Nagano

The Japanese have long been told to visit Zenkoji Temple at least once in their lifetime. The 1,400-year-old temple is one of Japan’s most important pilgrimage sites since the 7th century and is regarded as a National Treasure.

 

NAGANO SERIES:
• MATSUMOTO CITY GUIDE: TOP 10 ACTIVITIES!
• MATSUMOTO CASTLE: Guide & Tips for Tourists!
• SUWA, NAGANO: Guide to Nagano’s Lakeside City!
• Zenkoji: Guide To Nagano’s 1400-Year-Old Temple!
• NAGANO, JAPAN: Top 10 Things To Do!

HOW TO GET THERE

By Train
Tokyo and Nagano are connected to each other by the Hokuriku Shinkansen. The one-way trip, fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass, takes 80-100 minutes and costs about 8,000 yen. There are multiple trains per hour.

Good walkers can reach the temple approach in about half an hour from Nagano Station. Alternatively, you may take a train from the underground Nagaden Nagano Station next to JR Nagano Station and go down at Zenkojishita Station (4 minutes, 170 yen, 2-3 trains per hour), from which it is a 5-10 minute walk to the temple.

 

Zenkoji Temple

Nagano

Walk from the main streets of Nagano Station towards Zenkoji Temple called the “Chuo Dori,” and you’ll find plenty of restaurants, souvenir shops and lodging that’s very convenient for pilgrims and tourists from all over Japan!

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Take your time to explore the rest of the grounds. We walked until we reached the bustling stone paved street shopping area called Nakamise. Treat yourself to local specialties such as soba, oyaki and miso-flavored soft cream. You’ll make tons of discoveries along the way!

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Zenkoji houses the first Buddhist statue to come to Japan. The temple was established 1,400 years ago, when Yoshimitsu Honda discovered the Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai, a hidden Buddhist statue that is completely withheld from the public eye.

I particularly loved the inner chamber where you can view the temple’s main altar from up close.

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Inside the temple, you can rub the worn wooden statue of the ancient doctor Binzuru, believed to miraculously relieve aches and pains whichever of its body parts you touched.

Of course, silly me touched the head because of the headache I had from having so many deadlines.

What attracts most of the visitors is the stairway pilgrimage. It was an exciting experience descending into the pitch-black  tunnel in the basement in search of the “key to paradise” that’s said to free you from all your sins. We loved it, plus we kind of believed we came out of the temple sin-free!

Zenkoji Temple
491, Motozen-machi, Nagano City
Opening Hours: 9:00 to 16:00
Admission: Y500 (Inner chamber)

 

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After visiting the Zenkoji Temple, we walked to nearby Byakurenbo temple lodge for the arts and craft shop on its first floor called Gallery Ren. It has a variety of handmade precious stones, glasswork and kaleidoscopes.

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My friend Gael from Pinay Solo Backpacker especially loved selecting the perfect dried flowers and precious stones to fill up her DIY kaleidoscope. It reminded her of her old jewelry making hobby.

Rate: Bead Bracelet Workshop: 2,500 yen
Kaleidoscope Workshop (Regular) : 2,160 yen
Kaleidoscope Workshop (Premium) : 3,000 yen

Gallery Ren
Website: http://www.iikoto.net/
465, Motoyoshicho, Nagano City

 

Where to Stay:

Nagano

We stayed at Hotel Metropolitan Nagano that’s literally right next to Nagano station, making going around the prefecture a breeze.

By the way, Don Quijote is just across the hotel if ever you’re looking for some last minute shopping. 🙂

Hotel Metropolitan Nagano
1346, Minami-ishido-cho, Nagano city, Nagano prefecture 380-0824, Japan
website: www.hotelmetropolitan-nagano.jp


NAGANO SERIES:
• MATSUMOTO CITY GUIDE: TOP 10 ACTIVITIES!
• MATSUMOTO CASTLE: Guide & Tips for Tourists!
• SUWA, NAGANO: Guide to Nagano’s Lakeside City!
• Zenkoji: Guide To Nagano’s 1400-Year-Old Temple!
• NAGANO, JAPAN: Top 10 Things To Do!

Live an Awesome Life,


ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: We were media guests of Nagano Tourism. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.