Kiyomizu-dera ("Pure Water Temple") is where worshipers believe the Goddess of Mercy resides. Over 1,200 years old, the Buddhist temple is located in Kyoto and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ginkaku-ji (Kyoto) —
Referred to in English as the Silver Pavilion, Kyoto's Ginkaku-ji was constructed in 1482 by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, a shogun who built the home to mimic his great-grandfather's villa -- now known as the Golden Pavilion.
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Sanjusangendo (Kyoto) —
This temple in eastern Kyoto is famous for its collection of 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. It was founded in 1164 and rebuilt in 1264 after a fire destroyed the original structure.
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Daigo-ji (Kyoto) —
Daigo-ji is made up of three structures: Sambo-in, Shimo-Daigo (Lower Daigo), and Kami-Daigo (Upper Daigo). The third section is located at the top of a mountain, accessible only by a strenuous hike.
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Yakushiji (Nara) —
Like Kiyomizu-dera, this Nara temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the historic seven great temples of Nanto, today it serves as the headquarters of the Hosso school of Japanese Buddhism.
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Todai-ji (Nara) —
Dating to around 728, this temple has seen trauma since opening as a training center for Buddhist monks. In 855, the head from the temple's Great Buddha statue tumbled to the ground during an earthquake (and was repaired). Later, fires and lightning strikes damaged the Lecture Hall. In 1180, more than half of the compound was damaged in a fire during an attack on the ancient Nara temples by Taira no Shigehira.
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Rock Garden, Ryoanji (Kyoto) —
Located in northwestern Kyoto, this temple is part of the Myoshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism. Ryoanji Temple, which translates as "the temple of the dragon at peace." It's said to have one of the most impressive examples of karesansui, or dry landscape -- a type of design seen in Japanese Zen gardens.
Ninnaji (Kyoto) —
A number of buildings in this temple complex date to the 17th century -- the most scenic being a five-story pagoda surrounded by dwarf cherry trees.
Byodo-In Temple (Hawaii) —
OK, so this temple may not actually be located in Japan -- it's found in O'ahu, Hawaii. But it's a great example of how Japan's' culture has been exported to other parts of the world. Built in 1968, this non-denominational shrine commemorates the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.
Historic sites of Hiraizumi —
In Hiraizumi, a town in Iwate Prefecture famous for its historic ruins and sacred buildings, serene landscapes meet bright and bold architecture.
Horyu-ji (Nara) —
Horyu-ji -- "Temple of the Flourishing Law" -- is both a seminary and a monastery. The temple's pagoda is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world.
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Bamboo Forest, Tenryu-ji (Kyoto) —
On the outskirts of Kyoto,Tenryu-ji Temple has been hit by eight separate fires before being rebuilt most recently in 1864. Most tourists visit to walk through its famed Sagano Bamboo Forest.
Senso-ji (Tokyo) —
Senso-ji is Tokyo's oldest temple. It dates to 645. Per legend, two fishermen found a statue of Kannon in the nearby Sumida River in 628 and presented it to their village chief. He then remodeled his own home into a small temple, where the statue is enshrined.
Golden Palace of Kyoto —
With its gold-leaf facade and mesmerizing reflecting pool, this temple has found its way onto many an Instagram account. The temple's grounds were built to illustrate the "harmony between heaven and earth."
Toji Temple (Kyoto) —
The five-story pagoda of this temple pavilion, standing 180 feet high (54.8 meters), is the tallest wooden tower in Japan.
Nanzen-ji (Kyoto) —
Built in 1291, Nanzenji Temple was destroyed by fires three times. Most recently rebuilt in 1957, the complex has housed between nine and 12 temples throughout its lifespan.
Great Buddha at Kotoku-In (Kamakura) —
In Kamakura just south of Tokyo, Kotoku-In Temple features the famous Great Buddha. No one knows exactly how old the bronze statue is but some estimates date it back to at least 1252.