My final destination in the Chubu region of Japan was the city of Nagano. I would only be there for a short stay and the only notable sightseeing I would be doing there would be at Zenkoji Temple. It was now late November, and consequently it was cold up in Nagano, but the sun was shining bright while I was in town and that helped a bit. Like so many other temples in Japan, a major shopping street leads up to the entrance of Zenkoji Temple. After touring the temple I’d pass through this shopping street again and I’d purchase some good ice cream, which will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.
Zenkoji Temple was founded in the 7th century and houses the very first Buddhist statue that was brought to Japan. Every six years a copy of the statue is put on display for the public and according to what I’ve read online the statue is being shown in Zenkoji right now (it will be on display until the 29th). Zenkoji’s main hall is large and has a very ornate interior but unfortunately I can’t show any of it because photography is forbidden inside. In the basement of the main hall visitors can search for the temple’s other famous artifact, a metal key known as the “key to paradise”. The key is attached to a wall in a pitch-black corridor and I’m pretty sure I found the key but I can’t really describe it much since it was completely dark down there. All I can say is that it felt like a strange door handle.
After touring the main hall I spent some time exploring the temple grounds. A pagoda near the mail hall is home to the temple’s museum where you can find a collection of statues and other Buddhist artwork. The setting sun really brought out the autumn colors in some of the temple’s trees and also added a golden tint to the main hall. Before it got dark I went back to my hostel to wrap up the day.
The next morning I paid a brief second visit to the temple before I left Nagano. There’s definitely more to see in Nagano beside Zenkoji Temple but I was rapidly running out of time on my 2019 journey and I couldn’t spare an extra day for the city. Having taken in the sights of the temple, I grabbed my backpack and made my way to the train station. Little did I know, this would actually be the last time that I would see mostly clear skies before leaving Japan.