Zenko-ji temple in Nagano

- Pilgrimage to Zenkoji temple

This temple is located north of Nagano Prefecture, and was founded at the 7th century. It was already established before the separation of buddhism in Japan. This temple accepts everyone without any distinction, including women, unlike least recent temples. Consequently, this temple has always been visited for centuries.

During the Edo period, local roads have been constructed and traveling has become easier than before. People began to travel into the heart of mountains in Nagano. At the end of the Edo period, Zenko-ji was a highly visited temple which allowed the city of Nagano to grow and become nowadays, the prefectural city. Into the main part of Zenkoji temple stands the statue of Amida-sanzon-zo. This is the oldest statue of Japan, and a true national treasure. Once every 7 years, during the “Gokaicho” time, a replica is shown to public because the original statue is kept preciously and even the priests of Zenko-ji are not allowed to contemplate it.

Tourism in Zenko-ji is also popular due to “Okaidan-meguri” road, where visitors walk under the Ruri-dan with heads bent down, into total darkness. While they are moving along the wall, visitors are heading for the “Gokuraku no Jo-mae” (The paradise keyhole) which is under the Buddha statue. It says that if you touch it, you could place yourself in relation with Buddha to Paradise. This experience has a true connection with buddhism.

Usually, people are skeptical about how this experience could have any interest, but thanks to it, we learn all the secrets of meditation and concentration.  After touching the keyhole, we move into darkness, completely lost, but helped by concentration and the desire to reach the light as we wish to reach the awakening. And when we finally make it, we are dazzled by the light, relieved, and delighted by the wonders of the world around us. We realize how lucky we are to live in this world and grateful to our daylife. That is why these little road is synonymous of “Dojo”, a space for immersive learning and meditation.


Shukubo ~ Overnight in a temple ~

Lors de votre visite au temple Zenko-ji, nous vous recommandons de passer la nuit dans l’enceinte du temple que l’on appel Shukubo.
When you are visiting Zenko-ji temple, we highly recommend you to spend the night in a temple called in Japanese, “Shukubo”.
Formerly, a Shukubo was part of a temple that welcomed pilgrims came from far away, and these people aimed for a modest meal and for spending the night in the same place where monks lived. They purified their souls and their body. Nowadays, in the same way, Shukubo welcome tourists who enjoy to spend the night in a comfortable place, the facilities and the service being improved. It is quite different from the ascetic life pilgrims used to experience before but it keeps the willingness to share the buddhist culture to visitors who stay here.

There is also the opportunity to experience the Sha-Kyo (a soutra transcription) and the Sha-Butsiu. But above all, O-asa-ji is highly recommended. It means the reading of the soutra aloud by the monks in the main part of the temple. It starts between 5 am and 6:30 am. Visitors are down on their knees while receiving the benediction from the main monks, a man and a woman (no discrimination in this temple). While the monks are heading for the main part of the temple, they are praying aloud and visitors are listening to them. 
During the monks, men and women who are headding to the principal building at a full voice, the visitors can listen to the voice nearby.
If you stay in this temple, the guide person of shukubo will lead  you to listen to that.
After the "O-asa-ji", and "O-kaidan-meguri", you will have your breakfast.
The participation of "O-asa-ji" is not obligatory, but it is highly recommended to participate in this experience in early morning.


Related blogs 
Japanese Buddhist cuisine : SHOJIN-RYORI