Temples & Shrines

Still central to the rituals and ceremonies of Japanese life, Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines remain some of Japan's most intriguing and popular sights, from Kyoto's splendid Kinkakuji to the elaborate Toshogu Shrine at Nikko. Shrines and Temples serve as a cultural focus, and New Year celebrations, elaborate wedding ceremonies, dignified funerals, and riotous festivals keep people in touch with their past as well as establishing a sense of place and community.

Shrines and temples peacefully coexist and even sometimes overlap in Japan, where the native Shinto kami and Buddhist saints are equally revered. Shinto Shrines can be distinguished by their distinctive torii gates which mark the entrance to holy ground, as well as their architecture which tends to consist of traditional Japanese styles. Buddhist Temples, on the other hand, often reflect Chinese architectural styles, and, though famed for their Zen-style gardens, are most easily distinguished by their peaceful graveyards.