Zenkoji Temple

The largest temple in eastern Japan and a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture

Zenkoji Temple is said to have been founded in 644, long before Buddhism was divided into various sects.
Known since the Heian period (794-1192) as a temple for women’s salvation, it has attracted many worshippers since that time.

By the end of the Edo period (1603-1867), it was believed that a pilgrimage to Zenkoji Temple should be made at least once in one’s lifetime, and that a visit to the temple would lead to rebirth in paradise.

The main hall is designated as a national treasure.
It has a unique structure called “douki zukuri,” in which a long hall is placed in front of the Buddha hall, and when viewed from above, the line of the main building is in the shape of a “chouji”.

Construction was completed in 1707. With a frontage of 24 meters, a depth of 54 meters, and a height of 26 meters, it is a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture in the mid-Edo period and the largest in eastern Japan.

The main image of Ikko-Sanson Amida Nyorai, said to be the oldest in Japan, is a hidden Buddha, and its opening is held in the front main sanctuary.

Many souvenir stores and restaurants line the Nakamise Street along the approach to the temple.
Like Zenkoji Temple, many of these stores have a long history, and visitors can taste oyaki, a local delicacy made by wrapping ingredients in a flour skin, Shinshu miso paste, Shinshu soba noodles, and more.
Hachimanya Isogoro’s “Shichimi Karakashi” (seven-flavor mustard), which has been available since the Edo period (1736), is a standard souvenir.

Contest for Zenkoji Nyorai
During the Warring States period (1467-1568), feudal lords moved Zenkoji Nyorai from place to place, relocating it to their own territory (home base).

Toyotomi Hideyoshi had moved Zenkoji Nyorai to the Great Buddha Hall of Hokoji Temple as a new principal image to replace the Hokoji Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kyoto), which was damaged in the Keicho-Fushimi Earthquake, but at his death, he returned it to Zenkoji Temple.

Since then, Zenkoji Nyorai has never been moved to another location.

Visiting Zenkoji on an ox-drawn cart
A proverb,
It means that an unexpected event leads you to the right direction by chance.
It is a translation of an anecdote.

There once lived a greedy and mean old woman in Shinano Province.
One day, while she was washing a cloth in the river and hanging it out to dry, a cow appeared, hooked it by the horns, and ran away.

The old woman got angry and chased the cow as hard as she could until she reached Zenkoji Temple.

However, the old woman lost sight of the cow and was at her wit’s end after dark, so she had no choice but to spend the night in the main hall of Zenkoji Temple.

That night, Nyorai Buddha stood in her dream and told her, “Do not spend your time thinking about what the cow did, but about your own heart that will lead you to the path of Buddha.

After waking up, the grandmother gave up her personal desires and became deeply religious, visiting Zenkoji temple frequently.

Finally, she achieved rebirth in paradise.


Zenkoji Temple
Official Site
491 Motozen-cho, Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture
Telephone number
Hours of operation

5:30 - 16:30

Admission fee

Ticket for the inner sanctuary (for both the inner sanctuary and the Zenkoji Historical Museum)
Adults 500 yen
High school students 200 yen
50 yen for elementary and junior high school students

Entrance to the temple gate
Adults 500 yen
High school students: 200 yen
50 yen for elementary and junior high school students

Parking lot
290 spaces for regular vehicles, 57 spaces for large vehicles

20 minutes drive from Nagano IC [10km].
20 min. by car from Suzaka Nagano Higashi IC [10km].
10 minutes by bus from JR Hokuriku (Nagano) Shinkansen Nagano Station

Nagano Nagano city, Togakushi, Obuse Koshinetsu
Temples Shrines, Temples, Churches


Nagano city, Togakushi, Obuse