Top things to do

Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Nara

Tōdai-ji

Nara's star attraction is the famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha), centrepiece of this grand temple on the Unesco World Heritage List, with origins going back to AD 728. The Daibutsu statue itself is one of the largest b…
Top Choice Shinto Shrine in Ise-Shima

Naikū

The Inner Shrine of Ise-jingū is thought to date from the 3rd century and enshrines the sun goddess, Amaterasu-Ōmikami, considered the ancestral goddess of the imperial family and guardian deity of the Japanese nati…
Top Choice Castle in Himeji

Himeji-jō

Japan's most magnificent castle, Himeji-jō, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, national treasure and one of only a handful of original castles remaining (most are modern concrete reconstructions). It's nicknamed Shira…
Top Choice Shinto Shrine in Nara

Kasuga Taisha

Founded in the 8th century, this sprawling shrine on the Unesco World Heritage List lies at the foot of a deeply forested hill, where herds of sacred deer await handouts. Until the end of the 19th century, Kasuga Ta…
Top Choice Museum in Shiga Prefecture

Miho Museum

Secluded amid hills and valleys near the village of Shigaraki, this knockout museum houses the Koyama family collection of Japanese, Middle Eastern, Chinese and South Asian art, and beautifully displayed special exh…
Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Kōya-san

Oku-no-in

One of Japan's most intensely spiritual places, Oku-no-in is a memorial hall to Kōbō Daishi surrounded by a vast, forested Buddhist cemetery. The tall cedars and thousands of peaked stone stupas along the stone path…
Top Choice Castle in Hikone

Hikone Castle

Completed in 1622, this diminutive castle of the Ii family of daimyō (domain lords) is rightly considered a national treasure; much of it remains in its original state. One unusual feature is the teppōzama and yazam…
Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Nara

Hōryū-ji

Hōryū-ji was founded in 607 by Prince Shōtoku, considered by many to be the patron saint of Japanese Buddhism. It's a veritable shrine to Shōtoku, renowned not only as the oldest temple in Japan, but also as a repos…
Top Choice Castle in Osaka

Osaka-jō

After unifying Japan in the late 16th century, General Toyotomi Hideyoshi built this castle (1583) as a display of power, using, it's said, the labour of 100,000 workers. Although the present structure is a 1931 con…
Top Choice Museum in Nara

Nara National Museum

This world-class museum of Buddhist art is divided into two sections. Built in 1894 and strikingly renovated in 2016, the Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall & Ritual Bronzes Gallery displays a rotating selection of ab…