The temple is quite of age but still going strong. Japan’s Zenkoji temple in the eloquent winter Olympics city of Nagano is all you imagine when thinking of an important Japanese temple or shrine: covered in clouds of incense, 1400 years old and flooded with 8 million yearly worshippers looking for luck and love in peculiar ways.
At Zenkoji the eternal quest for fortune during you short time on mother earth is molded into a form of sort of hide and seek. In a darkroom or better tunnel. Beneath the main temple the monks have hidden the so called ‘Key to Paradise’. To find it is an adventure Disneyland should envy.
The Key to Paradise is hidden in a tunnel. A tunnel where the sun doesn’t shine. As a matter of fact, there is not a single spark of light to be seen, unless reveals itself in a spiritual way.
The road to nirvana must be traveled on socks. So at the entrance to the tunnel you take off your shoes before you descent into darkness. Once in the tunnel, the first thing you need to do is fight off the panic. The sensation of not being able to see anything is overwhelming.
But we are in Japan, so you are never alone. The first pilgrims that came after you already started their quest. Since you need to find and touch a golden key somewhere in this land of darkness, there is a lot of grabbing going on. Not all of it finds the key….
The symbolic of this pitch-dark quest for nirvana is beautiful. The darkness invites you to reflect, to search for personal enlightment, needed to calm down and find your way. All who manage to get to this state of Zen and bring their heartbeat under a three digits number can start looking for the key. Whether you find it or not, once you exit the tunnel you will feel the utmost relieve, a sense of liberation or feeling of being born again. It is an unforgettable experience.
Nagano Prefecture 380-0851, Japan
Tel: +81 26-234-3591