Zenko-ji Temple one of the main tourist spots in Nagano. Many flock there to watch the ordination rites of priests.
Zenko-ji is one of the most magnificent temples in Japan. It consists of 39 buildings including Dai-hongan and Dai-kanjin, with grounds measuring 59,000 sq m Zenko-ji was believed to have been founded in the mid-7th century, so its history spans 1,400 years. The image of the Buddha enshrined here is known as Ikko-Sanzon-Amida-Nyorai, and consists of a statue of Amida-Nyorai presiding over the Land of Happiness (believed to be the Buddhist paradise of the afterlife), standing against the aureole on its back and flanked by Kannon-Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva believed to soothe suffering, and Seishi-Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva presiding over intelligence. It is believed that a Korean king presented these statues when Buddhism was introduced into Japan via Korea. Even today, these statues are never on public display and are kept in absolute secrecy (for religious reasons, images are not usually put on display), and only once every seven years replicas of these statues are made available for public viewing. Zenko-ji is open to everyone regardless of their Buddhist denomination, and it is believed that a visit there once in a lifetime will ensure passage into the Land of Happiness. The temple has grown on the basis of this popular belief from ancient times, and is bustling with visitors even today.
Further behind the San-mon Gate is the main temple designated as a national treasure. It was rebuilt in 1707 and is the third largest wooden structure in Japan.
In the altar is the standing statue of Amida-Nyorai. It is not shown to the public, but every seven years (six full years) the Maedachi Honzon, a replica of the statue, is offered to the public for viewing. At all other times you may only make indirect contact with the sealed statue.
Right underneath the altar is a dark tunnel where you can experience going through the ordination platform designed to be used during the ordination rites of the priests. Along the way try to find and touch the key said to be that of paradise. Many deities are enshrined in the temple, including Nure-Botoke, which is said to protect children.
Address: 491 Motoyoshi-cho, Nagano-shi, Nagano
Admission Fee: 500 yen (regular fee)
From Tokyo:[Rail]1h 40 min to Nagano Station by JR Nagano Shinkansen Line.[Bus]JR Nagano Station/Bus/10 min./Zenkoji-Daimon Bus Stop/On foot/5 min.
From Osaka:[Rail]2h 30 min from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line.