Just in time for the peak summer travel season, website TripAdvisor has released its annual list of the highest-rated spots in Japan from its foreign users. With 30 amazing locations on the list, you’ll want to start your journey as soon as possible if your goal is to see them all, so let’s dive right in and take a look at this year’s picks.
Buddhism and Shintoism share space pretty peacefully in Japan, partially thanks to a division of duties. Shinto shrines, for example, handle weddings, while Buddhist temples are the locations of funerals and graveyards.
These days, though, a few Buddhist temples are helping singles find someone to marry at one of those Shinto weddings, though, as one sect of Buddhism in east Japan has branched out into organizing matchmaking parties.
Upon coming to Japan, a lot of people are surprised to discover just how difficult finding vegetarian food can be. Many people imagine Japan as a country that eats very little meat, and while that’s definitely true in comparison to North America and western Europe, the flipside is that you’ll find at least a little bit of meat in just about all dishes, including salads and vegetable stews with surprising frequency.
Things get trickier still if you’re trying to stick to a vegan diet. Even something as simple as noodles are generally out, since almost all broths are made with meat or fish stock. But if you’ve got an aversion to meat coupled with a craving for soba or udon, you’re in luck, with two new types of vegan instant noodles produced by a Zen Buddhist temple.
Imagine yourself nearly floating in the sky, surrounded by green trees and fluffy clouds. Now you sip some green tea and feel completely at peace. Does this sound too good to be true? It isn’t, because now you can actually experience this in Kyoto.
At the Blue Dragon Hall of Shorenin Temple, artist Tokujin Yoshioka has designed a clear glass teahouse sitting amongst the trees of Higashiyama, one of the city’s famous mountains.
The start of a new year means it’s time for hatsumōde, the year’s first visit to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. You pray for good luck in the new year, throw some spare yen into the saisenbako (big offering box), get some omamori (good luck charms), and hope that the omikuji (fortune) you get is dai-kichi (great luck) and not dai-kyō (you’re screwed).
While most people are satisfied donating a few yen coins in the donation box when they visit their shrine, the Nishinomiya shrine in Hyogo Prefecture does things a little differently. They want to make sure the gods hear them loud and clear, so they lug a massive frozen maguro onto the donation box and leave it there for three days.
There are thousands of Buddhist temples dotting the landscape in Japan, and as a result some of them end up in unique locations. One such temple is Henjoin in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
You’re welcome to visit any time but just be careful not to get hit by the Airport Express out of Sengakuji Station that passes right through its entrance. This and many other trains zoom across the temple precincts on a regular basis as they travel along the Keikyo Main Line.
As much as I look forward to summer every year, I’ll admit it can be a little hard getting excited about the early part of the season in Japan. The humidity rises, mosquitos come out in force (although we’ve got a secret trick for dealing with them), and the weather is rainy enough that going almost a week without seeing the sun isn’t that unusual.
Still, there’s at least one nice part about June in Japan, which is the blooming of the hydrangeas. The bundles of blossoms are blooming right now, and if you’re in the Tokyo area, there’s no better place to see them than at Meigetsuin Temple in Kamakura.
Ishikawa Prefecture is a little off most tourist itineraries of Japan, since it’s located along the north coast of the main island of Honshu. If you’ve got the time to spare, though, the capital city of Kanazawa has more than enough attractions to fill a day or two.
The city is home to Kenrokuen, considered one of Japan’s top three gardens and recently voted to be one of the 30 best sightseeing spots in the country. The Omicho Market is also a great place to enjoy delicious seafood, including the shrimp that Ishikawa is known for.
Or, if neither of those pique your interest, there’s also the ninja temple, whose layout is said to be so confusing that few could make it out without a guide.
It’s time once again for travel website Trip Advisor’s list of the best places in Japan, as chosen by overseas visitors to the country. One of the things that makes Japan such a fascinated place to travel is its extreme mix of historical and modern attractions, both of which are represented in the top 30 which includes shrines, sharks, and super-sized robots.
For many visitors to Japan, their image of the city of Narita begins and ends with Narita International Airport. As such, most people plan their itineraries with the goal of spending as little time in the town as possible, unless they’re the type of odd sorts who just can’t get enough of waiting in airline check-in or customs lines.
In their rush to get into Tokyo or back home as soon as possible, though, they’re missing out on one of eastern Japan’s most visually impressive temples, Naritasan Shinshoji and its attached gardens.
Nearly every guide book for Japan mentions Hachiko, the dog who patiently waited every day for nine years in the 1920s and ‘30s in front of Shibuya Station for his master to come home, never knowing that the man had passed away at the office. It’s a touching story of devotion, and one so well-known Hachiko now has his own statue near his waiting spot.
However, some argue that Hachiko didn’t come to the station every day because he was hoping for his master to return, but because of the free handouts of food he got once he became a local celebrity. Could it be that the friendly pooch actually isn’t the epitome of animal-human loyalty?
Maybe that title would be a better fit for a cat that lived hundreds of years before Hachiko was even born, and displayed such fealty to its samurai master that its entire species is honored at their own Cat Temple.
At first glance, Gunma may not seem to have a whole lot going for it. It’s one of Japan’s few landlocked prefectures, which means less access to Japan’s legendarily fresh seafood. The lack of a coastline also means Gunma doesn’t have a vibrant urban heart like Japan’s largest cities which grew out of its busiest ports, so economic and modern entertainment opportunities are limited compared to Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukuoka.
What Gunma does have is mountains, hot springs, and shrines, though. It’s also got Gunma-chan, its lovable horse mascot who shows off the prefecture’s attractions and some adorable dance moves in this new video.
It’s quite common in the United States for churches to post weekly messages on the signs standing on their front lawns. The public texts can run from deeply religious sentiments to pleas for more tolerance, though it’s also not uncommon for a careless mistake to lead to messages with multiple meanings–hilarious or unfortunate, depending on your perspective.
While Japan certainly does have its fair share of churches–perhaps more than one might expect–it is primarily the Buddhist temples that fill the role of making public, semi-religious proclamations. Like their Western counterparts, these messages can leave passers-by nodding their heads thoughtfully–or perhaps just chuckling. Check out these 12 posters that left a big impact on Japanese netizens! We never knew Buddhist Monks took so much notice of what Western celebrities had to say…
Japan loves its cats. When feline fans here aren’t going online to swap trivia about their favorite members of the animal kingdom, they’re playing with cute kitties between sips of coffee at one of the nation’s many cat cafes.
At times, it even seems like “love” doesn’t properly convey the depths of their emption, and that it would be more appropriate to say some people worship the creatures, which is exactly what you can do at these nine shrines and temples dedicated to cats.
We’re all for the inherent beauty of your typical Japanese shrine or temple, but ask any expat or tourist who has made the rounds enough times and you’ll start to hear a similar refrain: “Yeah, they’re nice and all, but they all start to look the same after a while.”
Throw in the fact that many temples, especially the most well-known ones, nickel and dime tourists with entrance fees at multiple locations on the premises, sell souvenirs incongruous with anti-materialist Buddhist teachings and promote fortune raffles with a heavy, gossip magazine-esque emphasis on love and romance, and it’s easy to forget why the temples were built in the first place.
So, here we’ve put together a list of some of Japan’s most “Zen” temples: religious facilities that maintain a strong focus on doctrine, while allowing guests (obviously, for a small fee) to transcribe sutras for themselves, experience meditation classes and more:
Although Kyoto served as Japan’s capital before the imperial residence was moved to Tokyo in the 19th century, for roughly 150 years the real seat of power was located in the city of Kamakura.
Many of the samurai living in Kamakura at the time were devout followers of Buddhism, and their dedication to their faith is reflected in the numerous historic temples located in Kamakura. Of course, visiting them all is bound to tire out your feet, and when that happens, there’s no better way to refresh yourself than by relaxing in one of Kamakura’s beautiful temple gardens while sipping from a cup of freshly brewed green tea.
As you’re probably aware, Japan has quite the lengthy history, stretching back thousands of years. And, as with any civilization, ancient Japan had need of commerce, which lead to the establishment of some of the oldest companies in the world.
Today, we bring you a list of our 10 favorite ancient Japanese companies. From sake to mountain-side inns to Buddhist temple construction companies, there’s something here for everyone!
Shoganji Temple in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward has the standard trappings you’d expect from a place of Buddhist worship that was founded over 400 years ago. Traditional prayer hall? Check. Surrounding garden with pebble ground cover? Yup. Graveyard with solemn gray tombstones? Of course.
And a functioning planetarium? Sure, why not!
Indonesia’s Bali Island is full of beautiful temples like the Luhar Batukaru Temple. This temple, strategically located on the southern slope of Bali’s second-highest volcano, protects Bali from evil spirits.
The area surrounding this temple and three other sites in Bali were only recently added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. On June 24th, at the World Heritage Committee’s meeting, held this year in St. Petersburg, Russia, these sites became a part of the expanding World Heritage Site list.
Now Bali has four World Heritage Sites! What sort of place gets to be a Heritage Site? In order to give you an idea, we headed straight away to Bali to show you these recent additions of officially recognized treasures in our world. Read More
Most people go to Shinto shrines several times a year, like for New Years or to make a special wish or prayer, like before a job interview. But with Buddhist temples, it’s usually just for tourism and funerals – not that frequently, basically. But wait! Temples are transforming these days, more and more using their halls for activities such as yoga classes, group date venues (‘gou-kon‘ in Japanese – group dinners with single men and women, seeking potential mates), and even as concert venues!