Now, there are many things worth seeing in Buddhist temples, and if you go to Japan without going into at least a few, you are missing out on part of the art and culture of an ancient culture, well worthy of study. That said, I must say the temples could very much be improved. Grace and I went to only two which did not demand an entrance fee of at least 500 yen (about $7.50 at current conversion), sometimes as much as 1000 yen - per person.
Now, I don't mind tourist attractions all so much, and I recognize that temples and churches alike in the old places of the world have become as much art galleries as they have places of worship - but this is precisely what dismays me about the Buddhist approach. In the west, churches have opened their doors, they demand no money, they merely say if you wish to come in, come in - even if it is only to get out of the rain. We ask only that you are respectful, and don't disturb anyone else in their reason for coming in. This attitude is both hospitable and, I believe, encourages the worshipers, who do believe that the places are sacred.
In raising their fees on admitting any, the temples, in my opinion, discourage the worshipers, and encourage the tourists, fully giving themselves over to their tourist and capitalistic ends. Not to say that there were not worshipers - but they were all so clearly from out of town. They all carried cameras and maps - even if they were Japanese. It bewildered me how they gave money at the gate and at the offering plate (actually a box, but we won't quibble), but they did.
My favorite temple of all those we saw was the Buddha at Yudanaka - a figure very nearly unknown, but some seventy feet tall, of a standing Buddha. There is a similar figure in Kagaonsen, which I did not have as much time to pause and see. there were more impressive figures, it is true, and the great Buddha of Kamakura is more than worth the price of admittance, as are the golden and silver pavilions of Kyoto, and all the more so the long hall - but these figures, which stand above Yudanaka and Kagaonsen are not hid (as are the others) by walls and trees, are not closed up at 4:00 each winter evening. They are there for all to see, all to walk up to. They cannot be hidden, and they have a religious meaning, whether one agrees with it or not. They are like a bit of true bold talk in a land of averted speech, and like some glimpse of the actual religion which all this time has been hiding behind the money.