Friday, 10 September 2010

Nagano - Zenkouji,

Friday morning we were up respectably early and took the expressway directly to Nagano city, a temple town that has grown up around Zenkouji.  Zenkouji, a popular temple for pilgrims,  is said to house the oldest image of Buddha in Japan. No living person has actually seen the image though - it's stored in box in an altar and the rules say it can't be opened.  I read that the last time it was opened was in the 1700s - I guess at this stage better not to open it - it would be a terrible stress if it had actually been pilfered...  It does seem a pity to box it away though...


The temple is also notable for being non denominational. Though, since there is a Tendai and a Jodo  (different sects of Mahayanan  Buddhism) temple within the precinct, I wonder if the term multi-denominational may be more appropriate.  Zenkoji is also unusual in that it has both a head priest and head priestess. I am not sure if they have equal status or not.

Zenkouji also has a strong link with Tibet. In the lead up to the Beijing Olympics  Zenkouji made headlines for pulling out of the torch relay in solidarity with Tibetans.   When the Dalai Lama was in Japan last month his main public appearance was in Nagano City where he also blessed a Tibetan style mandala which is in the main temple building there.

In the main building of the temple there is an underground passage that contains a secret key - apparently finding the key means gaining Enlightenment. The tunnel was pitch black & I mean pitch black.  I needed to clutch the wall to have any idea which way to walk as Hiro had walked on, oblivious to the fact I don't have ninja genes...  The upside was I had no trouble finding the key - conveniently located on the right hand side of the wall I was clutching - Hiro had walked straight passed it.  Lacking ninja blood, but gaining Englightement.... I'll confess to feeling rather smug :)

From Zenkouji we made our way to Renge Onsen via Hakuba.

Three of the six jizo in front of the temple.

Miso flavoured soft serve on sale in the market in front of the temple!


Anonymous said...

Alas, I wasn't able to find the key when I was there. I remain unenlightened.

Cecilia said...

Perhaps you are a Ninja! :)

Nakamuras on Saipan said...

Very interesting post! It looks like the edges of the Momiji trees are turning color already?

illahee said...

very beautiful temple!

Cecilia said...

It was a pretty temple.

I wondered about the momiji leaves too. It was so hot in Nagano though (34 ish anyway) that I wondered if it was more from the long hot dry spell that they were feeling the heat.