Rokujizō at Zenkō-ji Temple, Nagano


After spending some quality time with the Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani Park  and exploring the Winter Wonderland of Yamanouchi, I decided to spend what was left of my weekend and quickly explore the city of Nagano.

Famous for  hosting the 1984 Winter Olympics, my intention was to visit several museums and facilities highlighting the past sporting event, but these Olympic related places are only reachable on a 1 bus per hour basis commute. Wanting to reach Tokyo by 7pm within the day, instead I opted to explore MinamiNagano area.

Taking the aptly name Zenko-ji Exit from the JR Nagano Station will bring you to the main road- Chuo Dori.  Although can be navigated by local tourist bus, like many other times walking and wandering around is the best way to enjoy the area.

Surrounded by mountains and with roads just recently cleared of yesterday’s snow fall, walking along Chuo Street is definitely a tourist experience itself.  With few cars passing by, several notable architectures and the shopping area of Nagano Gondo, the area is so clean and well-preserved, I can only imagine how beautiful it  must be back in 1984.

At the end of Chuo Dori street, you will see a wooden gate with two wooden structure guards (Nio-mon Gate) marking the entrance to Zenko-ji Temple. Said to be Japan’s primary center of Buddhist faith for almost 1400 Years and attracts 6 million visitors per year, the temple is a testament of the masterpiece associated with Buddhist architecture.

Continue to walk straight ahead of Nakamise shopping street and it will lead you to the temple main hall (Hondō). Before entering the sawara cypress wooded gate of San-mon, on the right side you will see huge, aligned six Jizo statue (Rokujizō).

Hell, hungry ghosts, animals, carnage, human, heavenly beings – each Jizō is said to represent the above six realms and protect souls as its passes each territory, before it achieves full enlightenment.

Opposite the Rokujizō statues are the temple houses (Daihongan), residences of the high priestess.

Behind San-mon gate is the main temple hall. Built in 1707 and designated as national treasure, it is the third largest wooden structure in Japan.  On the right corner of the main temple is the bell of Zenko-ji which was rang to mark the start of the 1984 Olympic, together with wish for  world  peace.

The temple ground of Zenko-ji is quite spacious. Located at the back of the main hall are small pagoda and several stone lanterns when mixed with snow make up for one outstanding view.

I don’t think I will ever get bored visiting many of Japan’s temples and shrines. Each one of them has certain characteristics that will make you feel like you are seeing the gates, pagodas or the bell for the first time.  Regardless of which season, they are a sight and a treasure to appreciate.

24 thoughts on “Rokujizō at Zenkō-ji Temple, Nagano

  1. “I don’t think I will ever get bored visiting many of Japan’s temples and shrines.” neither would i! amazing that japan still has snow at this time of the year!

  2. Thanks for sharing, I have always wanted to go to Japan and now I think I want to go even more!! Love the images, they are really beautiful.

  3. I remember going there a few winters ago.
    The temple is truly beautiful in winter – and your photos display that very well!
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. thank you !
      i agree with you, though some temples in Japan goes well with autumn foliage or cherry blossom, this particular one is perfect during winter 🙂

  4. The snow on the statues and stone lanterns are so beautiful. I don’t think I could LIVE in snow country, but I love visiting it. I often go to Niigata, but I’ve never been to Nagano. I enjoyed experiencing it via your stories.

    PS: I’ve just thought of something: from Dubai’s deserts to Nagano’s snow. You do travel, don’t you? 😉

    1. me too, i don’t think i will survive in a snow country..too experience it for a short time should be enough 🙂
      my line of work is a blessing somehow having a chance to travel and live overseas..
      not sure after this japan stint what’s next, south africa maybe? 🙂

  5. I went to Zenko-ji in the summer time. Your pictures make me want to visit in the winter, or at least when it’s snowy. It looks so beautiful with the snow around it.

  6. I love your blog. I’ve always had a fascination with the far east, and Japan in particular. Thank you for letting me in on some of it’s greatest of places. Your photography is very good as well!

  7. One of my favorite places in Nagano! I went to a lantern festival there in Feb. 2011. As always, great photos. I especially love the contrasts between the snow, the sky, and the red colors of the temple and statues.

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