Zenkoji Temple

Nagano City

Zenko-ji1 is one of the oldest temples in Japan, and a hugely popular pilgrimage site. It was founded in the 7th century. After many vicissitudes relating to the civil wars in early Japan, the temple was rebuilt at its current location during the 18th century. Significant restoration and new construction has also occurred in modern times.

Popular worship at the temple is Pure Land in flavor. Technically, though, the temple belongs to no particular sect because it was founded before the theological divisions of later Japanese Buddhism.

The temple is approached from the south. Niomon, its outer gate, is shown here during a morning ceremony. The Nio (guardian statues) were first carved in 1901, but they and the gate itself had to be recreated in 1918 after a devastating fire, just one of many in the temple's long history. The straw sandals, that are hanging in front of the statues, are pilgrims' footwear.

1"Zenko" is a Chinese reading of "Yoshimitsu Honda", the name of the legendary founder of the temple.