Zenkoji Temple (善光寺): Temple from bygone days (Nagano Trip Series)

Previously, we went to Castle, Museum and hung out with monkeys. However, it feels like a bit incomplete if you don’t visit Japanese Temple.

This blog, I will take you to the one that is still less known for tourists but is considered as heart of Buddhism in Japan. I will introduce you to World Heritage Temple with history of 1,400 years.

Zenkoji Temple (善光寺)

Zenkoji Temple

It was established more than 1,400 years ago but the main inner temple was built 300 years ago. The structure was influenced by the style of Edo (江戸) era.

The story of this temple began in 7th century as a villager, named Yoshimitsu Honda (本田善光), found Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai (一光三尊阿弥陀三尊) which is believed that it was the first Buddha statue entering Japan. Later, the temple was built and named after its founder (善光).

「Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai」の画像検索結果

Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai
Resource: onmarkproductions.com

Until now, the Buddha Statue has been preserved and prohibited from being displayed to public. Only the High Priests are allowed to see this statue during the time of important ceremony. It is also called Hibutsu (Secret Buddha) or a hidden Buddha statue.

resource :http://www.gokaicho.com/

However, we are able to see the duplicate one during the Gokaicho (御開帳) which is Nagano Prefecture’s festival every 7 years. Click>>>

Resource: Hisgo Thailand

Many may get confused by its name as it sounds similar to Sensoji Temple (浅草寺), a famous Temple with giant red lantern in Asakusa,Tokyo.Zenkoji Temple and Sensoji Temple share similar structure as both have giant gate with huge guardian statues and hallway to the main temple, full of souvenir shops and food. The difference is just the Red Lantern.

However, there are so many tourists visiting Sensoji Temple all the time. I think it is more cooler if we explore place that is less known but has rich history like Zenkoji Temple, don’t you agree?




We will start from Tokyo Station and head to Nagano Station (Red Dot) by Hokuriku Shinkansen (Green Line). It takes around 1 hr. 30 minutes and if you have any JR PASS, riding the Shinkansen will not be any problem for you.

Tokyo Station –> Nagano Station (Hokuriku Shinkansen) 1 hr. 30 minutes

Which Pass can you use? (Tokyo to Nagano)

Here’s the scenery of Japan Alp from Shinkansen!
Arrival at Nagano Sta.!
In front of station, this bus will take you to the temple (15 mins).


This is our stop. Don’t forget to come back here when you leave. (No.2 Stop)

Around the Temple

Along the way from entrance to main gate

Zenkoji Niomon (善光寺仁王門)

Zenkoji Niomon (善光寺仁王門)

This is the main gate of the temple, made by wood with height of 5 meters!. It was made more than 250 years!.   



The 6 statues of Bodhisattvas who traveled the 6 realms as hell, starvation, beasts, carnage, human beings and divine beings to provide salvation to others according to Buddhism history.

Wet Buddha (濡れ仏-延命地蔵)

Wet Buddha (濡れ仏-延命地蔵)

It stands next to the 6 statues. The meaning of Wet represents the reminiscence of the great conflagration during Edo era.

Sanmon Gate (山門) 

Sanmon Gate (山門) 

World Heritage Wooden Gate stands in front of the main temple. We can see the golden sign of Zonkoji temple here.

Japanese people always place Incense Stick here and wave the smoke to them as a symbal of good luck
The main area of the temple. Too bad, we are not allowed to take photos 

Kaidanmeguri (戒壇巡り)

Source: www.zenkoji.jp/ Kaidanmeguri (戒壇巡り)

One of the main highlights of this temple.100 meter of Pitch-black corridor lies below the temple

Local people believe that Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai is placed above this dark corridor and there is a key that connects to the statue. Those who touch this key are believed to be able to go to heaven. So, this corridor has another name as “The Stair Way to Heaven”   

Scenery of the day

It is my favorite temple in Japan.

That’s it for today. I hope you guys enjoy reading this blog. If you want to visit rich history and see Japan’s temple in the new way, you should definitely check this place out. I am sure that you will not be disappointed. You might find the key to heaven, who knows lol!


Visit my previous blog about Nagano Prefecture

Blog : Nagano Trip Series (Teaser)
Blog : Matsumoto Castle (松本城) The Crow Castle
Blog : Jigokudani (地獄谷): Snow Monkey Hot Spring
Blog :Obuse (小布施): City of Chestnut & Mt.Fuji Painting
Blog : Shibu Onsen (渋温泉): Hot Spring Village

As always, if you have any questions or any suggestions, feel free to massage me any time at  H.I.S Live Chat System.





6 thoughts on “Zenkoji Temple (善光寺): Temple from bygone days (Nagano Trip Series)

  1. Thank you so much for your comment. I am glad you like this article. Please visit Japan again if you have time. This place is worth coming back more than once or twice!


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