Shinto shrines are so integral to Japanese culture that no trip would be complete without visiting at least one.
There are two main religions that shaped Japanese culture – Shintoism and Buddhism. While Shintoism is the country’s traditional religion, Buddhism entered in the sixth century and over time became widely adopted, merging with Shintoism until the two became entwined.
Japan’s 100,000 or so Shinto shrines are places of worship where the kami (Shinto gods) live and are architectural masterpieces. Locals and tourists alike visit these shrines to pay respects to the kami and pray for good fortune.
Here are 20 of the best shrines that are well worth a visit.
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine
Famed for its thousands of torii gates, Fushimi Inari Shrine (c. 711) is the head of the Inari Shrines – the largest shrine network in Japan. At its entrance stands a giant torii gate, donated in 1589. Beyond the torii lies the shrine’s main hall or Honden where visitors can pay their respects to Inari, the kami of rice. Then, it’s time to meander along the tunnel of vermillion torii gates, a pilgrimage route dotted with small statues and shrines. The full scenic hike up Mt Inari takes two to three hours and leads to a stunning view of Kyoto. Reward yourself at a tea house or break up the hike with an authentic meal at some local restaurants along the way.