15 Best Temples in Japan

Divine Sanctuaries: 15 Must-Visit Temples in Japan

Best Temples in Japan

Buddhism, alongside Shintoism, is a major aspect that shapes the beautiful culture of Japan that many people around the world have fallen in love with. What better way to get in touch with this part of Japanese culture than to go visit some of these incalculably valuable places that are situated across the country?

Japanese Buddhist temples are quite different from those in India, China, and even South Korea, providing a unique experience even if you’ve visited temples from these other countries.

Join us as we introduce to you our list of the 15 best temples in Japan and explore these hallowed grounds, immersing ourselves in the rich tapestry of Japan’s ancient traditions and sacred wonders. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the tranquil countryside of Kyoto and beyond, each temple unveils a unique blend of cultural heritage, architectural marvels, and spiritual significance.

Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism in Japan is a profound and influential religious tradition that has deeply shaped the country’s history and cultural identity. Introduced in the 6th century, Buddhism arrived from China and Korea, gradually integrating with indigenous beliefs.

It encompasses a diverse range of Buddhist schools, including Zen, Pure Land, and Nichiren. Buddhism in Japan combines teachings on enlightenment, compassion, and the cycle of rebirth. It has played a crucial role in shaping Japanese arts, philosophy, and societal values, promoting harmony, mindfulness, and the pursuit of inner peace.

Today, Buddhism continues to be a significant spiritual force, with temples and rituals serving as cherished cultural and historical landmarks.

Features of Buddhist Temples

Buddhist temples in Japan possess distinct features that make them intriguing to foreign travelers.

Architecturally, they showcase unique designs with intricate wooden structures, ornate roofs, and exquisite craftsmanship. Unlike some temples in other countries, Japanese temples often blend seamlessly with nature, offering serene gardens and picturesque landscapes. Visitors can witness stunning Buddha statues, ancient relics, and engaging ritual practices.

Japanese temples also stand out for their cultural significance, reflecting Japan’s rich spiritual heritage. People should visit Japanese temples to experience the peaceful and meditative atmosphere, immerse themselves in Japanese culture, and gain insights into the profound philosophy of Buddhism while enjoying the beauty of the temple surroundings.


1. Hiraizumi Chusonji Temple (Iwate)

Hiraizumi Chusonji TempleHiraizumi Chusonji Temple (中尊寺), located in Iwate, is a captivating UNESCO World Heritage site that mesmerizes international visitors. Nestled amidst serene natural surroundings, this historic Buddhist temple is renowned for its rich cultural significance and architectural beauty.

The main hall, Konjikido, is a remarkable golden structure adorned with intricate details. It houses valuable Buddhist relics and treasures, providing a glimpse into Japan’s ancient past. Chusonji Temple’s popularity stems from its preservation of Japan’s medieval history and its ability to transport visitors to a bygone era.

2. Yamadera Temple (Yamagata)

Yamadera Temple

Risshakuji Temple (宝珠山立石寺), more commonly known as Yamadera Temple (山寺), is a captivating destination that lures international travelers seeking spiritual enlightenment and natural beauty. Located in Yamagata prefecture, this centuries-old Buddhist temple is perched atop a mountainside, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and forests.

Visitors ascend a steep stone staircase, passing through lush greenery and cascading waterfalls, to reach the temple’s main hall. The tranquil atmosphere, awe-inspiring scenery, and the temple’s deep historical roots make it a popular choice among international visitors.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

Tokyo and Kanto

3. Sensoji Temple (Tokyo)

SensojiSensoji Temple (浅草寺), located in Asakusa, is an iconic and vibrant Buddhist temple that attracts international visitors year-round. As the oldest temple in Tokyo, it offers a captivating glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage.

Upon entering through the majestic Kaminarimon Gate, visitors are greeted by Nakamise, a bustling shopping street brimming with traditional souvenirs and delectable snacks. The temple’s main hall, dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, is a sight to behold with its intricate architecture and spiritual ambiance. Sensoji Temple’s popularity among international visitors lies in its ability to provide an authentic Japanese cultural experience, combining spirituality, traditional craftsmanship, and the charm of old-world Tokyo.

For more information about this temple, check out the following articles.

4. Zojoji Temple (Tokyo)

ZojojiAnother highly popular temple situated in Tokyo is Zojoji Temple (増上寺). It is a renowned Buddhist temple that captivates international travelers with its historical significance and serene ambiance. As the main temple of the Jodo sect, it holds deep cultural and religious importance.

The temple’s striking entrance gate, Sangedatsumon, and the impressive main hall, Daiden, leave visitors in awe of their grandeur and architectural beauty. Zojoji Temple is also famous for its stunning view of the Tokyo Tower, creating a picturesque backdrop for memorable photos.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

5. Gotokuji Temple (Tokyo)

GotokujiYet another temple in Tokyo that we strongly recommend is the Gotokuji Temple (豪徳寺). This temple is a hidden gem that attracts international travelers seeking peace and good fortune.

This historic Buddhist temple is renowned for its association with Maneki-neko, the beckoning cat figurine believed to bring luck and prosperity. The temple grounds are adorned with countless ceramic cat statues, creating a whimsical and enchanting atmosphere. Visitors can explore the serene gardens and pay their respects at the main hall, which houses sacred relics.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

6. Hasedera Temple (Kanagawa)

HasederaHasedera Temple(長谷寺), located in Kanagawa, is a captivating Buddhist temple that enthralls visitors with its natural beauty and spiritual tranquility. Nestled on a hillside overlooking the serene city of Kamakura, this ancient temple offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the nearby ocean.

Its main attraction is the towering wooden statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, which stands at an impressive height of 9.18 meters. The temple’s lush gardens, adorned with vibrant flowers and serene ponds, provide a peaceful retreat for contemplation and reflection.

7. Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Chiba)

Naritasan ShinshojiNaritasan Shinshoji Temple (成田山新勝寺) is a revered Buddhist temple that holds deep cultural significance and attracts visitors seeking a spiritual experience. Located in Chiba prefecture, this temple is known as a place of healing and good fortune and the temple complex features stunning architecture, serene gardens, and tranquil prayer halls.

The highlight is the Main Hall, housing a magnificent statue of Fudo Myoo, a revered Buddhist deity. Since it is located in Narita, this can be potentially the first (or last) temple you visit in Japan. Either way, it is located in a very accessible place.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

Central Japan

8. Zenkoji Temple (Nagano)

ZenkojiZenkoji Temple (善光寺), located in Nagano, is a renowned temple that holds immense historical and spiritual significance. It houses the first-ever Buddhist statue brought to Japan over 1,400 years ago.

The temple’s main hall, although hidden from view, offers a profound spiritual experience to visitors who partake in the symbolic journey of touching the “Key to Paradise.” The roof of the main hall was just repaired in 2022, so you will be seeing the new version of this majestic historical building.

9. Daihonzan Eiheiji Temple (Fukui)

EiheijiDaihonzan Eiheiji Temple (永平寺), nestled in Fukui, is a revered Zen Buddhist temple that captivates international travelers with its profound tranquility and spiritual teachings. Founded by Zen master Dogen in the 13th century, the temple offers a serene retreat where visitors can immerse themselves in Zen meditation and contemplation.

Eiheiji Temple’s austere yet picturesque surroundings, with its tranquil gardens and traditional architecture, provide an authentic experience of Zen practice. It offers a truly transformative and enriching experience for spiritual seekers.

Kyoto and Western Japan

10. Kiyomizudera Temple (Kyoto)

kiyomizuderaKyoto is where you will find the most number of great temples and without a doubt, the most popular one is Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺). Kiyomizudera Temple is an iconic UNESCO World Heritage site that enthralls international travelers with its timeless beauty and cultural significance.

Perched on a hillside, the temple offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding city and cherry blossom-filled gardens. Its main hall, supported by wooden pillars, stands without the use of nails, a marvel of traditional architecture. Kiyomizudera Temple is renowned for its Otawa Waterfall, where visitors can drink from three streams believed to grant health, longevity, and success in studies. International visitors flock to this temple for its picturesque setting, cultural heritage, and the enchanting experience of walking the famous wooden terrace, offering a sense of spiritual serenity and connection to Japan’s rich history.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

11. Kinkakuji Temple (Kyoto)

KinkakujiAnother well-known and beautiful temple in Kyoto is Kinkakuji Temple (金閣寺). This is an enchanting Zen Buddhist temple that captivates visitors (both local and international) with its breathtaking golden exterior and serene surroundings. Also known as the Golden Pavilion, this iconic temple is a testament to Japan’s rich cultural heritage.

The top two floors of the temple are adorned with gold leaf, shimmering beautifully against the backdrop of a tranquil pond and meticulously manicured gardens. Kinkakuji Temple’s popularity among international visitors lies in its striking beauty, symbolizing harmony between nature and human creation.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

12. Tenryuji Temple (Kyoto)

TenryujiTenryuji Temple (天龍寺), another popular temple nestled in Kyoto, is a revered Zen Buddhist temple that entices visitors with its serene atmosphere and exquisite landscape.

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it boasts a stunning garden that perfectly embodies the concept of “borrowed scenery,” seamlessly integrating with the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The temple’s main hall, a designated national treasure, offers a glimpse into Japan’s architectural elegance.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

13. Todaiji Temple (Nara)

TodaijiAnother temple we can’t forget to include in this list is Todaiji Temple (東大寺) in Nara prefecture. This is an awe-inspiring Buddhist temple that allures international travelers with its grandeur and cultural significance. Home to the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha, the temple’s Daibutsuden Hall is a remarkable architectural marvel.

Stepping inside, visitors are immersed in a sense of wonder as they encounter the towering figure. Todaiji Temple’s popularity among international visitors lies in its historical importance, magnificent craftsmanship, and the opportunity to witness the spiritual and artistic achievements of ancient Japan. The temple’s serene park setting, which is also home to friendly roaming deer, adds to its appeal, creating an unforgettable experience of Japan’s cultural heritage.

For more information about this temple, check out the following article.

14. Nachisan Seigantoji Temple (Wakayama)

SeigantojiNachisan Seigantoji Temple (青岸渡寺), located in Wakayama, is a captivating Buddhist temple that enchants travelers with its stunning natural surroundings and spiritual ambiance. Perched on a mountainside, the temple offers breathtaking views of the iconic Nachi Falls, one of Japan’s tallest waterfalls.

The temple’s elegant pagoda (Sanjuto Pagoda) adds to the picturesque landscape. It provides a serene retreat where travelers can experience the harmony between Buddhism and nature, immersing themselves in the tranquility and magnificence of Japan’s spiritual traditions.

For more information about the Nachi Falls right next to the temple, check out the following article.


15. Nanzoin Temple (Fukuoka)

NanzoinAnd lastly, on our list, we have the Nanzoin Temple (南蔵院) in Fukuoka. This captivating temple mesmerizes both Japanese and international travelers with its serene atmosphere and the Great Buddha statue. The temple is renowned for housing one of the world’s largest reclining Buddha statues, measuring a staggering 41 meters in length. The sheer size and exquisite craftsmanship of the statue leave visitors in awe.

Nanzoin Temple’s popularity among visitors lies in its unique cultural and spiritual significance. It offers a peaceful sanctuary where visitors can admire the majestic statue, explore the temple grounds, and experience a sense of tranquility and reverence.

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Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.