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The Best Japanese Gardens, Temples and Shrines

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You could easily spend your entire time in Japan roaming between gardens, temples, and shrines—and it would be time well spent. Meander through Kyoto’s moss and rock gardens or explore Tokyo’s Imperial palace garden. Stay the night in an ancient temple and eat among Buddhist monks or visit one of Japan’s three great Shinto shrines situated in Tokyo, Ise, and Nagoya.
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1 Kinkakujichō, Kita-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 603-8361, Japan
Built in the 14th century as a villa for a powerful shogun, Kinkaku-ji temple, commonly referred to as the Golden Pavilion, is an easy bus ride from the main bus terminal in Kyoto. The temple is one of the most popular buildings in...
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294 Kiyomizu 1-chōme, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0862, Japan

Kiyomizu-dera on Mount Otowa is one of the most famous temples in Japan, a place that appears in every sequence of Japanese travel photos. The landscape is all cherry trees and forest; it is among Kyoto's loveliest spots. The current structure...

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68 Fukakusa Yabunouchichō, Fushimi-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 612-0882, Japan

Fushimi Inari Taisha on Inariyama mountain is dedicated to the Shinto gods of rice and sake, but Inari is also the god of merchants and that brings a lot of businesspeople to worship here. Everyone else stops by to see the thousands...

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2 Ginkakujichō, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 606-8402, Japan

Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), not to be confused with Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion; both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto), is set up against the eastern mountains. Most tours go to Kinkakuji, because it’s close to Ryoanji, but the...

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406-1 Zōshichō, Nara-shi, Nara-ken 630-8211, Japan

Huge and imposing—in fact, one of the largest wooden buildings in the world—the Todaiji was founded in 752 C.E. As big as the structure is now, it’s still only two-thirds of what it originally was. Besides being notable for its...

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2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0032, Japan
Both Tokyo's largest and oldest Buddhist temple, Senso-ji is one of the city's must see sights. The streets leading to Senso-ji are filled with souvenir shops where you can find tapestries, kimonos, kitschy key chains, and finger foods....
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1-1 Yoyogikamizonochō, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 151-8557, Japan
The serenity of the Meiji Jingu Shrine is a notable contrast to the crowds of Harajuku hipsters just beyond the giant torii gates. The Shinto shrine complex, which was dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken in 1920, is inside a forest that...
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11 Naitōmachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0014, Japan
The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a gorgeous park that's just a short walk from Shinjuku Station. There are several gardens within the space, including a formal French one, an English landscape garden, and a traditional Japanese design. While...
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2301 Sannai, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1431, Japan
Nikko Tosho-gu is a large Shinto shrine in Tochigi Prefecture just north of Tokyo. It is dedicated to the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Ieyasu Tokugawa, whose remains are entombed within. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it can be reached in...