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Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) travel advisories, some destinations may be unavailable for certain dates. Find out more.
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Shitennoji Temple

Find a moments peace in Japan’s first Buddhist temple and explore its turtle-filled gardens and towering pagodas.

Take a few hours to discover the wonders of the Shitennoji Temple, one of the world’s most spectacular Buddhist temples. Stroll around its impressive, quiet grounds, see authentic Buddhist artifacts and learn about the journey of the religion in Japan.

Prince Shotoku built the temple in 593 after a great war between practicers of Buddhism and believers in traditional Japanese gods. It was intended to display the glory and power of the newly-introduced Buddhism and much of the original layout and design remains today.

Soak in the majesty of the inner precinct, with its towering five-storied pagoda in the center of its courtyard. Ascend the stairs to capture the modest view from the top, but be sure to watch your head, as most doorways are quite small. Visit the Main Hall to see Prince Shotoku himself enshrined in statue form, and wall murals that tell the story of the Shakyamuni Buddha. Visit early in the morning to see the sunrise over the buildings at the temple’s quietest time.

After seeing the buildings, head to the peaceful Gokuraku-jodo Garden, which was designed based on the Western Gardens of Buddhist mythology. Take a quiet stroll around its walkways and watch turtles swim lazily in calm ponds.

Take a moment to visit the temple’s treasure house, and see authentic paintings, scripts and artifacts. Exhibits here change often, so check online before you go.

Visit the temple grounds on the 21st or 22nd of each month when they transform into a market place. Local stalls sell souvenirs, food and delicious cold soba, a traditional Japanese noodle soup.

The Temple is open year-round until 4pm each day, except in summer months, when it is open until 4:30. The inner precinct, Gokuraku-jodo Garden, and treasure houses charge separate but inexpensive fees. Get to the temple by metro, or drive there and use its ample parking.


Guide to Exploring Shitennoji Temple


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