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The Top 5 Notable Shrines of Japan

First, an important distinction: shrines are associated with the Shinto religion, indigenous to Japan, while temples are Buddhist. But shrines serve an important cultural function in Japan apart from their religious connotations. Whether grand affairs or tucked amongst rows of family homes, shrines are important sites of ceremony for annual events such as New Year’s Day or social milestones like weddings. Gates called torii, which mark the border between the sacred and secular worlds, make for stunning works of architecture recognized internationally as symbols of Japan. Whatever your take on the supernatural, no visit to Japan is complete without a trip to one of its notable shrines, so make a point of visiting at least one of these important sites of Japanese culture.

The Top 5 Notable Shrines of Japan

Index

  • Ise Jingu

  • Izumo Taisha

  • Itsukushima Shrine

  • Fushimi Inari

  • Usa Shrine

  • Ise Jingu

    Ise Jingu

    Ise Jingu

    If you only visit one shrine, consider Ise Jingu: the home of Shintoism. Actually a collection of over 125 shrines located in the city of Ise in Mie Prefecture (equidistant from both Nagoya and Kyoto), the main focus is on its outer and inner shrines, believed to house Amaterasu, a sun goddess, and the sacred mirror she gave to the first emperor of Japan. If the structures look surprising sturdy for having weathered more than a century, it’s because they’re rebuilt every twenty years (last in 2013) in a bid to preserve the structures’ integrity, adherence to their original design, and as a way to pass down the traditions and significance of this sacred site.

    Ise Jingu
    rating 2430 Reviews
    Address
    Mie Pref. Iseshi Ujitachichou 1
    Phone
    0596241111
    Remarks
    【URL】http://www.isejingu.or.jp/
  • Izumo Taisha

    Izumo Taisha

    Izumo Taisha

    Izumo Taisha, located near the southwest corner of Japan’s crescent-shaped main island of Honshu, acts as the spiritual seat of the nation. It’s considered home to Okuninushi no Okami (roughly translated to mean “the god master of the great land”), mythical creator of Japan and, incidentally, a god associated with good relationships. After passing through the great wooden torii gate at its entrance, visitors to Izumo Taisha can make their way to the shrine’s main building to offer up a prayer not only for themselves but their partner (present- or future-tense) by performing an extra set of ritualistic claps. The shrine also serves an annual meeting point for the country’s most Shinto gods during a one-week period in the tenth lunar month.

    Izumo Oyashiro
    Address
    Shimane Pref. Izumoshi Taishachoukidukihigashi 195
    Phone
    0853533100
    Remarks
    【URL】http://www.izumooyashiro.or.jp/
  • Itsukushima Shrine

    Itsukushima Shrine

    Itsukushima Shrine

    This island shrine off the coast of Hiroshima dates back to the 6th century, and though repeated renovations have slightly changed its original configuration, its unique architecture and careful integration with nature earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The island of Itsukushima (better known as Miyajima) is considered so sacred that commoners were forbidden to set foot on it for a stretch of its history. And no births or deaths have been permitted nearby. In fact, its dock-like structures were designed to allow the faithful to visit without setting their sullied feet on the island itself. Itsukushima’s magnificent floating torii gate has been heavily photographed, and has helped to foster a natural interest of and appreciation for the unique aesthetic properties of Shintoism.

    Itsukushima Shrine (Miyajima)
    Address
    Hiroshima Pref. Hatsukaichishi Miyajimachou 1-1
    Phone
    Remarks
    【URL】http://www.itsukushimajinja.jp/index.html
  • Fushimi Inari

    Fushimi Inari

    Fushimi Inari

    Southern Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari is best known for a pair of stone pathways capped with thousands of brilliant vermillion torii gates, where many a gobsmacked tourist has snapped a holiday selfie (or ten). The gates get their distinct colour from a combination of crimson-coloured earth and mercury, an ancient wood-preserving mixture thought to protect against evil. Fushimi Inari’s main shrine is devoted to Inari, one of Shinto’s main gods and whose chief associations include rice, sake, and foxes. You’ll find plenty of the latter in statue-form as you make about 4km hike to Mount Inari’s summit, which offers beautiful views and a shrine whose fortunes are known for their surprising accuracy. During your ascent, stave off your hunger will a hot bowl of kitsune (fox) udon, served in homage to Inari’s celestial messengers.

    Fushimi Inari Taisha
    Address
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Fushimi-ku Fukakusa Yabunouchi cho 68
    Phone
    0756417331
    Remarks
    【URL】http://inari.jp/
  • Usa Shrine

    Usa Shrine

    Usa Shrine

    Pacifists beware: Usa Shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war. More specifically, Usa-jingu is believed to be the first shrine in Japan in which Hachiman, the god of military power, was enshrined. It has therefore enjoyed the close protection of the Imperial family, and though around 40,000 other shrines have since been dedicated to the militant deity, Usa remains the most important. Incorporating both Buddhist and Shinto influences, its main building has been designated a national treasure of Japan and its “treasure hall” displays Meiji-era artifacts. Other must-see features include the Kurehashi, a vibrant sloped bridge, and an magnificent 800-year-old tree regarded for its sacred properties. Heading to Usa is a trip in itself: located in in the northeastern corner of Ōita Prefecture near the Kunisaki Peninsula, Usa is the southernmost shrine on our list, and reachable via around an hourly bus from Usa Station.

    Usa-jingu Shrine
    Address
    Oita Pref. Usashi Minamiusa 2859
    Phone
    0978370001
    Remarks
    【URL】http://www.usajinguu.com/

    Regardless of your spiritual inclinations, visiting some of Japan’s best-known shrines offers an unparalleled window into national culture, tradition, and breathtaking craftsmanship.

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