Temples are basically places of worship for various sects of Buddhism, where there is usually an some form of Buddha. The temples also act as a location where historical documents are preserved pertaining to the Temple. Many temples also contain burial grounds in the backyard. Japanese people visit these burial grounds and pay respects to their departed ancestors.
Shrines are associated with Shintoism, which is the oldest Japanese religion before the advent of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century via China. Shintoism can be loosely understood as "nature" worship, where trees, mountains, rivers and other items associated with nature are designated as a "kami" (in Japanese it means "god") and worshiped. Shrines are also built as a remembrance of: a person, rulers of japan, or a historic event. Shrines are as interesting and enchanting as the temples.
Please read my summary of Shintoism and Buddhism
in the Special Topics
section. The summary will cover how the Japanese embraced the ancient Buddhism that was originated in India.
Japan's topology is divided into eight regions. They are: Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kansai (also called Kinki Region), Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu (includes Okinawa Islands). Each region consists of multiple prefectures (except for Hokkaido, which is a region and a prefecture). Each prefecture contains multiple cities and each city is divided into multiple wards.
Many of the famous temples in Japan are concentrated in the Kansai
regions. In this website, I categorize the temples in these regions under two main sections and all other temples in the Other Regions
section. Discussing about Japanese Temples and Shrines is not complete without discussing about Japanese Temple Pilgrimages.
Pilgrimages are very popular with the Japanese and occasionally by the non Japanese temple enthusiasts (like me).
I will also discuss multitude of Special Topics
that are associated with temples of Japan. Some topics I will add are elaborate sections on Buddhist holy sites
like Kamakura, Nikko etc. since they need that special attention. I will cover the fascinating tales associated with these temples, in my Tales and Temples
section. Gardens are also a very fascinating and enchanting aspect of Japan, specially in the temples in the Western Japan's Kyoto Prefecture. I will cover these gardens in my Zen Gardens