1. Write your wishes on the wall – Tandenan, the graffiti temple (Kyoto)
Typically, at a Japanese temple, you either state your wishes inwardly or write them on a tablet known as an ema, but at this temple you write your wishes directly onto the white walls in the main hall of the temple. The temple is a 10 minute walk from Yawatashi Station on the Keihan Electric Railway. Open from 9:00-15:00 on weekends and holidays. Entry to the temple is 100 yen, and making a wish costs 300 yen. You can find Iwashimizu Hachimangu and Hiko Jinja nearby.
Address: 33 Yawatayoshinogaito, Yawata City, Kyoto (Google Map)
2. Turn the guardian dogs – Minatoinari Jinja (Niigata)
This shrine was a center of worship for sailors in the Edo period. Here, there are komainu, or guardian dogs, that you turn when you pray. (Women should turn it to the left, and men to the right.) You can reach the shrine by taking a bus or using the convenient rental cycle system (100 yen for 3 hours) from Niigata Station.
HP: www.niigata-furumachi.jp/rentc/annai.html (Niigata Rentacycle) (Japanese Only)
Address: 3482 Inari-cho, Chuo-ku, Niigata City, Niigata (Google Map)
3. Recommended for people who are worried about their hair – Mikami Jinja (Kyoto)
Mikami Jinja is Japan’s one and only shrine for the head and hair. The father of the hair and beauty industry, Fujihara Unemenosukemasayuki is enshrined here. This shrine is visited by many people in the hair and beauty industry, as well as people who are worried about their hair. There are lots of sites to see in the nearby Arashiyama, including the truck trains and bamboo forests, so if you are in the area, why not visit here as well?
HP: www.mikami-jinja.net/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 10-2 Yamadabuchiyama-cho, Sagaokura, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City (Google Map)
4. Enjoy a pitchblack tour of the womb – Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto)
Underneath the hall of the Zuigudo in Kiyomizu-dera, you can take a tour of what is said to represent the womb of the Daizuiku-bosatsu (Mahapratisara). Travelling through pitch darkness, led only by the large prayer beads lining the wall, you will come to a large stone carved with the Sanskrit characters symbolizing Daizuiku-bosatsu. After turning the stone and praying deeply, you return to the surface above the hall. While the darkness can be a little frightening, try to calm yourself as you go through. The tours are available from 9:00 to 16:00 (the reception desk closes at this time) and it costs 100 yen for elementary school children and above to participate.
HP: www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/info/info05.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto (Google Map)
5. Close your eyes and see if you can reach the love fortune telling stone – Jishu Jinja (Kyoto)
Jishu Jinja, located on the lefthand side of the stage at Kiyomizu-dera, is famous as a shrine for matchmaking. In front of the main hall of the shrine are two knee-high stones about 10m apart, known as the guardian stone and love fortune telling stone. If you can walk from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, it is said that your wishes in love will come true. If you manage to do it on your first try, it is said that your dreams will come true very soon, but if you take two or three times to do it, or if you manage to do it with the help of someone else, it is said that it will take longer for your wish to be realized.
HP: jishujinja.or.jp/index.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 1-317 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto (Google Map)
6. Tigers everywhere – Chogosonshi-ji, Mt. Shigi (Nara)
It is said that the main deity of the shrine, Bishamonten, appeared before Shotoku Taishi at the time of the tiger, on the day of the tiger, in the year of the tiger, and it was through Bishamonten’s protection that Shotoku Taishi was able to be victorious. This is why this shrine is filled with tigers! The prayers here are very impressive and powerful. In the shrine, you can take a tour of the ordination platform, and it is said that if you can touch the lock in the dark corridors, your wishes will come true. You can also experience buddhist monk training as well.
A Address: 2280-1 Shigisan, Heguri-cho, Ikoma-gun, Nara (Google Map)
7. The breast temple – Mamakannon (Aichi)
Established in 1492, this Shodoshu temple is one of the Owari Thirty-three Kannon Buddhist temples. Commonly known as oppai-dera, or the breast temple, it is said that women who pray here will be blessed with breast milk. The ema tablets in the shrine are in the shape of breasts.
HP: www.city.komaki.aichi.jp/kanko/modokoro/002871.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 152 Mama Honmachi, Komaki City, Aichi (Google Map)
8. A national treasure on a precipice – Nageiredo, Mitokusan Sanbutsuji (Tottori)
Nageiredo is a temple built on a precipice at the foot of Mt. Santoku. It is said the ascetic En no Gyoja shrunk a temple through the teachings of Buddhism so that it would fit into the palm of one’s hand and threw it into a cave on the edge of the mountain. (In Japanese, nageire means throw in, which is where the name comes from.) The journey to and from the temple takes about two hours, and will take you through some very rough mountain terrain, so it is necessary to make sure you have the right equipment and clothing before setting off. Nageiredo is open to visitors from 8:00 to 15:00, but the mountain is sometimes closed depending on the weather. Please note that you are not allowed to climb the mountain alone.
HP: www.mitokusan.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 1010 Santoku, Misasa-cho, Tohaku-gun, Tottori (Google Map)
9. A giant lion head is waiting for you – Namba Yasaka Jinja (Osaka)ja.wikipedia.org
The site of this giant lion head shaped shrine building will leave you astonished! With a height of 12m, a width of 11m and a depth of 10m, it’s truly overwhelming. Other than the giant lion head, this is a regular shrine, so if you have a chance to go to the Minami district of Osaka, why not come by for a visit?
HP: nambayasaka.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 2-9-19 Motomachi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka City, Osaka (Google Map)
10. Let’s wash some cash – Zeniarai Benzaiten (Kanagawa)
It is said that washing money with the pure waters of Kamakura purifies the heart and brings happiness. Washing money is quite a rare thing to do, so the shrine is always is always bustling with tourists and students on their school trips. There are also quite a lot of people who wash bills, not just coins.
Address: 2-25-15 Sasuke, Kamakura City, Kanagawa (Google Map)
Why not try out some of these fantastic experiences while you travel the temples and shrines of Japan? Have a nice trip!