61 Best Sights in The Japan Alps and the North Chubu Coast, Japan

Zenko-ji Temple

Nagano's unusual temple is the final destination each year for millions of religious pilgrims. Since the 7th century, this nonsectarian Buddhist temple has accepted believers of all faiths and admitted women when other temples forbade it. Each morning the head priest (Tendai sect) and head priestess (Jodo sect) hold a joint service to pray for the prosperity of the assembled pilgrims (usually on tour packages). Visitors rub the worn wooden statue of the ancient doctor Binzuru (Pindola Bharadvaja in Sanskrit) for relief of aches and pains. After the service, descend into the pitch-black tunnel in the basement to find the iron latch on the wall; seizing it is said to bring enlightenment.

The temple is a 3-km (2-mile) walk from the station or, from 8:35 onwards, you could take the Gururin-go or retro Binzuru-go buses from the station (¥150, 10 minutes). They run every 15 minutes. Those buses aren't running in time for the morning service, however, which starts from 5:30 to 7 am, depending on the season, so you might want to ask your hotel to reserve a taxi for that.

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4--9--1 Motoyoshi, Nagano, 380-0851, Japan
026-234–3591
Sights Details
Rate Includes: ¥500 for the inner sanctuary