Top choice in Kansai

Secluded in thick forest, this Shingon temple was founded in the 9th century. It's nicknamed 'Women's Kōya-san' because, unlike the more famous centre of Shingon Buddhism, it welcomed female students. The temple's Kondō (Golden Hall), restored in the 17th century (and far more humble than the name suggests), holds beautiful Heian-era Buddhist sculptures with some of their original colouring intact. Some 700 stairs lead further up to the Oku-no-in, the innermost sanctum.

From Sakurai, take the Kintetsu Osaka line to Murōguchi-ōno Station (¥350, 20 minutes), then switch to a bus to Murō-ji-mae (¥430, 15 minutes, hourly).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Kansai attractions

1. Hase-dera


The most notable feature of Hase-dera, a Shingon temple founded in the 8th century, is its 11th-century, 399-step noborirō (climbing corridor); it…

2. Ōmiwa-jinja

10.74 MILES

Ōmiwa-jinja is thought to be one of Japan's oldest Shintō shrines. It was built to worship Mt Miwa behind it and is rare in that it has no honden (main…

3. Tanzan-jinja

11.4 MILES

This remote mountain shrine originated as a mausoleum for Fujiwara Kamatari (614–69), the patriarch of the Fujiwara clan that would rule court politics…

4. Ishibutai-kofun

13.2 MILES

Though other kofun remain covered in earth, Japan's largest stone burial chamber is laid bare and you can walk inside. The tomb was looted centuries ago,…

5. Asuka-dera

13.25 MILES

Considered the first Buddhist temple in Japan (founded 596), Asuka-dera houses Japan's oldest existing Buddhist statue, the Asuka Daibutsu (Great Buddha),…

6. Takamatsuzuka-kofun

14.35 MILES

This kofun was discovered by accident in the 1960s, painstakingly excavated in the 1970s and then sealed for preservation. What you'll see is a grassy…

8. Wakamiya-jinja

14.62 MILES

A subshrine of Kasuga Taisha, founded in 1135 and reconstructed in 1863.