The best 30 Shrines and temples you can't miss if you visit Kansai, Japan

The Kansai area also known as the Kinki region includes prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Mie, Hyogo and Mie. The Kansai area is one of the most famous regions in Japan that attracts many tourists and travelers because of its many historical places and World Heritage Sites. In fact, Kansai has more temples than any other region in Japan. For this reason many come for an enriching pilgrimage by exploring the many shrines and temples. Below are the best 30 shrines and temples that you should not miss when you pay a visit to Kansai area in Japan.

Learn how to visit a temple in Japan (how to pray, what to do)

Here is an introduction to the general etiquette for a visit to a Buddhist temple in Japan and other tips on how to enjoy a temple, a list of activities and tips that you can do .
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Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine is the headquarters of all the Inari shrines. It has served as a place of worship for the common people over 1,300 years. The tunnel consisting of 10,000 torii gates is something to see. Enjoy a stroll through the rolling land on the spacious grounds of the shrine.
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Kiyomizu-dera
Kiyomizu-dera
Kiyomizu-dera is a Kannon temple where the goddess Kannon is worshipped. Kiyomizu-dera has a particularly long history among the temples of Kyoto and it is a registered World Heritage site. It is one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions.
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Todaiji
Todaiji
Todaiji was completed in the year 752 and continues to be a popular place of religious importance to this day. The essential sights include the buildings that were rebuilt after being destroyed in fires caused by wars, the Daibutsu (the great Buddha), the masterpieces of the geniuses Unkei and Kaikei, and the statues of the guardian deities.
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Ise Jingu Naiku (Kotaijingu)
Ise Jingu Naiku (Kotaijingu)
Naiku (Inner Shrine) is officially known as Kotajingu and is a prestigious shrine venerated by generations of Emperors. Within its 93 hectare grounds, an ancient forest spreads out and there is a majestic air in the atmosphere.
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Kasuga Taisha
Kasuga Taisha
The World Heritage site of Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine) was established to enshrine the local deity. This was 1300 years ago, at around the time of the relocation of the capital. The brilliant vermilion shrine standing in the primeval forest is magnificent and mysterious sight.
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Kofuku-ji
Kofuku-ji
Kofuku-ji is a World Heritage site known for its 5 storied pagoda, also a symbol of the ancient capital of Nara. The building’s architecture is designated as a National Treasure, and there are many other attractions such as the Heian Era Buddhist sculptures.
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Okage Yokocho
Okage Yokocho
Okage Yokocho is a lively area that is inside the shrine town (Oharai-machi) near Naiku (Inner Shrine) of Ise Jingu. There are buildings from the Edo and Meiji Eras and the shops sell delicacies and souvenirs unique to the Ise area.
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Ninna-ji Temple
Ninna-ji Temple
This temple was built in the year 888 by Emperor Uda. Ninna-ji, built in the style of Heian Era nobility residences, was recognized as a National Treasure and has also been registered as a World Heritage site. It is also a famous place to enjoy the cherry blossoms.
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Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine
Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine
The distinctive architectural style of Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine is unusual. And it is popular for its arched bridge Taiko-bashi, and Hattatsu Mairi (praying for business prosperity). 2 million people come annually for the first shrine visit of the New Year or “hatsumode” in Japanese.
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Tofuku-ji Temple
Tofuku-ji Temple
The temple has plenty of highlights including 25 sub-temples and a rock garden. It is also famous as a place to see the fall colors. The colors are especially beautiful at Tsutenkyo Bridge linking the main hall with Kaisan-do Hall.
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Kifune Shrine
Kifune Shrine
The Kifune Shrine is situated upstream from the Yodo and Kamo Rivers. It was said that the main building of the 1500 year old Kifune Shrine was built in an area gushing with water. It is a famous Shinto shrine, giving blessings in marriage, visited by historical figures for this reason.
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Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine
A shrine located close to Hanamachi , the origin of Kyoto’s Gion district. It is popular as a place to earn the grace of the gods for protection against evil, warding off of disease, business success, matchmaking, and beauty among other things.
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Ryoan-ji
Ryoan-ji
Hosokawa Katsumoto established Ryōan-ji in 1450 during the Muromachi period, when Zen sects flourished. “Karesansui” or dry landscape gardens represent water using stones and sand. The rock garden of Ryōan-ji is famous for this. The garden is listed as a World Heritage Site.
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Shitenno-ji Temple
Shitenno-ji Temple
Shitenno-ji is Japan’s oldest temple, established by Prince Shotoku in his endeavor to create a new nation centered on the Emperor. It was built to provide salvation for the world.
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Nanzenji
Nanzenji
Nanzenji was built as a temple of prayer for the prosperity of the country. It was built by Emperor Kameyama in 1291 during the Kamakura period. It is one of the most popular locations to see the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring and the autumn colors in fall.
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Horyuji Temple
For over 1,400 years, the beauty of Horyuji has continued to fascinate its visitors. Immerse yourself in the mysterious legends and intriguing historical facts of Japan’s oldest wooden temple.
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Yakushi-ji Temple
Yakushi-ji Temple
The famous Yakushi-ji Temple is one of the religious landmarks symbolizing Nara alongside Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji. The temple possesses many valuable historical items such as Buddha statues, paintings, and the buildings themselves.
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Osaka Tenman-gu Shrine
Osaka Tenman-gu Shrine
Osaka Tenman-gu is where Michizane Sugawara is enshrined. The 1000-year-old Tenjin Matsuri festival including funatogyo (sea procession) and a fireworks competition are traditions of summer in Osaka, a city by the bay.
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Enryaku-ji Temple
Enryaku-ji Temple
Mount Hiei is worshiped as the birthplace of Japanese Buddhism and as the headquarters of the Tendai sect. Enryaku-ji Temple is divided into 3 areas, the East Pagoda, the West Pagoda, and Yokawa.
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Byodoin Temple
Byodoin Temple
Byodoin Temple was made in the image of heaven by an aristocrat of the Heian period. It is a valuable building that shows the prosperity of the Fujiwara clan. The temple’s Phoenix Hall is brilliant following the recent completion of its restoration.
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Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera)
Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera)
This is a moss garden that is a lush green thanks to the rainy season. The contrast of red leaves and the green moss during fall is beautiful. Reservations are necessary to see Koke-dera, a place which has been said to have been visited by Steve Jobs many times incognito.
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Ikuta Shrine
Ikuta Shrine
The name Kobe was derived from the original name of Kanbe, the family protecting the god of Ikuta Shrine. The shrine is one of the three great shrines of Kobe beloved by its citizens. It is very popular as a shrine for matchmaking.
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Heijo Palace
Heijo Palace
On its huge grounds, there are structures such as the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall, the Heijo Palace Site Museum, Suzaku Gate and a garden. The opulence of the former capital which flourished as the center of Japan still lives now.
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Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple
Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple
A precious statue and building survive today in belief of the healing Buddha from 1200 years ago during the Nara Era. The distinct and spectacular Twelve Heavenly Generals are well worth seeing.
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Saiku
Saiku
The remains of the 1000 year old palace and offices of the “Saio”. The “Saio” served the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, the main deity enshrined in Ise Grand Shrine, for 660 years. In 2015, Saiku was recognized as the first Japan Heritage Site.
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Izanagi-jingu Shinto shrine
Izanagi-jingu Shinto shrine
According to “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki”, Japan’s oldest historical records, this is the nation’s oldest Shinto shrine. It enshrines “Izanagi-no-Mikoto” and “Izanami-no-Mikoto”, the deities who gave birth to the Japanese archipelago.
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Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine
Built 2100 years ago at the foot of Mount Hiei, this is the head shrine for the more than 3,000 Sanno shrines in the country. Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine is located in the northeastern (and therefore, unlucky) direction as seen from the ancient capital of Kyoto. So, as a protective shrine from this unlucky direction, it is known as beneficial in warding off evil.
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Onokorojima Shrine
Onokorojima Shrine
One of the largest “torii” gates in Japan is a highlight at this shrine, famous for providing good fortune in safe childbirth and matchmaking. Onokorojima Shrine is located in an area known for the myth of the gods creating this nation, according to the “Kojiki”, Japan’s oldest historical record.
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Ishiyama-dera
Ishiyama-dera
Shikibu Murasaki was said to have started writing The Tale of Genji while ensconced at Ishiyama-dera, and during every spring and fall, the Shikibu Murasaki Exhibition is held at the temple which can be enjoyed for its flowers all throughout the seasons.
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Mii-dera (Onjo-ji)
Mii-dera (Onjo-ji)
Beginning with the National Treasure of the Main Hall, the temple has over 100 prominent National Treasures and Important Cultural Assets. It is also famous for its temple bell from the Momoyama Era which has been chosen as one of the Top 100 Soundscapes of Japan.
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