Rinnō-ji's grand main hall, Sanbutsu-dō ('Hall of Three Buddhas'), was first built in 848; the current structure dates to 1645 and, with restoration work just completed in spring 2021, is now a brilliant shade of vermilion. Inside are a trio of gilded wooden statues, 8m-tall and seated on lotus pedestals. In the middle is Amida Nyorai (Buddha of Limitless Light); on the right is Senjū Kannon (thousand-armed bodhisattva of compassion); and on the left is Batō Kannon (horse-headed bodhisattva of compassion).

Each deity has its counterpart in Nikkō's one of the three sacred mountains: Nantai-san (Senjū Kannon), Nyohō-san (Amida Nyorai) and Tarō-san (Batō Kannon). Rinnō-ji is an important temple of Tendai sect (one of Japan's oldest sects, with a long history of patronage from the ruling class).

The sprawling grounds include Taiyūin-byō; purchase a combined ticket for ¥900. A separate admission ticket includes entrance to the temple's treasure hall, Hōmotsu-den, and its strolling garden, Shōyō-en.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Nikkō attractions

1. Nikkō Tōshō-gū Museum

0.05 MILES

Opened in 2015 for the 400th anniversary of Tokugawa Ieyasu's death, this modern building behind Rinnō-ji contains artefacts relating to the shogun,…

2. Hōmotsu-den

0.05 MILES

This museum has an interesting collection of temple artefacts, sculptures and scrolls. Admission includes entry to the lovely Edo-period garden Shōyō-en.

3. Shōyō-en

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This Edo-era strolling garden can feel like a refuge from the temple crowds – except during autumn, when the turning leaves are a great attraction.

4. Ishi-dorii

0.08 MILES

A towering stone torii (entrance gate) at the head of the stone steps on Omotesandō leading up to Tōshō-gū, burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

5. Gōjūnotō

0.11 MILES

This five-tiered pagoda at Tōshō-gū is an 1819 reconstruction of the mid-17th-century original. Buying a supplementary ticket affords you the chance to…

6. Omote-mon

0.12 MILES

Tōshō-gū's main gateway, protected on either side by Deva kings.

7. Sanjinko

0.16 MILES

In Tōshō-gū's initial courtyard are these 'Three Sacred Storehouses'; on the upper storey of the Kamijinko (upper storehouse) are relief carvings of …

8. Shinkyūsha

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This 'Sacred Stable' building in Tōshō-gū's outer courtyard is crowned with relief carvings of monkeys. The allegorical 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak…