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“Grand Temple”
Review of Zenko-ji Temple

Zenko-ji Temple
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Full-Day Tour of Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple and Sake in Nagano
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Nagano Day Trip from Tokyo: Snow Monkeys, Hot Springs and Zenko-ji Temple
Ranked #1 of 158 things to do in Nagano
Certificate of Excellence
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Reviewed February 10, 2013

It's nearly impossible to miss Zenkoji.

Straight out of the Nagano Station, start walking up towards the hill, and you'll find yourself standing before the main gate.

Pass through the towering gate, and you are now in the shopping area, where vendors sell souvenirs, snacks and meals in buildings that give off an edo-era like feeling.

Through the main entrance of the Zenkoji gate is the courtyard with large incense pot.

For ¥100, you may grab a bundle of incense and light it by using the pot's fire, then toss the stack inside the pot. This will generate large amount of smoke, and you fan the smokes to your body, especially to the areas where you may have incurred injury, to hope for good health and fast recovery.

The main shrine houses, of course, praying area with statues of Buddha, but also has a little bit of surprise. With a small fee, roughly ¥500, you can enter the basement pathway.

This pathway contains absolutely no lights. It is pitch dark and no lights are provided, nor are they advised to be used, and the only way to know where you are is by touching the wooden walls of the rather tight pathway.

The whole point of walking through the basement pathway is to touch the small door handle towards the end and make a wish.

Because of this door, and the fact that there's no real way to tell how far the person ahead of you is, there are a lot of bumping into strangers and touching hands.

Once you have finished your tour around Zenkouji, head down the hills to find amazing restaurants and izakayas (Japanese style bars).

Nagano is famous for their delicious soba noodles, but their ramens tend to be just as delicious.

1  Thank SooChan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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279 - 283 of 1,461 reviews

Reviewed January 29, 2013

We loved the tranquility of the temple and the surrounding gardens were so beautiful especially with some snow....well worth a visit!

Thank Ruth K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 29, 2012

When you travel to Europe you visit churches, and when you travel to Asia you visit temples. It's hard to keep them all separate in your head, but Zenkoji really stood out. It's a large complex of old building that are in an amazing state of preservation (after having been rebuilt a number of times). The highlights of the tour is the pitch-black tunnel in the basement, and the Dali Lama built mandala that is preserved inside the pagoda in the back.

Thank Salsa_Dave
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 26, 2012

This is one of the most beautiful temples we have seen in all of Japan. It is huge with lovely surrounding gardens. We walked from JR station. It is a slightly uphill walk but reasonably easy even if unfit. It takes around 30 minutes but there are plenty of buses that take you up from the station for ¥150. The buses are clean marked. We strolled up and back. You can see a lot for free but we paid the ¥500 to enter and we had a lovely English speaking gentleman explain the history of the temple. You get to go underground and walk through a tunnel of pure darkness. They believe that this is what life after death is like until you enter paradise. There is a door you feel for in the darkness and it signifies the door to paradise. There are some lovely shops leaving up to the buildings selling many food items and souvenirs. We picked up some chili and apple Kit Kats. Try the local delicacy Okayi, a bun stuffed with various vegetables, steamed then baked. I tried mushroom and radish which was delicious but slightly greasy. Be sure to schedule Zenkoji into your visit to Nagano.

Thank tsutt35
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 24, 2012

It's a beautiful building for a lovely shrine ... it's unique as Zenkoji doesn't favour any one religion. Doesn't take long to see ...

Thank Vanessa Y
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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