Nagano's Zenkoji Temple is one of the most important and popular temples in Japan. It was founded in the 7th century and stores the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan when Buddhism was first introduced in the 6th century. Zenko-ji Temple was founded in 642 when Yoshimitsu Honda enshrined one of the first Buddhist images brought to Japan, a statue of Amitabha (Amida), the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life. The Amida Triad is the temple’s principal image but it remains hidden from the public. A replica of the hidden Buddha is shown every 6 years, only for a few weeks. There are several small gardens with more flowering trees. If you stand near the photogenic bell tower long enough, you will be there when the ringer arrives, bows to the bell, and using the beam suspended on ropes strikes the bell which resonates for a very long time. Statues abound, especially the seven Jizo Bodhisattva at the Sanmon Gate. Many side buildings are more peaceful and less crowded than the main hall area and they too contain statues, bells, and lanterns. If you walk behind the main hall and up a bit, you arrive at the pagoda which contains the Zenkoji History Museum.
Here are two unusual events, Oasaji and Okaidan Meguri.
"Oasaji (morning Dharma servise)", which begins at the main hall at sunrise, is a strict memorial service for monks from all mountains of Zenkoj and is held 365 days a year. The start time changes depending on the season, so the schedule is uploaded with photos. Please refer. Oasaji takes place early in the morning, so if you're staying at the nearby Shukubo (pilgrim's lodging), we recommend visiting on foot.
Okaidan Meguri (Ordination Platform Tour) takes you through a pitch-black corridor that runs beneath the main hall. It is believed that by touching the "Lock of Sukhavati" just below the principal image of the secret Buddha, it is promised that you will be able to go to Sukhavati Jodo when you are carm dead.
If you are staying near Zenkoji, we recommend visiting this place from the inn on foot.
We recommend the following two parking lots. Please refer to the town map for details.
・ Official Daihongan parking (MC: 54 247 474 * 27) Located near the Niomon Gate, the main hall of Zenkoji Temple is about 400 meters away. You can also enjoy the atmosphere around the approach, so it is the most recommended. If you shop for 1000 yen or more at 80m west of the parking lot, you will get a free ticket for 3 hours.
・ Official parking No.1 (MC: 54 277 174 * 04) Located behind Zenkoji Temple. The fee is 500 yen for 2 hours and 200 yen for 1 hour after that.
Opening hours: You can enter the precincts at any time. Please refer to the Visitor Guide on the Zenkoji homepage, as the hours available for visiting paid facilities vary depending on the season.
About 3km from Nagano Station.