Nearly every municipality in Japan is home to at least one temple or shrine. Although tourists often interchange these two terms, it’s akin to mistaking a church with a synagogue. The two main religions in Japan are Shinto, which is practiced in shrines, and Buddhism, which is practiced in temples. Many Japanese people dabble in both faiths, so there is no great offense taken if you mistake one for the other. From a visitor’s point of view, these places of worship are scenic structures with features like pavilions, gates, statues and pagodas, often in picturesque garden settings. It’s hard to imagine traveling to Japan without visiting at least a few of these celebrated spots. Here are 11 stunning temples and shrines of Japan to put on your list.
Kyoto is often regarded as the city with the best temples and shrines of Japan. At the top of the must-see list is Kinkakuji Temple, famous for its gold-leaf finish and beautiful woodsy setting. The famous Zen temple (also known as Rokuonji) is situated on the banks of a pond and is well known for its gilded upper stories. In Japan, it is known as the “Golden Pavilion,” and it is a spectacular sight in all four seasons.