Zenkoji is Nagano's must-see sight and one of the most famous temples in Japan.
Dating from the 7th century, Zenkoji keeps the Ikko-Sanzon Amida Nyorai, supposedly the first Buddhist image to arrive in Japan (from Korea in the 6th century). A copy of the image is displayed to the public every six years in the Gokaicho Festival, the next is in 2009. The original is kept behind a curtain and is never seen by the laity.
The temple has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt on a number of occasions and the present main hall of the temple was built in 1707.
Zenkoji's popularity stems from the fact it is a non-sectarian temple and welcomes visitors from all faiths and creeds. A priest and priestess share the responsibility for the temple's ecumenical rituals. In an ancient ceremony, the high priest or priestess prays for the salvation of visitors every morning.
Underneath the main hall is a narrow, pitch-black tunnel that symbolizes the path to enlightenment. Struggle through the darkness with your hand to the wall to guide you and you will discover a metal handle, which is the key to salvation. To enter the tunnel is 500 yen. Be warned it is hot, long and frightening!
Tel: 026 234 3591
Take a bus (100 yen) from bus stop #1 outside Nagano Station.
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Saturday, September 06, 2008