Being a temple town itself, Nagano city has developed around one of Japan’s most famous temples, Zenkoji. The temple was built in the 7th century and houses the first Buddhist statue ever brought to Japan. Constructed entirely out of wood, it is also one of the biggest wooden structures in Japan.
When you visit Nagano by train, Zenkoji Temple is only a 20-minute walk from the station, which I recommend because you can also see lots of shops and small shrines on the way. There are lots of signs and maps around, making it very easy to find. Also you can ask any of the polite Nagano people on the street (it is enough to say just “Zenkoji?”) and I guarantee that explanation will be very simple, because you can’t really stray too far from it!
If the weather is not nice or you’d rather not walk, there are frequent busses in front of Nagano Station which will take you to the front of the temple gates. You can also purchase a round trip ticket for a discounted price. There are two gates to pass while approaching Zenkoji’s main building: Niomon and Sanmon gates. The first gate, Niomon, is guarded by two giant wooden statues to protect the temple from evil spirits. After passing through Niomon there are 7 Buddha statues on the right side, symbolizing 7 factors of enlightenment and the 7 lands in Buddhist belief. Zenkoji temple is enormous and you can experience the feeling of a real temple, unlike what you might feel in big cities like Tokyo or Osaka. I must confess that, unlike in Zenkoji, I never felt the historical or traditional significance in any of the castles or temples in Tokyo or Osaka.
With a small fee you can visit the inner chamber, which I highly recommend. There is an underground passage which is completely dark, and if you can find the secret key on the walls it means you are enlightened and your dreams will come true. I couldn’t find the key, even though I tried several times but in complete darkness getting out is an interesting experience. I felt strangely peaceful after that!
If you visit Zenkoji Temple around noon you can experience real Buddhist chanting by monks, and if you can arrive very early in the morning, you may be able to get a blessing from the priests of the temple in the garden for free. As it is a big temple complex there are also other places to visit very close to temple itself, like pagodas and museums.
So if you have the chance, please take the time to experience this great temple. I’ve already visited Zenkoji Temple several times, and I am looking forward to visiting it again!
【Precinct Guide in Foreign Language】
The precinct tour guided by trained local volunteer staff is available for you as below. Your visit would be most welcomed.
Date: Every Weekend (SAT&SUN)
Time: 10:00 ~ 15:00 ※１
Enquiry: Info Office @ KOMAGAERI Bridge (Midway of the stone-paved approach to Main Hall, Northwest to point #14 in Precincts Map)
Language: English, Mandarin
Service Charge: Free ※２
※１：Please be aware in advance of the possibility that all the staff might be out for the other visitors for a while.
※２：Admission for Main Hall & History Museum, Main Gate would be charged individually.
|Address||Motoyoshi Cho 491, Nagano, Nagano Prefecture|
|Access||[map]Motoyoshi Cho 491, Nagano, Nagano Prefecture[/map]|
|Opening Hours||5:30～16:30 (depends on the season)|