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Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

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Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

If I should / must visit the most culturally & historically significant shrines in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka ... what are they? Or outside of those cities what are considered by many that should top any of the above criteria?

What do you consider the most beautiful (in terms of aesthetics and design) / grandest / will take my breath away (in any area/city/prefecture)?

Thanks in advance!

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1. Re: Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

The most historically and culturally significant temple (although one of the least visited by foreigners) could be Nara Prefecture's Horyuji. Founded in 607, it's one of the first grand Buddhist temples in Japan and the oldest surviving. It has probably the largest number of national treasures in the premises and museum (both in Horyuji and a part in Tokyo National Museum). It has the oldest wooden architecture in the world.


The most impressive and equally culturally significant temple could be Nara City's Todaiji. The massiveness of the wooden building, the beauty of the guardian sculptures and the large bronze Buddha are wonderful. It's also very charming to walk around the park that surrounds it which is full of semi-wild deer roaming around.

Other Buddhist temples that comes up as the most renowned or impressive among the Japanese are:

- Hiraizumi Chusonji and its Konjikido (Hiraizumi)

- Yamadera (Yamagata)

- Zenkoji (Nagano)

- Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji, Nanzenji, Honganji, Tofukuji, Tenryuji, Enryakuji (Kyoto)

- Byodoin (Uji)

- Todshodaiji, Shin-Yakushiji (Nara)

Shinto shrines that many Japanese consider among the most renowned, top of the tops are:

- Itsukushima Shrine (Miyajima)

- Ise Shrine (Ise)

- Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto)

- Toshogu Shrine (Nikko)

- Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (Kyoto)

- Izumo Taisha (Izumo)

- Kompirasan (Kagawa)

There are many more equally wonderful or are my personal favorites, but the list would be endless.

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2. Re: Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

Too many shrines and temples can be a bit of a drag on your visit. In Tokyo, you can just limit your shrine visit to Meiji Shrine, near Shibuya/Harajuku. Besides the shrine itself, the grounds are quite nice and its the #1 wedding venue in Japan, so you are sure to see a wedding procession.

If you go to Asakusa you will visit Sensoji, probably the most visited temple in Japan.

Todaiji in Nara is on everybody's itinerary. its a temple, but who's checking?

I think the most scenic, don't miss shrine would be Itsukushima, located on the small island of Miyajima, just a short tram ride from Hiroshima City. Itsukushima is the iconic shrine on the water that ebbs and flows with the tides.

Don't know much about Kyoto, let somebody else answer that.

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3. Re: Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

As mentioned, there are many, many important temples and shrines in Japan. Some of them have a character all their own, are maybe lesser known, but can be absolute gems. My first choice would be to take a historical tour of Koya-san: http://eng.shukubo.net

This is a temple complex, small community. Getting there is at least half the charm. Much to see and learn there, the walk through the huge cemetery at dusk does take my breath away.

A couple others come to mind for me. One would be Daisho-in, a Buddhist temple on Miyajima island: miyajima.or.jp/english/…spot_daishoin.html

Also, Higashi Honganji in Kyoto, but it's been under renovation for a couple of years, so not sure that it would be the same until it's finished: http://higashihonganji.or.jp/english/

For Shinto Shrines, I love Fushimi-Inari. The walk up the hill under the torii is gorgeous. …kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/…

Another Shrine would be Heian Shrine in Kyoto. The garden behind can certainly take your breath away in a variety of seasons, especially during sakura season. http://www.heianjingu.or.jp/index_e.html

For large and impressive shrines and temples that will take your breath away for their sheer size and magnificence, you will find them on most of the tourist routes. For those that are quieter, maybe a bit "off beat", impressive for other reasons, you will have to dig a bit deeper into the resources. Most of the ones that have left impressions on me were places I stumbled on while trying to go somewhere else!

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4. Re: Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

The answer depends on whether you would like to study Japanese history/architecture like a student or just enjoy yourself by visiting them as a tourist.




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5. Re: Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

Dorling Kindersley in their Eyewitness guide series do Top 10 guides for major cities, including Tokyo. I have found their choices really reliable for other cities in the past, although I haven't tested the Tokyo one yet. It could be worth you looking at it.

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6. Re: Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

Awesome. Thanks so much everyone for your fantastic replies!

7. Re: Top Shrines in Japan (by cities/prefecture)?

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