Musashizuka, Kumamoto, Japan.

Miyamoto Musashi was one of Japan’s most famed samurai. Among his many achievements he mastered several weapons, studied and practiced the arts, developed the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū (two sword fighting style), and wrote the classic treatise on military strategy Go Rin No Sho. (Book of Five Rings). He is buried in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the…

Advertisement

Tōji, Kyoto, Japan

Tōji is often overlooked by visitors to Kyoto. What information there is on the temple tends to focus on the five-storied pagoda, which is the tallest in Japan at 57 metres. Far more than that, though, Tōji is only two years younger than Kyoto itself, and was once one of a pair of matched temples…

Ryōanji, Kyoto, Japan

Built in 1450 by Hosokawa Katsumoto on the site of an 11th century temple and donated to the Myoshinji school of Zen Buddhism after his death, Ryōanji is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyōto and is most famous for its excellent karesansui (rock garden). The temple also houses the graves of Hosokawa, his…

Sanjūsangendō, Kyoto, Japan

Founded in 1164, with the current buildings dating from 1266, Sanjūsangendō (“Thirty-three ken Hall”, where ken is a unit of measurement) is Japan’s longest wooden structure at over 100 metres in length, and houses an impressive collection of 1,001 statues of Kannon, goddess of Mercy. Officially named Rengeō-in (Hall of the Lotus King), the building belongs…

Kinkakuji, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkakuji occupies the top spot on so many lists of top attractions in Kyoto. Websites and guidebooks present it as a must-see, citing its status as an icon of the city. Time Magazine have it at the top of their list. It is, after Kiyomizudera, the second most-visited temple in the area. Kinkakuji gives the…

Ginkakuji, Kyoto, Japan

There’s a place in Kyoto which is world-famous. It graces thousands of magazines, guidebooks and websites. A golden pavilion floating over a glass-like lake, Kinkakuji is undoubtedly beautiful, but it inspired another building which those same magazines, guidebooks, and websites seem to pass over as little more than a footnote: Ginkakuji, the Temple of the…

Kiyomizudera, Kyoto, Japan

I visited Kyoto several times before I went to Kiyomizudera, and it made me realise that if I had only visited Japan once I could have missed out on this fantastic temple. It’s often listed as something of an afterthought in guidebooks, and given an average rating by Lonely Planet. It can get tremendously crowded,…

Nanzenji, Kyoto, Japan

Founded in 1291, Nanzenji is the headquarters of the Nanzenji school of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism, and was once the head of all Rinzai temples in Japan. Several sub-temples are present in a sprawling complex which lays across the foothills of the Higashiyama mountains. Crossing some of the temple gardens is a vast brick…

Kofukuji, Nara, Japan

What was once a sprawling family temple complex of over a hundred and fifty buildings is now a small handful, but that small handful is of impressive historical significance. Kofukuji was founded in 710, the same time that Nara became Japan’s first ever capital city. The temple of the Fujiwara clan, its fortunes almost mirrored…

Tōdai-ji, Nara, Japan

Tōdai-ji, founded in 728, sits at the northern edge of Nara Park. As with much of Nara, the deer roam freely here, and small gates keep them from entering buildings. Entry to the grounds is at Nakamon, the Central Gate. Tōdai-ji’s most renowned features are the Daibutsuden, the world’s largest wooden building, and the Great…