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Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple

Adashino Nenbutsuji is a small temple near the end of the Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street at the northern end of the Arashiyama sightseeing district, near its sister temple, Otagi Nenbutsuji. There are 8000 buddhist statues placed in memory of those who died without family dating back to the Heian period. These lost souls are remembered…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,


At the base of Kyoto’s western hills, Arashiyama and Sagano are most famous for their bamboo groves, which are spectacular (the most impressive grove is outside Tenryū-ji’s northern gate), but the area is also full of temples and gardens. Although there are many temples to visit, we especially recommend Tenryu-ji, Jojakko-ji, Gio-ji and the Nenbutsuji…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,


This stunning temple in the small town of Uji near Kyoto combines Heian Pure Land style Buddhist gardens with Chinese-influenced architecture. The Phoenix hall was built in 1053 and is famously featured on the 10 yen coin. Various Buddhist treasures are on display throughout the temple and garden complex and especially in the small though…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,


Within this Shingon Buddhist temple is one of Kyoto’s best small examples of tsukiyama gardening, with elements evocative of a mountain landscape, complete with cascade, bridge, and azalea bushes pruned to represent rolling hills.

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Daikaku-ji Temple

Located on the site of a 9th century palace, Daikakuji was converted to a Shingon Buddhist temple in 876. Although the original buildings are long gone, the architecture and courtyard gardens retain the Heian Period style described in the Tale of Genji, and a large lake creates sweeping views across to the nearby mountains. Originally…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,


More properly called Jishō-ji, the Silver Pavilion was, like the similarly named Golden Pavilion, built as a retirement villa and only later converted into a Zen temple. During its time as a residence in the late 15th century, Ginkaku-ji was, again like the Golden Pavilion a century earlier, the very heart of aesthetic Kyoto, playing…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Gio-ji Temple

Tiny Gio-ji Temple is often overlooked by the throngs of sightseers in Arashiyama but what it may lack in size, it more than makes up for in charm and it’s one of our favourite temples in the area, not least for its fascinating history. The temple was named after Gio, a dancer from long ago…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Hasedera Temple

Hase-dera Temple is marked by the steep stairs that wind up the slopes of one of Kamakura’s many hills, and by the thousands of Jizō statues which surround them. Despite the temple’s popularity, it remains a moving spot to visit, and we highly recommend leaving time to explore the grounds with their statues and ponds…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,

Honen-in Temple

A lovely and secluded temple just off the Philosopher’s Path, Honen-in was established in 1680 to honour Honen, the founder of the Jodo Buddhist sect. Set amongst a wooded hillside, the temple has a beautiful raked sand garden, moss gardens and a tranquil pond filed with koi carp. The main entrance to the temple is…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Honganji Temples

Nishi Honganji (西本願寺) and Higashi Honganji (東本願寺) are two large temples in the centre of Kyoto. As headquarters of the two factions of the Jodo-Shin Sect (True Pure Land Sect), one of Japan’s largest Buddhist sects, they are a good place to experience contemporary Japanese Buddhism. Nishi Honganji (West Honganji) was built in 1591 by…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

Hyatt Regency, Kyoto

The Hyatt Regency opened its stylish doors in 2006. Just minutes from JR Kyoto Station, the Hyatt Regency is located in the heart of the richly cultural Higashiyama area, amidst the famous Chishakuin, Sanjusangendo and Yogenin Temples. With rooms blending Japanese and Western luxury, the Hyatt Regency excels at comfort, and brings already high levels…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kansai, Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Jojakko-ji Temple

Famous for its beautiful Autumn colours, Jojakko-ji is situated on the side of a mountain in Arashiyama and was established in 1596. The Taho-to pagoda, which is designated by the national government as an Important Cultural Property, was constructed in the 17th century. It is built in the gorgeous 16th-century Momoyama style and affords a…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

Kamakura Great Buddha

Kamakura’s great Buddha, or Daibutsu, is undoubtedly the town’s most famous sight and dominates the grounds of Kōtoku-in temple. The 13.35m bronze statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple building, however after being destroyed many times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries, since 1495…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,


Generally known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji was built in 1398 by Shogun Ashikaga, and served as a flourishing centre of the arts before becoming a Rinzai Zen temple in 1419. Though the gardens are superb, featuring a large pond with islands representing the landscape of the Buddhist creation myth, it is the Golden Pavilion…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Kiyomizu Temple

Overlooking Kyoto from the base of the eastern mountains, Kiyomizu Temple takes its name from the pure water of the cascade which runs down the hill behind the complex. Founded in 780, this temple of the Buddhist Hossō sect is older than Kyoto itself, though Kiyomizu-dera has been rebuilt many times over the years –…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: ,

Kodaiji Temple

Kodaiji is an outstanding temple, established in 1606 in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s greatest historical figures. Its main buildings were constructed in the lavish style of the era of Japan’s unification with the financial support of Hideyoshi’s successor Tokugawa Ieyasu. You can visit Kodaiji’s main hall (Hojo), which was rebuilt in a…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  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: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mount Koya

Not far from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s third largest city, the holy mountain known as Koya-san is one of the most peaceful spiritual centres in the country. Mount Koya is the heart of Shingon Buddhism and the resting place of the sect’s founder, perhaps Japan’s best known Buddhist, known as both Kukai and…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , , ,


Even to the casual observer it is obvious that Nanzen-ji is one of the most powerful temples in Japan – indeed, since 1381 it has been named the principal Zen temple in Kyoto. The kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden of crushed rocks and shrubs with a backdrop of ‘borrowed’ scenery from the nearby hillside is said…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,


The capital of Japan from 710 to 784, Nara was built on a grid pattern, influenced by T’ang Chinese cities of the time. The first written records date from this period, and Nara is generally regarded as the birthplace of Japanese civilisation. The town’s greatest legacy for the visitor, however, is the collection of ancient…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kansai  |  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: temples  |  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: temples  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Ninnaji Temple

One of Kyoto’s most interesting temples, Ninnaji was founded in the year 888 as an Imperial Residence but, like many historic buildings in Japan, has suffered repeated destruction in wars and fires over the centuries. Today, Ninnaji is the headquarters of the Omuro school of the Buddhist Shingon sect and features a large variety of…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple

Otagi Nenbutsuji, like its sister temple Adashino Nenbutsuji, is a small but charming temple, hidden away at the far end of the Arashiyama neighbourhood and featuring 1200 stone sculptures of rakan, the Buddha’s disciples, all with different facial expressions and poses. The statues are scattered amongst a few small temples and pagodas. The statues themselves…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  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: temples  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , , ,

Ryoanji Temple

Nestled at the base of Kyoto’s Mount Kinugasa, Ryoan-ji Temple dates back to 983, though the temple was officially founded in 1467, and a number of the present buildings are reconstructions dating to 1800. More importantly, Ryoan-ji is home to Japan’s first, and arguably best, kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden. The garden is a masterpiece of…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Sanjusangendo Temple

Sanjusangen-do is officially known as Rengeō-in. A Tendai Buddhist temple, it was built in 1164 to house 1001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. A fire in 1249 destroyed the hall and most of the statues, and reconstruction was completed in 1266. Though the golden statues are said to have one thousand arms…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple, red, and pleasantly crowded with pigeons and sight-seers, is the oldest and most important Buddhist site in Tokyo, home to a small golden statue of the goddess Kannon which is so sacred that it cannot be viewed. Senso-ji’s main entrance is marked by an impressively large lantern that hangs suspended below the kaminari-mon…

Type: temples  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji is the most important temple in Arashiyama. It was ranked first among the city’s five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. It is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism. Built in 1339 by the ruling shogun, the temple”s buildings…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

The Taya Caves

From roughly between the years 1200 to 1700, Shingon Buddhist monks excavated an underground maze of tunnels behind Josenji Temple near Kamakura as a site for spiritual training. Dark, silent corridors lead to small, domed meditation chambers with walls and ceilings carved with fantastic creatures and Buddhist images, and on down to the spring room…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,


Todaiji (“Great Eastern Temple”) is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan and grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower…

Type: temples  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , ,


Japan’s capital city is a truly mesmerising place. A myriad of stimuli competing for your attention and a constant buzz of jingles, neon, giant TV screens, and pop music help to make Tokyo one of the most thrilling and futuristic places on earth. A vast and complicated sprawl when you look at the rail map,…

Type: temples  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,