Nagano Zenkoji Temple in Koyo

Nagano is a really wonderful town with a spectacular temple, the Nagano Zenkoji Temple. Nagano of course is famous for the 1998 Winter Olympics and symbols from that event still remain. It’s also shockingly close to Tokyo. And quite doable if you’d like to simply make a day trip out of it. Tokyo station to Nagano station is only 86 minutes by Shinkansen.

Of course Nagano is a ski resort town and also known for its monkey park (like the one in Arashiyama). But the Jigokudani in Nagano is a hot steam monkey park. English website for the monkey park is here and taking 1 hour and 30 minutes by bus from Nagano station it’s definitely something you’ll have to spend the whole day on.

I went back in 2011 (previous post of getting lost in the apple orchards of Nagano). And figured this was a great time to share because it was koyo time in Nagano (mid November). The Nagano Zenkoji is massive and one of the best temples I’ve been to outside of Kyoto. But instead of all this talking let’s photo and  talk.

 

The walk is one of my favorite things about the Nagano Zenkoji. It’s on high and you’re surrounded by gorgeous mountains in full koyo colors. And the shops are all these mom-and-pop businesses.

Almost to the temple check out those gorgeous koyo colors. Even a cloudy day won’t dim this.

The main temple itself which was massive.

I love when temple ema get cutesy. I’ve blogged about cute ema in Nara that were heart-shaped but Rilakkuma ema?

It’s the simple needs, isn’t it?  :wink:

The Rokujizo statutes six Bodhisattvas, who gave up Buddhist enlightenment, in order to provide salvation to others.

Close-up of one of the Rokujizo

Super cool incense burner

The Sanmon gate which was refurbished in 2007. Now you can see the giant Buddhist statues inside. Obviously that statue did not need to be asked if he lifts.

Just outside the temple is a super fancy building that must house a restaurant. Check that wonderful red maple.

Further down the way all the gorgeous places now turned to nice restaurants.

I stopped by Kinoko & Vegetable to eat. It’s on the Zenkoji road. I highly recommend it! It was an all you can eat buffet of mainly vegetables. Everything was locally sourced and seasonal. It was only 1,400 yen for all you can eat. So many vegetables. I will definitely eat there again.

The crowd down the temple street. Check out the JRock band on the right. I think there were semi-famous because some people were taking pictures. I know 0 about JRock so…

I loved the look of the coffee shops that line the cold Nagano street. See the cute coffee mug?

Another coffee shop offering traditional Zenzai (red bean soup) sweets.

Tiny little stalls that lined the temple road.

And Nagano itself since it’s not just monkey parks, apple orchards and shrines. It’s a bustling town.

This was a day trip for me from Niigata to Sendai. I was able to enjoy Zenkoji easily but not do the monkey park because of staying in Sendai that night.

Traveling Japan can be inexpensive! I spent 1,400 on food. 200 on beverages. And 1,000 on a train ticket because I got lost. The temple was free. So in total 2,600 yen for a detour or $25 USD.

Want more Nagano posts? Only the apple one here

Want more traveling around Japan posts? I’ve got you covered from Sendai to Kagoshima 

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3 Comments

  1. November 6, 2014 / 5:44 am

    This will be one of the places I’ll visit once I get the chance to go to Japan. :)

  2. November 7, 2014 / 5:23 am

    This looks wonderful! My travel to Japan is always on a budget because of ticket cost; I will definitely keep Nagano in mind for a trip.

  3. November 9, 2014 / 2:28 am

    These photos are absolutely beautiful, and what’s funny is that Nagano has always been on my “to visit” list for the longest time. I never understood why I felt so connected to this place. But I think it’s a stroke of serendipity that I’ve found your post after looking up hotels in Nagano recently.

    That being said, let’s talk about your post, ahaha. These photos are beautiful, honestly. The temple looks absolutely majestic and the lineup of mom and pop shops is awesome. I love stuff like that; it feels homey, to some degree, especially since it’s not a constant sight for me. I didn’t know that ema came in different styles, but I guess I’m not too surprised that the first one I see is Rilakkuma, because of its popularity, ye.

    I love the statue at the gate. It’s so inspired and absolutely wicked awesome. I’m also digging that red maple tree; it looks like something out of a popup book. Also, if I visited that restaurant, I’m pretty sure I would gorge myself because 1’400 yen would go the distance with me, y’know. I love how a lot of other countries [or continents in Europe’s case] have inexpensive travelling within itself. It’s something I could never think of as an American, because interstate travel is ridiculously expensive here, holy shit. And the cheaper alternatives are draining.

    Thak you so much for this post and the pictures!

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