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Fushimi Inari Shrine

The best known of Kyoto’s shrines, Fushimi Inari is visually stunning: Thousands of torii gates form an unbroken tunnel of red, leading up to the crest of Mount Inari. Oldest and most famous of all the Inari shrines in Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha is, like the others, dedicated to the Shinto deity thought to protect…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan is really a shrine in three parts, the main part of which is next to the Tōshō-gū Shrine. The beautiful red Futarasan Shrine is dedicated to Nikkō’s mountains, in particular the long-dormant volcano, Mount Nantai, and makes up the third part in Nikkō’s World Heritage trinity. Don’t miss the sacred red Shinkyo bridge, which…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,

Hachiman-gu Shrine

Properly known as Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, this imposing shrine is Kamakura’s most important Shinto shrine, and on holidays and festivals this is made apparent by the happy crowds of visitors. The shrine grounds are particularly lovely, including as they do a pond (the lotus blossom in mid-summer) and Japanese-style bridges, and the wide steps leading up…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,

Heian Shrine

Though one of Kyoto’s newest shrines, the Heian Jingū is also one of the most impressive – the shrine gate is one of the largest in Japan, and the buildings are a replica of Kyoto’s Heian Period Imperial Palace. The gardens are best known for their weeping sakura (cherry blossom) trees, so are most popular…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine is built out over the water, as a spiritual threshold that separates the sacred island from the profane outer world. With its large torii gate standing nearby in the sea, it forms the iconic image of Miyajima. The shrine itself was first built in the 6th Century, and took its present form in…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Kasuga Taisha (Grand) Shrine is Nara’s most celebrated Shinto shrine. Kasuga Taisha was also the shrine of the Fujiwara, Japan’s most powerful family clan during most of the Nara and Heian Periods. It is famous for its lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Kompirasan Shrine

Kompirasan is the main shrine of multiple Kompira shrines found around Japan that are dedicated to sailors and seafaring. Located on the wooded slope of Mount Zozu in Kotohira, the approach to Kompirasan is an arduous series of 1,368 stone steps. Over many centuries, Kompirasan had been revered as a mixture between Shinto shrine and…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , ,


A small town in northeastern Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku, Kotohira is primarily famous for Kompirasan, Shikoku‘s most popular shrine. Kompirasan is dedicated to seafaring, and is said to have one of the most difficult shrine approaches in Japan. Nearby is the historical Kanamaruza kabuki theater, Japan’s oldest surviving, complete kabuki playhouse, which still stages kabuki performances…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , ,

Life on the road

Keen to see parts of Japan she hadn’t seen before, Hannah hired a car and set off on a road trip to northern Honshu. Driving in Japan couldn’t be simpler, especially for British tourists as Japan also drives on the left side of the road! Summer isn’t everyone’s first choice of season to visit Japan….

Type: shrines  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Matsue is the capital city of Shimane Prefecture, and is located on the eastern shores of Lake Shinji . Due to its location between two lakes, Shinji & Nakaumi, as well as the Sea of Japan, Matsue is also known as the “water city”. Matsue’s attractions include its original castle and the former residence of…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Nara Park

Nara’s main sights are arranged around the grassy Nara Park, through which friendly deer freely wander – you can buy special deer-food sembei crackers which will make you popular! Here you’ll find Tōdai-ji, Nara’s most important and impressive temple, and home to Japan’s largest Buddha statue. Though the current temple structure is only two thirds…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , , ,


Nikkō is best known for its spectacular shrines and temples built during the Tokugawa Shogunate, particularly the Tosho-gu Shrine, which is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu himself. Unlike the more austere shrines in other regions, the Nikko shrines are heavily carved and brightly decorated, and bear a particularly famous painting of a sleeping cat, as well…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , , , , , ,


Onbashira is a festival held only once every six years in the Lake Suwa area of Nagano, Japan. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Taisha or Suwa Grand Shrine. “Onbashira” can be literally translated as “the honored pillars”. The Onbashira festival is reputed to have continued, uninterrupted, for 1200 years….

Type: shrines  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Rinno-ji Temple

Not far from the famous Tōshō-gū Shrine and the Futarasan Shrine is Rinnō-ji Temple, Nikkō’s most important Buddhist Temple. The temple dates back to the eight century, and is famed for its three statues, which are said to be Buddhist Incarnations of the native Shinto mountain deities enshrined at Futarasan Shrine, and are the largest…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , , ,

Shunki Reitaisai (Tōshō-gū Festival)

On 17th & 18th May, Nikko‘s famous Tōshō-gū shrine holds a legendary festival in the honour of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo era. A huge procession takes 1000 samurai from one end of Nikko to the other, reflecting Tokugawa Ieyasu’s final wish: upon his death in 1616, the legendary…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Tōshō-gū Shrine

The Tōshō-gū Shrine is Nikko’s main attraction, and is dedicated to the first of the Tokugawa Shoguns, Tokugawa Ieyasu himself. Unlike more austere shrines elsewhere in Japan, the Tōshō-gū Shrine is elaborately carved, decorated, and gilt. Most famous of the painted carvings are those of a sleeping cat, as well as the three wise monkeys…

Type: shrines  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , , ,