Travelers to Kyoto will find no shortage of shrines and temples competing for attention on their itineraries. If, at some point, you’re in the vicinity of the Kyoto National Museum, pay a visit to Sanjūsangen-dō (蓮華王院 三十三間堂) across the street. The temple is all about Kannon, Buddhist goddess of mercy. Inside the main hall, you’ll encounter an army of 1,001 towering Kannon statues carved from Cyprus wood and smothered in gold leaf. They stand in 10 rows and 50 columns; 124 of them are from the 1100s, crafted by Kamakura sculptor Tankei and his team of artisans. The rest date from the 13th century and were made after a fire ravaged the original temple complex. The ocean of gold is astonishing to behold, but look out for the temple’s 28 guardian deities as well. These statues encircle Kannon and borrow heavily from Hindu texts. Temple entry is 600¥ (about $5.72 USD), you must remove your shoes, and photography is prohibited.
657 Sanjusangendomawari, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan; +81-75-561-0467.