Zenkôji monastery, (in) Nagano, Nagano Prefecture, JP

Raw data

Zenkôji’s main object of worship is an Amida (Amitābha) icon believed to be the oldest Buddhist statue from the Korean Kingdom of Kudara in Japan. According to the Zenkôji engi, it originated in India and was sent to Japan as a gift by the king of Kudara in 552. In 602 it was taken to Shinano province by one Honda Zenkô, who apparently rescued it from the river where it had been cast by the Mononobe Shinto ritualists, during their losing battle against the Soga clan. Zenkô received imperial permission to found a temple in 642, which was eventually named after him.

Archaeological excavations in 1926 and 1952 uncovered tiles with patterns resembling Kawaradera tiles of the Hakuhô era (6th century). There is evidence of large structures in existence by the end of the 7th century.

In the Kamakura period (1185–1333), the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo and his wife’s family, the powerful Hojo clan, gave estates to Zenkôji. Famous priests and military leaders visited regularly. The temple became particularly attractive to women after it became a Jôdo sect institution. Tokugawa Ieyasu donated 1000 koku of agricultural land.

-Uryû (2003: 209)
-“Zenkôji no gaiyô” http://www.zenkoji.jp/about/index.html

Zenkôji lies on the Hokkoku Kaido overland trade route —“Zenkôji” http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/善光寺 [More precisely, the Hokkoku Nishi Kaido (West Road), "which linked Seba (present Shiojiri City) on the Nakasendo Road and Tanbajima (present Nagano City)" - "Nippon-kichi http://nippon-kichi.jp/article_list.do;jsessionid=B1E379B30B78445B0DB3FD1C7C7C624C?kwd=297&ml_lang=en]

Today, Zenkôji is jointly managed by the Tendai sect and the Jôdo sect. The campus includes the Tendai-affiliated Daikanjin hall, the Jôdo-affiliated Dahongan hall, 25 buildings, over 30 lodges for guests, and 14 monk administrators.

-“Zenkôji” http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/善光寺

“O Kaidan Meguri or ‘Walking in the Pitch Dark Tunnel’ lies under the Main Altar of the temple where you can experience going through the ordination platform designed to be used during the ordination rites of the priests. It's very dark and requires a great deal of touch and feel as you go. Along the way try to find and touch the key that is reputedly the one to unlock paradise.”
-“Explore the Heart of Japan: Zenkoji Temple, Nagano” http://myoko-nojiri.com/zenkoji_temple/

Input by: Lizbeth H. Piel, Aug 17, 2010

Final data (and their sources)

Last updated: 19 Jul 2014

Lat/Long coordinates' accuracy:
The monastery in question is assumed to be situated actually no farther than 200 m from the point defined by the coordinates below.

Location of Zenkoji monastery, JP.

General location of the Zenkoji monastery, JP.
Lat 36.661667 Long 138.187778
Mapping & images: Falling Rain Genomics (http://www.fallingrain.com), 2010.

Google Map link:


Final data - explanatory notes

1. Monastery's name

  • Zenkôji 善光寺. Alternative English spelling: Zenkô-ji, Zenkoji

2. Monastery's modern country & province

  • Japan: Nagano Prefecture

3. Monastery's alternative/historical names

  • Jôkakuzan - Uryû (2003: 209)

4. Monastery's lat/long coordinates

5. Other known nearby Buddhist monasteries

  • [missing data]

6. Modern name of the known nearest city, town, or village

  • Nagano-shi (Motoyoshi City), Motoyoshi-chô

7. The settlement's alternative/historical names

8. The settlement's coordinates

9. Monastery's major Buddhist tradition

  • Mahayana

10. Monastery's Buddhist sub-tradition

  • Tendai (after the 8th century)

11. Date-early

MBM chrono-tag 0633-66c - tmciolek 19 Jul 2014
0633-66c 0667-99c 0700-32c 0733-66c 0767-99c 0800-32c 0833-66c 0867-99c 0900-32c 0933-66c 0967-99c 1000-32c 1033-66c 1067-99c 1100-32c 1133-66c 1167-99c 1200=> dated-el

12. Date-intermediate

  • [missing data]

13. Date-late

MBM chrono-tag 1200=> - tmciolek 19 Jul 2014

14. Details of contacts with other monasteries

  • [missing data]

15. Type of evidence regarding the monastery

  • Architecture, documents, archeology

16. Additional notes

  • [missing data] (incl. details of the size of the monastic population)

17. Corrections & addenda to this page were kindly provided by

  • [missing data]

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