Zenko-ji Temple 善光寺
View zeko-ji temple in Nagano.
Of Juzu, Japanese Buddhist bracelets, found the Zenko-ji temple in Nagano.
Buddha of Zenko-ji temple in Nagano.
Zenko-ji is popular, and for good reason: it welcomes buddhists of all denominations, including women, and is located close to the liveliest district of Nagano.
All of Nagano comes to pray here, at this temple dating back to the 7th century and which houses a unique treasure: a statue of Amida Buddha (Ikko Sanzon), the very first in the country. Brought back from Korea by missionaries in 552, it is very well protected, and hidden from the public. A replica of it is displayed only during the famous Gokaicho Festival. The festival takes places every 7 years, from April to mid-May and attracts 5 million visitors wishing to reach the Pure Land (The next festival will take place in 2022).
Find the key!
Besides this exceptional event, the temple welcomes millions of believers each year, who enter through the two massive gates (Niomon and Sanmon) on each side of Nakamise-dori, before reaching Zenko-ji. The main building costs 500 yen to enter, you can see the main altar and may be tempted by the underground corridor: a passage you must walk in total darkness, during which you have to try and touch the "key to paradise" attached to one of the walls, which is believed to offer salvation... if you can find it!
A pagoda-museum displays buddhist statues, and the kyozo (a small wooden temple with a thatched roof, which is used as a library of sacred texts) has a large, octagonal door-sutra.
A night at the temple
Depending on availability, Zenko-ji can also provide accommodation for the night, in its 39 shukubo (temple lodgings), for pilgrims and curious visitors wishing to experience monastic life.
It's also possible to attend the first morning ritual (oasaji) and receive the blessing of the high priests without spending the night at the temple, as long as you arrive at opening time and buy an entrance ticket.
Read more: Staying at a shukubo