A visit to the Nagano area would not be complete without seeing the famous Zenkō-ji Temple (善光寺) in Nagano City, said to have been built in the early 7th century. It consists of 39 buildings including Dai-hongan and Dai-kanjin and is the main tourist spot in Nagano.
Zenkoji Temple (善光寺), Nagano City, Japan
Zenkoji Temple Information
Since Zenkoji Temple is not affiliated with any one particular sect of Buddhism Zenko-ji is open to everyone regardless of their belief, and it is believed that a visit there once in a lifetime will ensure a passage into the Land of Happiness. The temple has grown on the basis of this popular belief from ancient times and therefore been popular amongst a great variety of people throughout its history.
The San-mon Gate you pass through as you enter is designated as an important cultural asset. Its roof was renovated and reconstructed of Japanese Sawara cypress tree wood, just like the old roof that the temple had at its foundation about 250 years ago.
Further into the precincts of the temple you can find the main hall (listed as National Treasure). It was rebuilt in 1707 and is the third largest wooden structure in Japan.
O Kaidan Meguri or “Walking in the Pitch Dark Tunnel” lies under the Main Altar of the temple where you can experience going through the ordination platform designed to be used during the ordination rites of the priests. It’s very dark and requires a great deal of touch and feel as you go. Along the way try to find and touch the key that is reputedly the one to unlock paradise.
A day at Zenkoji starts with a religious service early in the morning. Sutra recitation echoes in the fresh morning air – first by by the saints and priests of the Tendai Sect followed by the Jodo Shinshu sect. The morning service starts at sunrise, usually between 5:30 AM and 7:00 AM depending on the time of year. It is said that, if your head is touched by the beads of the holy priests, the blessing of Buddha is given to you. It is common to see people kneeling in wait for a blessing every morning.
Many deities are enshrined in the temple, including Nure-Botoke, which is said to be a protector of children. You will also the Roku-Jizo and the images of six Ksitigarbha bodhisattva.
The front approach to the main hall of the temple is paved with flagstones (allegedly 7,777 in total). The stores lining the approach, sell a usual plethora of gifts, nick-nacks and local products. These include Buddhist family altars, pickled vegetables and traditional toys.
Admission is 500 yen. Download a Zenkouji Temple tourist brochure here (3.2MB)
Lodgings for pilgrims line the approach to the temple. Zenkoji Tokugyoubou is located right in the grounds of Zenkoji Temple. It is a shukubo – the kind of lodging that is traditionally attached to a Japanese temple. A shukubo is similar to traditional Japanese inns but at a shukubo you can join in morning prayers with the temple monks and eat shojin ryori – the special austere, vegetarian meal for monks. The rooms are traditional Japanese rooms with tatami mats and a light cotton yukata is offered for sleeping. No credit cards accepted.
Matsuya Ryokan is an amazing traditional inn located right at the heart of Zenkoji Temple. Matsuya is recommended for those who love to have a taste of very traditional Japanese culture, architectural design and value for money. There is a Jizo statue related to the Zenko-ji Temple at the entrance. As it is a traditional ryokan, there is no internet access.
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Walking: It is a roughly thirty minute walk from Nagano Station to Zenkoji Temple. Exit Nagano station via the Zenkoji Exit and follow the temple markers.
Bus: From JR Nagano train station, take the bus bound for Zenkoji Temple from Bus Stop #1. The stop is located at the Bus Rotary in front of Zenkoji Exit (see above) of Nagano Station. It takes 15 minutes and costs only 100 yen.
Train: Catch the Dentetsu line train (next to JR Nagano Station) to Gondo or Zenkojishita stations and then walk about 5-10 minutes.
Taxi: A taxi from JR Nagano Station will cost about 1,200-1,350 yen.
Map to Zenkoji Temple
Map of Zenkoji Temple
Zenkoji Temple, Nagano Accommodation and Sightseeing Map
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View more Nagano hotels at Nagano: Stay in the Heart of of Japan or find great Zenkoji Temple accommodation deals here!
|Chuoukan Shimizuya Ryokan is a traditional and popular ryokan that has over 160 years of history. It is located in the centre of Nagano – just a few minutes walk from the Zenkoji temple. There are single rooms, double rooms and rooms for 3 and 4 persons available. Internet access available. Map to Chuoukan Shimizuya Ryokan, Nagano|
|Hotel Sunroute Nagano features modern guestrooms with free wired internet access and comfortable Simmons beds. A breakfast buffet featuring Japanese and Western dishes are served at the dining room. This property is situated in the heart of the city right across from the JR Nagano Station and the Nagano Metro, while the famous Zenko-ji Temple is only ten minutes by taxi.|
|1166 Backpackers Nagano is budget accommodation in Nagano City designed to make your stay in Nagano as comfortable as possible. The tastefully refurbished old house was built 60 years ago and still retains the atmosphere of days gone past. An easy walk from JR Nagano Station and to Zenkoji Temple. Map to 1166 Backpackers Nagano|
|Kokusai21 Hotel Nagano blends pleasant ambience and cosy atmosphere. Kokusai21 Hotel Nagano is an ideal place for business as well as leisure, with English speaking staff on hand. Situated in the heart of Nagano city, the Kokusai 21 Hotel Nagano is ten minutes drive from the Nagano Station as well as being within walking distance to the famous Zenko-ji Temple. Check reviews for Kokusai 21 Hotel or see map to Kokusai 21 Hotel, Nagano|
Zenkoji Temple Photo Galleries – Click here!
|Official Zenkoji Temple website||http://www.zenkoji.jp/index2.html|