I had the privilege of visiting Nagano recently. It was fantastic. Nagano’s a gorgeous city, surrounded on all sides by majestic mountains. It’s also not super big, so you can walk pretty much the whole city, given a day set aside to that end. The walk from Nagano Station to Zenko-ji was only about an hour, and it was a nice walk along snowy but well-maintained streets lined with cute small businesses and interesting architecture. The temple complex itself was massive. We didn’t have time to see the whole place, as it was getting dark and the shops and such were closing, but even from the outside in it was a real treat to look at all the old temple buildings.
I’d love another chance to visit Zenko-ji in the future. There was so much more to see. I’d especially like to go inside the temple buildings and say a prayer for world peace or something. I’ve just got to make a point to go earlier in the day next time, so I can properly appreciate the sheer number of outbuildings. If you ever get a chance to go to Nagano, make sure your itinerary includes a visit to Zenko-ji. It’s huge, it’s beautiful, and it’s surrounded by shops and restaurants. It’s worth many visits.
Pictured below is a pagoda retrofitted to act as a museum for the temple. It was closed by the time we discovered it nestled in the trees behind the main temple, but it sure looks like it hosts a lot of interesting tidbits about the place and its history!