Top 10 Buddhist Temples in Japan

Top 10 Buddhist Temples in Japan

If you wish to visit Buddhist temples as part of your spiritual pilgrimage, Japan is the country you must not miss.

There are countless beautiful Buddhist temples of different traditions for you to visit. Many of these ancient temples are important National Treasures in Japan. Some of them are registered as the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here are the top 10 must-visit Buddhist temples in Japan:

Temple #1 – Kiyomizu-dera Temple (Kyoto)

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto for its splendidly beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and the magnificent spectacle of maple trees in autumn. The principle bodhisattva of this temple is Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Kannon or Kwan Yin)

Kiyomizu-dera means “clear water.” Built in 778 without a single nail near the Otowa Waterfall, this temple has a waterfall with pristine water. The water is so pure that visitors can actually drink the water from the waterfall. It’s believed that people who drink from the waterfall will get their wishes granted.

This temple is the UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Temple #2 – Kotoku-in Temple

A temple of the Jodo-shu sect in the city of Kamakura, this temple is renowned for its colossal Great Buddha, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of the Amida Buddha about 40 the height of 40 feet.




Temple #3 – Sanjusangen-do

This temple is renowned for its 1001 statues of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. There are 1000 standing statues of Kannon and one gigantic seated statue placed in the center of one thousand standing statues. These statues are registered as a National Treasure by the Japanese government.

As there are 33 spaces between the columns, this temple came to be called “Sanjusangen-do,” which means a hall with thirty-three spaces between columns.




Temple #4 – Kinkaku-ji

Kinkaku-ji, commonly known as the “Golden Pavilion,” is Kyoto’s most iconic sight. Gold foil on lacquer covers the upper two levels of Kinkaku, and a shining phoenix stands on top of the shingled roof.

A shariden, or relics, of the Buddha is kept in the third level of the main hall.

This temple is a Zen Buddhist temple in the Shokokuji school of the Rinzai sect.




Temple #5 – Minobusan Kuonji Temple

Minobusan Kuonji Temple was established by Nichiren Shonin (1222 – 1282), the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. This temple is the site of Nichiren Shonin’s tomb, as well as Nichiren Shu’s Grand Head Temple.






Temple #6 – Ryoan-ji Temple

Japan’s most famous rock garden is found in this Zen temple. Fifteen rocks are surrounded by white sand that is raked carefully into patterns each day by the monks.

This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.





Temple #7 – Todaiji Temple

Todaiji temple is a landmark of Nara. The main hall of Todaiji is the world’s largest wooden building. In the main hall, you will find a 15 meter tall bronze Buddha Vairocana flanked by two bodhisattvas.

Nearby the temple is the Nara Park where many deer are seen sauntering around the park.





Temple #8 – Horyu-ji Temple

Founded by Prince Shotoku in 607, this temple is renowned for its world’s oldest surviving wooden structures.

The main hall houses some of Japan’s oldest statues of Buddha from the Asuka Period.

This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.





Temple #9 – Chion-in Temple

Also known as the Vatican of Pure Land Buddhism, this vast temple is one of the most and popular temples in Kyoto.

The Miedo Hall houses the temple’s principle object of worship: a statue of the priest Honen, who founded the Jodo sect. Inside the Amidado Hall is statue of Amida Buddha, the most important Buddha in the Jodo sect.





Temple #10 – Sensō-ji

Senso-ji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple. Formerly associated with the Tendai sect of Buddhism, this temple is dedicated to Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

This temple is the site of the biggest event, the Sanja Matsuri, that is held in May every year.


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