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Dating from 1707, Zenkoji is a designated National Treasure. Zenkoji is an important pilgrims destination and remains an authentic centre of worship in Japan.
This picture is of Zenkoji and Nagano City from the hill I live on (Ojoji Daira).
There is a pitch black tunnel underneath the Main Hall where you can walk around. It is said that this is the temples' 'place for enlightenment' and that all people here are equal. There is a key to Paradise that you can feel for whilst in the tunnel. The idea is that you should free yourself of worldly thoughts and engage in self-reflection.
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Zenkoji Temple - Introduction & How to Get There
The Zenkoji Temple is the most famous temple in Nagano, with 1400 years of history. It was built when Yoshimitsu Honda of Shinshu enshrined the statue of Amitabha Tathagata. This statue had been recovered from a moat in Nanba. The main hall is a National Treasure of Japan.
The temple grounds include the Niomon Gate, Sanmon Gate, main hall, temple lodgings, a history museum, etc.
More on the temple lodgings: there are 39 lodgings inside the temple grounds, each one of them is an independent temple and each head priest plays a part in running the events of Zenkoji Temple. Visitors can stay overnight in these lodgings to sample vegetarian food.
How to get there:
We took a bus from the Nagano JR train station. The bus stops are outside the "Zenkoji Exit". There are 2 buses to get to (and from) the Temple:
Bus Stop 1: Zenkoji Line / Binzuru-go. The minibus circles the outskirts of the temple grounds. Fare is 100 Yen per adult
Between Bus Stops 4 & 5: Gururin-go. The bus goes on a 45 minute round trip. Fare is 100 Yen per adult
Zenkoji Temple - Niomon Gate
This is the first gate which greets you before you enter the temple. The gate is flanked by 2 4.8 m tall Nio (temple guardian) statues. You can see them in the picture. The statues were created by Koun Takamura and his student Unkai Yonehara.
Zenkoji Temple - Main Hall
The main hall is typical Buddhist architecture from the mid Edo Period. The principle image is enshrined inside the altar in the innermost temple. Admission to the inner temple is 500 Yen, and visitors can walk around the kaidan ordination (the dark corridors under the main hall - it is said that if you manage to touch the key below the principle image, you will secure entry into paradise).
The picure shows the large incense burner in front of the main hall - the smoke is said to purify your body.
Zenkoji Temple - Sanmon Gate
This gate is 20 m tall, with a double-layered roof. It is an Important Cultural Property in Japan. The sign on the roof reads "Zenkoji Temple".
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