Sunday, January 27, 2013

National Treasure, Zenkoji Temple

In this time, we came to Nagano city, which is known for Nagano Olympic.  Near Nagano station, there is a very old and famous temple, called Zenkoji temple.  It is about 25 minutes walk or 15 minutes by bus from the station.  

If you walk to the temple, you can see the square which was used for awards ceremony of the Olympic.      

Walking to the temple, you will see the first gate, Niomon (Deva gate).  Two guardian deities welcome you for the temple.  Take a look at the sophisticated carvings.   

Going through the Deva gate, next you will see Wet Jizo and Six Jizo on the right side.  Jizo is a Bodhisattva, a deity who postponed Buddha hood to save others. Wet Jizo serves as a prayer for protection of the temple from fire.  Six Jizos are our protectors of the next six realms; hell, hungry ghosts, animals, Asura, humans and heavenly beings.  Each of these Jizo protects one of the six realms.  

Can you see the sixth Jizo in front puts her leg outside?  This Jizo is ready to save people as soon as she can.            

Finally you can see the main hall.  It is said that the start of this temple is about 1400 years ago.  Since it started in the very old time even Buddhism has not been completely established in Japan, this temple welcome all prayers, regardless of gender, creed or any religious belief.    

Would you like to try Buddhism training?  In the underneath of this mail hall, there is a pitch-black tunnel which you can walk in and can touch the key to Heaven.  I was so scared to go in the tunnel because it was totally black, absolutely no light!  I had to walk only by touching the right side wall.  This is the lesson of Buddhism, you can engage in self-reflection and spiritual awakening.  

Then what is actually in the back of the door keyed in the tunnel?  In there, it is said that the oldest Buddha image in Japan are enshrined.  However, anbody hasnot seen the hidden image for more than 1300 years even the monks in this temple, so it is a mystery here if the image exists or not.  Even the copy of the image can be seen once seven years.  

After the Buddha lesson, let's walk around the temple.  Restaurants and souvenir shops are there.  At Sake shop Yoshinoya (not the beef bowl chain) on the sidewalk of the temple, you can try sake tasting and can see inside of sake factory.

Find your favorite Sake!

Around this temple, there are 39 lodgings for pilgrims as well.  Each lodge has Buddha hall and its monk, sometimes the monk can guide you in Zenkoji temple.  For dinner, you can taste vegetarian meal for pilgrims.  If you visit Zenkoji temple, you can stay at these lodgings.   

Nagano Shinkansen (bullet train) is the most convenient to go to Nagano.  It takes about 1.5 hours from Tokyo.
Zenkoji Temple  
491, Motoyoshi-cho, Nagano city, Nagano  ZIP: 380-0851

Admission fee needed to enter the mail hall and black tunnel, JPY500 per person.
The hall is open from 8:00 to 16:00, it changes a little by seasons.

Experience Japan!

View Zenkoji Temple in a larger map