While most Japanese towns were built around castles and harbors, this town was constructed around the temple. This temple is one of the most predominant temples in Japan. Founded in the 7th century this temple houses the very first Buddhist statue ever to be brought to Japan when Buddhism was introduced in the 6th century. However, you will not see the original statue, you will only be able to see a copy. The original is shown to the public every six years for a few weeks. If you are planning on traveling to Nagano to see it, then make sure your trip coincides with the scheduled appearances of April 3 to May 29, 2022.
The temple was rebuilt in 1707 and is designed with various Buddhist statues and ornaments. Pay a small fee to enter the inner chamber where you can see the main altar up close. Continue through the basement to the underground passage where you will walk through total darkness in search of the “Key to Paradise”. This key is attached to a wall along the corridor and it is believed to grant salvation to all who touch it.
Behind the main hall stands a pagoda that houses the Zenkoji History Museum. This museum has a collection of intricately carved statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattva along with 100 Rakan, the disciples of Buddha.
The buildings lining the streets along the approach to the temple are mostly lodgings of those that would like to visit the temple at sunrise (Oasaji). During the Oasajj service, visitors receive blessings from the head priest or the priestess.
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