Japan’s Most Stunning Temples and Shrines, Mapped
With a history that dates back 30,000 years, Japan is one of the most fascinating countries on the planet.
The island nation is a traveler's dream. It's both ultra-modern and deeply rooted in tradition. You'll find hotels helmed by robots, festivals that have been celebrated for thousands of years and some of the best food in the world.
But the best thing to do in Japan is without a doubt to visit its temples and shrines. In comes our illustrated map.
Map of Japanese Temples
This map of Japan's most beautiful shrines and temples will take you from north to south. In the spirit of diversity, we've included only one per city.
Hokkaido Jingu Shrine, Hokkaido
The island of Sapporo is often ignored by travelers. But those who visit enjoy a culture that is at once distinctively Japanese and different from the rest of the country.
You can see this at the Hokkaido Jingu, whose architecture contrasts that of other shrines, while keeping in tune with a national style.
Seryu-ji Temple, Aomori
Located on the northern tip of Honshu — Japan's main island — Seiryu-ji is not as famous as other temples listed here. This is a shame, given that it houses the country's largest bronze Buddha sculpture in a seated position.
Surrounded by trees, the statue is astonishing. The complex also has a tall pavilion and a Buddha museum.
Zuigan-ji Temple, Matsushima
Constructed with skill and patience, Zuigan-ji is the pride of the Miyagi district. It is known for its beauty as well as for housing numerous National Treasures, including artifacts, paintings, bowls and books.
The main hall is also designated as a National Treasure in itself.
Zenko-ji Temple, Nagano
While not a particularly famed temple abroad, Zenko-ji is very important to the Japanese. The 7th-century complex protects the first Buddhist statue to be brought to Japan.
Sadly, you won't get to see it, since it is considered too sacred to be public. But the rest of the temple is visit-worthy on its own, with large wooden gates, a main hall that is a national treasure and a temple bell that made an appearance in the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
Tokyo is one of the most futuristic cities you can visit. But it also houses Senso-ji, the country's oldest temple.
Built in 645 A.D., it is dedicated to the Japanese goddess of mercy, Kannon. While relatively small, its contrast with the sprawling city that surrounds it makes this temple a highlight of the capital.
Sanbutsu-ji Temple, Misasa
Little-known Sanbutsu-ji is a destination for true temple enthusiasts. Located in the Tottori district, the complex demands some effort from those who wish to visit.
Those who comply are rewarded with the unique experience of witnessing temple halls carved into the side of Mount Mitoku.
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Famous around the world for its series of red Torii gates, Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of Japan's most important destinations. But the gates are only a small part of this large and impressive shrine located on Mount Inari.
A pilgrimage to the top will take you past small shrines and statues and reward you with sweeping views of Kyoto. As one of Japan's most important temple destinations, Kyoto offers numerous other temples you must visit, including the Kiyomizu-dera temple and Kinkaku-ji Temple.
Todai-ji Temple, Nara
Nara is another of Japan's temple cities, with numerous places of worship scattered throughout its borders. But if you have to choose only one place to see, make it Todai-ji.
The temple has numerous claims to fame. For one, it is the world's largest wooden building. It is also home to a gigantic Buddha statue.
Finally, people love visiting and fraternizing with the herd of tame deer that roam freely around the complex.
Itsukushima Ryujin Shrine, Hiroshima
Hiroshima is one of two cities devastated by the brutality of nuclear warfare. While much of the city was razed to the ground, the Itsukushima Ryujin shrine was mostly spared.
Its most renowned feature is a Torii gate built to appease the spirits of Itsukushima Island. At high tide, the gate is partially submerged in the water, giving it the appearance of rising from the lake itself.
Kushida Shrine, Fukuoka
Kushida shrine is the center of the Kakata Gion Yamakasa festival, which has been celebrated for over 770 years. Intricate floats move through the city to the sound of taiko drums. Even if you don't visit during the first two weeks of July, you can see the temple's permanent float collection.
Make sure you also visit the Kushida-no-Ginan, a 1,000-year-old tree, and the Reisen Tsuru well. Three drinks from it are said to bring you and your family long life.