Hase-dera is Sakurai's most well-known site. The first buildings were built in 686 at the request of Emperor Tenmu. Today it is the head of the Buzan school of Shingon Buddhism. The complex is large and there are many buildings. The long corridor leading from the Niomon Gate to the main hall consists of 399 steps. The reason is because 4 is synonymous with death in Japanese, so they didn't make a 400th step. As you walk on the corridor on the right you'll come across the temple's treasure hall. It costs 100 yen to enter but it's well worth it; the statues inside are particularly interesting, although the other Buddhist artifacts are also interesting.
The main hall was built in 1650. It overlooks the rest of the complex, making the view from here very scenic, especially in the autumn or spring when the leaves/blossoms are at their peak. Inside the main hall, the large Kannon statue is very impressive, as are the statues to his left and right. The small Buddha that people are touching is meant to heal you. Touch the body part on the Buddha that you want to be healed on yourself with your right hand (ex: You want your broken leg to heal, so touch the Buddha's leg).
Most of the other buildings, like the five-tiered pagoda, are nice places to stroll about and depending on the season you visit, there are flowering plants all over the temple grounds. For those who enjoy taking pictures and looking for unique angles, there are so many places around here to try out various vantage points, it's great!
Entrance to the complex is 500 yen. The treasure hall is an additional 100 yen.
Located on Mount Tonomine, Tanzan Shrine is quite isolated but well worth the trip! The shrine was first built to enshrine Kamatari Fujiwara, one of the most influential members of the Fujiwara clan. The pagoda dates back to 1532. Most of the shrine buildings are Important Cultural Properties.
The view of the complex from the hill across from it is excellent, and the shrine itself is quite scenic and impressive, especially in the autumn when it is surrounded by colorful leaves. Structures combine Shinto and Buddhist architecture, because the shrine was originally a temple that was later fused with Shinto until it was officially designated a Shinto shrine during the Meiji Period. The main hall is elevated and lanterns are located all around the balcony, enhancing the view both from and of the shrine. Inside there are ancient paintings, scrolls, and sculptures.
Entrance is 500 yen.
This monument is located at the spot where the teahouse, Takedaya, is said to have stood. The teahouse is from Chikamatsu Monzaemon's famous tale "The Courrier from Hell". In the story, the main characters stopped at this teahouse when fleeing to Ninokuchi village. This is one of Monzaemon's famous love suicide tales. The monument is along the roadside actually within someone's property, although it is close enough to the road that visiting is not invasive!
You can get to Sakurai from the JR Line or the Kintetsu Line.
From Nara Station, you can travel straight south on the JR Mahoroba Line (JR Sakurai Line) to Sakurai Station. If you are going to Omiwa Shrine, get off at Miwa Station, the station before Sakurai Station.
From Osaka, if you are on the loop go to Tsuruhashi Station and then to the Kintetsu Osaka Line Express to Sakurai.
From Nagoya, make sure you are at Kintetsu Nagoya Station and then go to either Nabari Station or Yamatoyagi Station and transfer to the Osaka Line Express, which will take you to Sakurai.