The Castles, Shrines, and Temples of Japan

In 2019, we’ll be offering a unique country-intensive voyage to Japan. This immersive itinerary will call on eleven different Japanese ports – including eight maiden calls for Azamara. The 15-Night voyage is an incredible opportunity to delve deeper into a favorite travel destination.

One thing we know guests on this voyage will look forward to is exploring the many castles, shrines, and temples of Japan. These masterpieces of architecture provide a fascinating look into Japan’s history and culture. To help you plan your journey, we’ve highlighted some of the most intriguing castles, shrines, and temples in the country.

Castles

Japanese castles date back to the 16th century when they were built as defensive fortresses.

From Kobe, you can visit two incredible castles. Himeji Castle, in the city of Himeji, is regarded as the best surviving example of classic Japanese castle architecture. It was built in 1333 and remained in use until 1868. The complex’s impressive network of 83 buildings and advanced feudal defenses make it a must-see. Fans of Sean Connery’s James Bond might recognize the castle from ‘You Only Live Twice’.

Nijo Castle in nearby Kyoto is one of the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and dates back to 1679. The surrounding gardens, located between the two main rings of fortifications, have beautiful plum and cherry trees.

Several castles in Japan have also been beautifully restored or recreated. Kanazawa Castle, which operated from 1580 to 1871, was largely destroyed by a fire in 1881. It has been restored and is worth visiting while touring the adjacent Kenrokuen, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu was also destroyed by fire in the 1800s but has been reconstructed. Hiroshima Castle was tragically destroyed by the atomic bombing in 1945, but a replica finished in 1958 now stands in its place.

Shrines

Shinto Shrines are the dwellings of the kami, Shinto deities.

In Tokyo, Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of early 20th century Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. Construction began in 1915 and it opened in 1920. It was destroyed during the Second World War and recreated in the 1950s. Though not Japan’s oldest or most beautiful shrine, the shrine complex is surrounded by a 170-acre forest and is a relaxing natural retreat in the heart of the city.

Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto (near Kobe) is the head shrine of the kami Inari. It’s famous for its long hallways made of thousands of red torii, sacred Japanese gates. The historic and important shrine was founded in 711, though the main structure was built in 1499. Fushimi Inari Taisha sits at the base of a mountain, and a trail of torii up the mountain feature many smaller shrines.

Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima, near Hiroshima, is known for its ‘floating’ torii. When the gate is partially submerged at high tide, it’s popular to kayak through it. People think that the first shrine structures here were built in the 6th century, but today’s iteration of the shrine was designed in the 12th Century. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Photo Via Dame Traveler

Temples

Temples are places of worship in Japanese Buddhism.

Two temples make Japan’s old capital, Kyoto, an alluring place to visit – and that’s easy with an overnight stay in Kobe. Both temples are among the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

The temple of Kiyomizudera on Mount Kiyomizu was founded in 778 and the current structures date back to 1633. One of the details that make this temple so special is that the entire structure was built without using a single nail. A waterfall actually runs beneath the temple, emptying into a pond below.

Also in Kyoto is Kinkakuji, more famously known as “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”. Its incredible beauty and unique history has made it one of the most famous and most popular sights in Japan. The main hall is covered in gold leaf and is surrounded by a gorgeous reflecting pond. The building was constructed in 1397 as a villa for a shogun, a feudal lord. His son converted it into a temple. In 1950 a young monk, obsessed with the temple, burned it to the ground. This story was made famous in a 1956 book, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The temple was rebuilt in 1955.

In Kanazawa a visit to Teramachi is a must. This neighborhood is home to around 70 temples, including Myoryuji, also known as Ninjadera, or, “Ninja Temple.” It was built as a place of worship in 1585, but was moved to Teramachi in 1643 and instead used as an armed outpost. It’s famous for its trap doors and secret passageways. This dual purpose makes it one of Japan’s most interesting buildings and inspired its nickname.

In Hiroshima, visit Fudoin Temple. It’s one of only a few building to survive the 1945 atomic bomb. It’s also surrounded by beautiful momiji trees, Japanese maples that have long been a symbol of Hiroshima.

Discover more of what Japan has to offer! Click here to read “Seven Things To Do In Japan”. 

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