About Zenko-ji Temple
Around 600 AD, a statue arrived to Japan. This statue was the first Buddhist statue in Japan and was enshrined in the Zenko-ji Temple, the Virtuous Light Temple. The temple grew from just a local temple into a major pilgrimage destination and the city of Nagano was built around the religious site. These days, the temple is still the heart of the city, and the reason for Nagano becoming the thriving capital of the prefecture of Nagano.
The temple complex is large, with 39 temples dedicated to various deities. The biggest treasure of Zenko-ji is the main hall, the third largest wooden temple in Japan and the place where the Buddhist statue is hidden. The road leading up to the main hall is called Nakamise, a street lined by cafes selling local foods and drinks and shops displaying souvenirs and Buddhist artifacts.
O-asaji, or morning practice, is held every day at the temple and is worth seeing if staying overnight at Nagano City. The morning ceremony is held at first light, when the head priest and head priestess come out of their respective temples and pray at the main hall. Their prayers are accompanied by monks singing sutras and playing the drums. After you’ve been blessed by either the head priestess or priest, make your way down the tunnel to find the Key to Paradise.
If you want to completely purify yourself, you can rid yourself of all sins by finding the Key to Paradise in Zenko-ji’s tunnel in the main hall. The Key to Paradise can be found by walking to the main sanctuary and going down a set of stairs into a pitch-black tunnel, where you’ll walk with your hand on the wall until you feel the Key which will cleanse you of all impurities.
Tour to the Zenko-ji Temple
Visit the most important temple of Nagano City led by an English speaking guide. Teaching you all the ins and outs of this 1700 year old Buddhist Temple.
General Information about Zenko-ji Temple
April to Sept.・ Sunrise – 16:30
Oct. to March ・ Sunrise – 16:00
Price for the Key to Paradise:
Per adult (18+) ・ ¥500
Per young adult (13-18)・¥200
Per child (6-12)・¥50
Motoyoshicho-491, Nagano, Nagano Prefecture 380-0851
Tours & Charters
How to get to Zenko-ji Temple
Tokyo Station → Nagano Station → Zenko-ji Temple:
1. From Tokyo Station to Nagano Station (1.5 hours):
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to JR Nagano Station.
2. From JR Nagano Station to Zenko-ji Temple (10 minutes)
Get out off the Zenko-ji Exit of Nagano Station and get on the bus heading for Zenko-ji Temple. Get off the bus at Zenko-ji Daimon and walk up the road for 5 minutes.