Sensōji, Tōkyō, Japan

Also known as the Asakusa Kannon Temple, Sensōji is the oldest temple in Tokyo, after a statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon was fished from the Sumida by two brothers on the 18th of March, 628. Hinokuma Takenari and Hamanari recovered the statue from the waters while fishing from their boat, and the head of the…

Sengakuji, Tōkyō, Japan

The story of the 47 Ronin is to Japan what Arthurian or Robin Hood legends are to England, with one vital difference: we have concrete evidence of the 47 Ronin. Over 300 years after their deaths, their graves are still attended, incense lit for them by strangers every day of the year. If you don’t…

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…

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…