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Japan's 20 Most Beautiful Shrines

These shrines have all been included in Japan's list of National Treasures for different features.

There are numerous shrines situated in Japan. These shrines are mostly used as places of worship for the Shinto and Buddhist religions. They are also a very popular tourist trap in Japan. A few of the shrines are included in the list of National Treasures of Japan. Some of them are described below.

20. Kunōzan Tōshō-gū

This shrine was built to honor Tokugawa Leyasu, the Japanese leader who brought an end to the infamous Japanese civil wars. It is situated in Shizuoka.

19. Mii-dera

This is the main temple of the Buddhist sect of Tendai-jimon. It is famous for its bell, whose sound has been used in Japanese literature, and for the cherry trees in the compound. It is located in the town of Shiga.

18. Mikami Shrine

This shrine was built to honor Fujiwara Masayuki, whose father was serving the Emperor, Kameyama. Masayuki was a hairdresser and the shrine is celebrating as being the only one which honors hair. Hair is commonly offered as a sacrifice at the shrine, and the big hair studios and wig companies tend to donate to the shrine. It is situated in the city of Kyoto.

17. Hiyoshi Taisha

This shrine was built to honor the deity Sakamoto. The shrine was constructed around 2100 years ago. It is the head shrine of the more than 3800 Sanno shrines in Japan. It is situated at the foot of Mt. Hachiojiyama

16. Ujigami Shrine

This shrine is the oldest shrine in Japan. It was constructed in the nagare-zukuri architectural style. It is closely linked to the Uji Shrine, being known as the upper shrine while the latter is known as the lower shrine. It is situated in the city of Kyoto and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

15. Shimogamo Shrine

This shrine is also known as the Upper Kamo Shrine. It is surrounded by the forest of Tadasu no Mori, which has trees which are up to 600 years old. Shimogamo Shrine, together with the other Kamo Shrine, Kamigamo Shrine, is one of the oldest in the city of Kyoto, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

14. Kamigamo Shrine

It is situated three kilometers from Shimogamo Shrine. This shrine is also known as the Upper Kamo Shrine. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one oldest shrines in the city of Kyoto.

13. Daigo-ji

This shrine is one of the most important in the Shingon religion. It is situated in the city of Kyoto and is a World Heritage site.This shrine was built in 874, and was originally intended for use as a hermitage. It is situated in the city of Kyoto. It is called Daigo after one of the five periods of Buddha’s teaching. It is a designated World Heritage Site.

12. Toyokuni Shrine

This shrine was built to honour Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a warlord who was part of three people who unified Japan. The construction, which began when Hideyoshi was still alive, stopped after his death and it is still incomplete to this day.

11. Kitano Tenmangū

This shrine was built to honour Sugawara Michizane, a Japanese politician and scholar. Michizane was murdered by his rivals, and so this shrine, and others, were built to honour his memory. It is situated in the city of Kyoto.

10. Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine

It is one of the most ancient shrines in Japan, having been constructed even before Buddhism was introduced in the country. It is built in the Sumiyoshi-zukuri architectural style.It is situated in the city of Osaka.

9. Kasuga Grand Shrine

This shrine was built in honor of Kasuga Taisha, the deity who protects the city of Nara. It is famous for the hundreds of bronze lanterns it has which are lit every year during the Lantern Festivals in February and August. It is situated in the hills north of the city of Nara, and is the most famous shrine in the city.

8. Isonokami Shrine

According to legend, it was built in 4 AD, which is said to be the seventh year of the reign of Sujin. The shrine a history of use as an armory, and as a result holds several ancients weapons which are considered national Japanese treasures, for example the Kusanagi no Tsurugi sword, which is said to have been used by the Emperor Susunoo to kill the Yamata no Orochi serpent. It is situated in the hills North of the city of Nara.

7. Enjō-ji

This is a Shigon shrine built to honour Dainichi Nyorai, the main deity of Esoteric Buddhism, and there is a famous statue of him by the sculptor Unkei in the shrine. It lies in the hills North of the city of Nara.

6. Izumo-taisha

This shrine was built to honor Okuninshi, who is acknowleged in many quarters as the creator of Japan. It is situated in Shimane, and is famous for possessing the largest shimenawa in Japan.

5. Itsukushima Shrine

This shrine, situated in Miyajima island, is a World Heritage site. The shrine honors the god of storms and the sea in the Shinto religion.

4. Usa Jingū

This shrine was built in the 8th Century in honor of Hachiman, the god of war and archery. Its long history is important and is the reason why it is regarded as a Japanese treasure.

3. Ōsaki Hachimangū

This shrine was built by Date Massamune to pay homage to Osaki Hachiman-gu, the deity of the Date family. Every year, during the Donto Matsuri festival people take a half-naked pilgrimage to the shrine.

2. Nikkō Tōshō-gū

This shrine was built to honor Tosho Daigongen, the founder of the Tokugawa Shonugate dynasty. It is a World Heritage site.

1. Iwashimizu Hachimangū

This shrine was built to honor Hachiman, according to the myth of Emperor Ojin, the god of war. The shrine was constructed in the architectural style called Hachiman-zukkuri. Bamboo from the shrine was famously used by Thomas Edison as the raw material for the filaments of the first electric bulb. It is situated in Yawata.

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