There are two main types of religious buildings in Japan, temples and shrines. Shrines (jinja, or jinguu after a name) are for Shinto dieties, while temples (otera, or ji after a name) are Buddhist. Japan has many of both, sometimes with them being right next to each other or even one inside of the other! There are some general differences in construction, which you can read more about here. But the easiest way to tell them apart is that a shinto shrine will always have a torii gate at the very entrance.
Okay, enough about the general characteristics, let's look at the temples and shrines I visited!
Takano Tenman-gu 高野天満宮
The first stop on my trip was Takano Tenmangu, a shinto shrine. The deity of this shrine is Tenjin, a kami of scholarship and learning. There are many famous temples dedicated to him, but this is just one of the smaller shrines. Shrines dedicated to Tenjin are often called Tenman-gu (天満宮). A large camphor tree next to the shrine is estimated to be over 800 years old.
My second stop was the Buddhist temple Shougen-ji.
My third stop was the Shinto Haraguchi Shuwa Shrine. The deity here is Takeminakata no Kami, a deity of warfare.
My fourth stop was the Shinto Sumiyoshi Shrine. This shrine is for the Sumiyoshi Sanjin, a name for a group of three gods, Sokotsutsu no O no Mikoto, Nakatsutsu no O no Mikoto, and Uwatsutsu no O no Mikoto. They are gods of the sea and sailing.
My fifth stop was the Konkou Buddhist Temple. This was the most disappointing. It was only one small building and the rest were living quarters.
My sixth stop was the Buddhist Temple Sougan. This was definitely the most beautiful Buddhist temple. And it was built back into the woods, so there was a lovely walk through a bamboo forest to get there.
My seventh stop was the Buddhist Temple Koutoku.
My eighth stop was the Shinto Hirayama Sugawara Shrine. The main deity at this shrine is also Tenjin. But his birth name was Sugawara no Michizane. Some shrines, such as this one, bear his human name Sugawara.
My ninth stop was the Shinto Kumano Shrine. There are 8 different Kumano shrines in Nankan alone. So it's harder to find information about each individual shrine and to tell which is which (they aren't well documented, believe it or not). I believe this particular shrine was Shimonagata Kumano Za Jinja (下長田熊野座神社). There are more than 3,000 Kumano shrines in Japan, but they are all connected and have received a piece of the same three mountain deities. The three main shrines sit atop the three Kumano mountains, Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi. It's actually quite interesting as the religious worship in Kumano dates back to prehistoric times and predates all modern Japanese religions. Originally all the shrines had separate deities, but due to the influence of Buddhism, they came to believe the three main shrines housed the incarnations of three Buddhas. Through this belief, the three shrines became connected. It is a unique example of the mixing of Buddhism and Shinto in Japan. Read more about it here.
My tenth stop was at Imamura, a Shinto shrine. This shrine worships the mythical second Emperor of Japan, Emperor Suizei. he is thought to have rained from 581 to 549 BCE. I found a list of 15 shrines dedicated to this emperor. Out of those, 12 are in Kyushu with 9 in Kumamoto Prefecture itself.
Now take all that information with a grain of salt, because I found it on an old Japanese geocities page. And it's the only place I could find any information at all about this shrine. But let's go with it.
My 11th and final stop, another disappointing temple, the Saishou Buddhist temple. But the surrounding scenery was so beautiful, I couldn't be that disappointed.