Zenkō-ji

Top choice in Nagano Region

Founded in the 7th century, National Treasure Zenkō-ji is home to the revered statue Ikkō-Sanzon, said to be the first Buddhist image to arrive in Japan (AD 552). Not even 37 generations of emperors have seen the image, though millions of visitors flock here to view a copy every seven years during the Gokaichō Matsuri. Zenkō-ji's immense popularity stems partly from its liberal welcoming of pilgrims, regardless of gender, creed or religious belief.

Its chief officiants are both a priest and a priestess. The current building dates from 1707.

Any bus from stop 1 in front of Nagano Station's Zenkō-ji exit will get you to the temple (¥150, about 10 minutes); alight at the Daimon stop. It takes about 30 minutes to walk up Chūō-dōri from the station to the temple.