki City - Northern City Attractions
2016/07/29 - Nagasaki City - Southern Attractions
2016/07/29 - Hashima - Nagasaki Prefecture
2016/07/28 - Huis Ten Bosch Day 2 (Day)
2016/07/27 - Huis Ten Bosch Day 1 (Night)
2016/07/26 - Hirado Part 2 - Nagasaki
2016/07/26 - Hirado Part 1 - Nagasaki
2016/07/25 - Gardens of Takeo - Saga Prefecture
2016/07/24 - Yutoku Inari Shrine
2016/07/24 - Ureshino - Saga
2016/07/23 - Yoshinogari Park - Saga
2016/07/23 - Saga City - Saga Prefecture
2016/07/22 - Yobuko - Saga Prefecture
2016/07/21 - Karatsu City - Saga
2016/07/20 - Mojiko - Fukuoka
2016/07/20 - Kokura - Fukuoka
2016/07/19 - Dazaifu - Fukuoka
2016/07/18 - Nokonoshima Island - Fukuoka
2016/07/17 - NW Kyushu Trip Info & Yanagawa
2016/03/02 - Shikoku Highlights
2016/02/21 - Hadaka Matsuri: Saidaji Temple Okayama
2016/02/20 - Okayama Museum Cluster - Okayama Prefecture
2016/02/19 - Marugame & Kotohira - Kagawa Prefecture
2016/02/18 - Matsuyama - Ehime Prefecture
2016/02/17 - Uchihiko - Ehime
2016/02/17 - Ozu - Ehime Prefecture
2016/02/16 - Seiyo
2016/02/16 - Uwajima - Ehime Prefecture
2016/02/15 - Kochi to Otsuki
2016/02/14 - Kochi - Kochi - Kochi
2016/02/13 - Toyo to Yasu via Aki
2016/02/12 - Naruto to Toya
2016/02/11 - Takamatsu to Naruto
2016/02/11 - Artsy Naoshima: Honmura Art Project
2016/02/11 - Artsy Naoshima: Tsutsuji-so to Miyanoura Port
2016/02/10 - Takamatsu - Kagawa Prefecture
2016/02/10 - Shikoku Trip Info & Artsy Teshima
2015/07/19 - Accommodation in Japan - Last Post
2015/07/19 - Food in Japan
2015/07/15 - Hongu Taisha - Wakayama
2015/07/14 - Shingu & Ogi Matsuri - Wakayama
2015/07/13 - Nachi Taisha & Kii-Katsuura - Wakayama
2015/07/12 - Kii-Tanabe & Kumano Kodo - Wakayama
2015/07/10 - Wacky Wakayama City - Wakayama
2015/07/08 - Tottori City - Tottori Prefecture
2015/07/06 - Izushi - Hyogo
2015/07/05 - Kinosaki Onsen - Hyogo
2015/07/04 - Yamanaka Onsen - Ishikawa
2015/07/03 - Wajima to Wakura - Ishikawa
2015/07/02 - Eastern Noto Peninsula Drive - Ishikawa
2015/07/01 - Kanazawa to Wajima - Ishikawa
2015/06/30 - Itoigawa Salt Road - Niigata
2015/06/29 - Coastal Itoigawa - Niigata
2015/06/28 - Kurobe Dam Railway - Toyama
2015/06/27 - Iiyama City & Madarao Kogen - Nagano
2015/06/26 - Rural Iiyama & Nozawa Onsen - Nagano
2015/06/24 - Manza Onsen - Gunma Prefecture
2015/06/23 - Kusatsu Onsen - Gunma
2015/06/21 - Dewa Sanzan - Yamagata
2015/06/20 - Tsuruoka to Dewa Sanzan - Yamagata
2015/06/19 - Tsuruoka Town - Yamagata
2015/06/18 - Haruna Jinja - Gunma
2015/06/17 - Japan Trip Intro, JR Pass & Yokohama
2014/10/25 - Koyo In Japan - A Collection of Photos
2014/06/22 - Narita & Sawara - My Last Post!
2014/06/14 - Yahiko - Niigata
2014/06/07 - Ajiro Onsen
2014/05/17 - Gifu City
2014/05/17 - Cormorant Fishing - Gifu City
2014/05/11 - Shorin-zan Daruma-ji Temple
2014/05/10 - Gunma Flower Park
2014/04/27 - Obuse - Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/26 - Togakushi & Nagano
2014/04/13 - Toyokawa & Toyohashi
2014/04/12 - Futagawa - Cherry Blossom Report
2014/02/09 - Ono - Fukui Prefecture
2014/02/08 - Eiheiji & Fukui City
2014/01/19 - Nokogiri-Yama - Chiba
2014/01/03 - Izumo Taisha & Adachi Museum of Art
2014/01/02 - Matsue - Shimane Prefecture
2014/01/01 - Hagi - Yamaguchi Prefecture
2013/12/31 - Yamaguchi
2013/12/30 - Akiyoshido Cave - Yamaguchi Prefecture
2013/12/29 - Miyajima - Hiroshima Prefecture
2013/12/28 - Hiroshima
2013/12/27 - Onomichi - Hiroshima Prefecture
2013/12/26 - Kurashiki
2013/12/25 - Bitsu-Takahashi: Okayama Prefecture
2013/12/24 - Kibi Plain - Okayama Prefecture
2013/12/23 - Inujima Art Park - Okayama Prefecture
2013/12/22 - Okayama
2013/12/22 - Himeji Castle & Kokoen Gardens
2013/12/21 - Shoshazan Engyogi Temple Walk - Himeji
2013/12/16 - Tsumago to Magome - Spring & Winter
2013/12/08 - Ito - Through The Seasons
2013/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Central Kyoto to Higashiyama
2013/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Arashiyama Part 2
2013/11/25 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Arashiyama Part 1
2013/11/24 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Tofukuji & Night Illuminations
2013/11/17 - Showa Kinen Koen
2013/11/10 - Kofu City - Autumn Report
2013/11/09 - Shosenkyo Gorge - Autumn Report
2013/10/26 - Hirosaki - Apples & Temples
2013/10/25 - Hirosaki Castle Park & Surrounds - Autumn
2013/10/24 - Oirase Stream - Autumn Report
2013/10/23 - Lake Towada & Yasumiya - Autumn Report
2013/10/22 - Rural Tono - Autumn Report
2013/10/21 - Tono - Shrine Cluster
2013/10/20 - Central Tono - Iwate
2013/10/19 - Urabandai - Autumn Report
2013/10/02 - Kamikochi - Autumn Report
2013/09/29 - Mito - Ibaraki Prefecture
2013/09/28 - Rural Fukuroda & Ibaraki Flower Park
2013/09/14 - Atami - Shizuoka Prefecture
2013/08/16 - Noboribetsu - Summer & Autumn
2013/08/12 - Mt Asahidake - Daisetsuzan National Park
2013/08/11 - Asahiyama Zoo - Asahikawa
2013/08/10 - Sapporo - Summer & Autumn
2013/08/08 - Lake Toya - Hokkaido
2013/08/07 - Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
2013/08/06 - Osorezan - Shimokita Peninsula
2013/08/04 - Akita Kanto Matsuri
2013/08/03 - Yumoto Onsen to Chuzenji Lake Walk
2013/07/11 - Kyoto - Daigo-ji Temple
2013/07/10 - Kyoto - Mt Hieizan
2013/07/09 - Kyoto - Ohara
2013/07/07 - Kyoto - Koryuji Area
2013/07/06 - Uji - Summer
2013/07/05 - Hikone
2013/07/04 - Kyoto Station & Surroundings Attractions
2013/06/01 - Tokyo Parks & Gardens - Part 2
2013/05/26 - Tokyo Parks & Gardens - Part 1
2013/05/19 - Ouchijuku (Fukushima)
2013/05/18 - Aizu Wakamatsu (Fukushima Prefecture)
2013/05/13 - Geibi-kei Gorge & Ichinoseki
2013/05/11 - A Rainy Hiraizumi
2013/05/07 - Matsusaka Walk
2013/05/06 - Nara - Horyuji Temple & Koriyama Area
2013/05/05 - South West Nara Temple Trail (Golden Week)
2013/05/04 - Ise Naiku & Geku Shrines (Golden Week)
2013/04/29 - Western & South Eastern Kamakura Bike Ride
2013/04/28 - Yamadera Mountain Temple - Spring
2013/04/27 - Yamagata Cherry Blossom Report
2013/04/27 - Yonezawa Cherry Blossom Report
2013/04/20 - Nikko's Main Temples & Shrines
2013/04/20 - Nikko - Gardens & History Walk
2013/04/14 - Meiji Mura Park - Inuyama
2013/04/13 - Inuyama Town & Castle
2013/04/05 - Koyasan - Okunoin Temple & Temple Stay
2013/04/04 - Koyasan Bike Ride: From Daimon to Karukayado
2013/04/03 - Nara Park Cherry Blossom Report
2013/04/02 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report - Kiyomuzi & Nanzen-ji
2013/04/02 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report - Philosophers Trail
2013/04/01 - Kyoto Report - Temples, Shrines & Geisha
2013/03/30 - Furukawa - Takayama's Impressive Little Brother
2013/03/27 - Hakone Day Tour Loop
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report - Odawara Castle
2013/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report - Yokohama @ Honmoku
2013/03/16 - Kamakura - North Western Bike Ride
2013/03/11 - Shimoda & Irozaki Coast
2013/03/09 - Minami-Izu Cherry Blossom Festival
2013/03/09 - Kawazu Cherry Blossom Matsuri & Kawazu Falls
2013/03/08 - Kamakura - Hase Area Walk
2013/03/03 - Kawaguchiko - Fuji Five Lakes
2013/02/24 - Kawasaki - On & Off The Beaten Track
2013/02/17 - Yamagata - An Unexpected Day Trip
2013/02/16 - Half of Yamadera & Zao Snow Monsters
2013/02/15 - Sendai - Winter
2013/02/14 - Matsushima - Winter
2013/02/09 - Yamanouchi Snow Monkeys & Nagano Zenkoji Temple
2013/02/06 - Shizuoka - Temples & Plum Blossoms