13 Top Traditional Shrines & Temples To Explore in Japan

After multiple trips to Japan, I have compiled a guide to help you discover the most exquisite Japanese temples and shrines!

With over 160,000 traditional Japanese temples and shrines spread throughout the ‘Land of the Rising Sun,’ each holds a rich history and architectural beauty.

While Kyoto houses many famous shrines and temples, Tokyo also boasts some intriguing sites.

Continue reading for a detailed Japanese temple guide!

Where To Stay In Kyoto

Best Traditional Shrines & Temples In Japan


1. Todai-ji Temple (Nara)

Todai-ji Temple stands as one of Japan’s largest and most impressive landmarks.

This ancient monument boasts a fascinating history, being the world’s largest wooden building for a millennium and housing the largest bronze Buddha statue globally.

A must-see site, Todai-ji Temple also features other traditional Japanese temples and shrines within Nara Park.

Nara is easily reachable from Osaka or Kyoto, making it a great addition to your Japan itinerary!

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Todaiji Temple Nara

After being finished in the 8th century, the Todai-ji Temple was the biggest wooden building in the world for more than 1,000 years.

2. Kinkaku-ji Temple (Kyoto)

The Kinkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion, stands as one of Japan’s most iconic and renowned sites.

As the most visited tourist spot in Kyoto, the Golden Pavilion impresses with its picture-perfect setting! Early mornings offer reflections on the pond, making it a great time to visit.

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Kinkakuji Temple

The Golden Pavilion probably takes the cake for the nicest looking Japanese temple.

3. Ginkaku-ji Temple (Kyoto)

After visiting the Golden Pavilion, head to its twin, Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion, located in eastern Kyoto.

Known as Higashiyama Jisho-ji, this temple boasts a 15th-century history as a mountain villa for shoguns.

Featuring a dry sand garden and cone resembling Mount Fuji, Ginkaku-ji is a scenic and photogenic gem.

4. Tenryu-ji Temple (Kyoto)

Built in the 14th century and situated in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district, Tenryu-ji Temple offers a picturesque landscape garden and vibrant fall colors in mid-November.

Adjacent to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a visit to Tenryu-ji is a must when exploring Kyoto’s top tourist spots.