10 Shrines to See While Visiting Japan

By Amanda Little

Break away from the non-stop barrage of neon lights, high speed trains, thousands of eateries, and endless rows of skyscrapers to visit a little bit of ancient Japan. Temples and shrines dedicated to various gods and Buddha can be found all over Japan, and some are truly spectacular. Be sure to bow slightly before entering these sacred spaces, and enjoy the tranquility found within each beautiful shrine and temple.

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Kanda Shrine

Search for the iconic red of this shrine if you’re looking to ask favor of the Seven Gods of Fortune. Dedicated to helping those who pray here for wealth and success in business, this shrine resting so close to Akihabara dates all the way back to the Edo Period. Since this Shinto shrine is located in downtown Tokyo, it’s easy to find and access, and has become popular with the tech crowd, who buy charms from Kanada to ward of damage to their electronics. 2-16-2, Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0021

Nogi Shrine

The Nogi Shrine is a relatively new one, and serves as a reminder for all that not every shrine needs to be ancient to be worthy of worship. When General Nogi Maresuke and his wife, Shizuko, committed ritual suicide upon hearing of Emperor Meiji’s death, they were buried in this temple together. The temple was designed after World War II, and it shows in the architecture. Feel free to admire this newer shrine, and you can also see the Nogi residence on the premises as well. 8-11-27 Akazaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052

Senso-ji Temple

Take a moment from your day to appreciate Tokyo’s oldest temple, the Senso-ji Buddhist Temple. Resting quietly in Asakusa, a neighborhood known for its history, it calls the famous Asakusa Shrine its neighbor and claims the title of most visited temple in the city. Because the temple is adored by tourists and locals, the path to it is lined with shops and vendors, selling everything from traditional charms and trinkets to souvenirs and snacks. It is also a popular place for tourists to dress up in kimonos and spend the day appreciating Japanese culture. Those looking for something a little extra should seek out the Tanuki Temple on the grounds, a temple to racoon dogs, which are thought to be lucky. 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo 111-0032

Yasukuni Shrine

Honoring the souls who gave their lives fighting for Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine is both a shinto temple as well as a war memorial. However, this temple comes with some controversy throughout Japan and neighboring Asian countries, because many of the people enshrined there are listed as Class-A war criminals. Even with the gray moral standing of the shrine itself, it is still host to many festivals and religious events throughout the year. Tourists and locals alike can celebrate the Mitama Festival, where visitors pray for lost friends and relatives. 3-1-1 Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8246

Benzaiten Shrine

Take a deep breath to enjoy the stunning natural landscaping within the shrine dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. The patron deity of everything that flows, the Benzaiten Shrine is sure to bring forth inspiration. Reigning over knowledge, water, music, and everything else that can flow, she can be found in Buddhist and Shinto faiths, as well as Hindu, where she originated as Saraswati. Lush greenery, water features, and statues of the deity can be seen, worshipped, and enjoyed at the Benzaiten Shrine. 1-18-31 Inokashira, Mitaka-ku, Tokyo 181-0001

Kinkaku-ji Shrine

This incredible temple is a must-see for those visiting Japan. The Temple of the Golden Pavilion sits nestled in a beautiful Zen garden, shining with golden leaf walls. The huge pond sitting in the center of the grounds, Kyoko-chi, makes it easy to find the stunning temple, which has been rebuilt many times to to fires and arson. Take the time to admire the beautifully restored temple as well as the lovely surrounding gardens. 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji Shrine

To compliment a visit to Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, why not pay a visit to its sister, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji? Built along the eastern mountains of Kyoto, the pavilion was the retirement home for Shogun Ashikaga, and is now home to monks who look after the temple. It was converted after Ashikaga’s death into a Zen Temple, and is famed for its beauty, moon viewing platform, and meticulously kept sand zen garden. 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

Tandenan Temple

Think long and hard to be sure you have your truest wish ready when you enter Tendenan, and then write it on the walls! Nicknamed the Graffiti Temple, visitors from all over come to write their wishes on the sacred walls of this temple in the hopes it will come true. Entering the temple and writing a wish both cost a little bit of money, but it's still a good idea to put some change in the donation basket. 33 Yawatayoshinogaito, Yawata-shi, Kyōto-fu 614-8013

Jishu-jinja Shrine

Arguably the most visited temple in Kyoto, if not Japan, Jishu-jinja Shrine is dedicated to lovers and matchmaking. Make your way through the many couples visiting the temple to the main hall, where a shrine hosts two knee-high stones, called the guardian stone and the love fortune stone, on opposite sides of the room. Legend says if you can close your eyes and walk to the other stone on your first try, you will find all of your dreams in your love life will come true. If you can’t, don’t worry! You can try more than once, or have someone help you, of course this means it will be harder for you to find happiness. 1-317 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto

Nambayasaka Shrine

Brace yourself as you come upon the Nambayasaka Shrine, because its entrance is a massive 40-foot lion head, and you can see the prayers within its mouth! The temple itself is fairly standard, with places to pray and a small garden, but the lion adds a reason to visit. Be sure to take a photo as you enter the lion’s mouth and take home a memory from your visit to Japan. 2-9-19 Motomachi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka City, Osaka

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