Zenkoji Temple
The “original” Zenkoji Temple (Nagano), where a concealed Buddha has been handed down for centuries.
This temple belongs to the Chion-in school of the Jodo-shu branch of Pure Land Buddhism. It burned down during Oda Nobunaga’s conquest of Kawachi Province (present-day eastern Osaka Prefecture) and was rebuilt in its current location during the Keicho era (1596–1614). The famous legend of Honda Yoshimitsu has been handed down here. According to the legend, during the reign of Empress Suiko (554–628), Honda Yoshimitsu stayed at a small temple in a hillside hamlet carrying a statue of Amida Nyorai (Amida Buddha) that he had picked up on his way back to Nagano Prefecture. The chief priest asked to have the statue, but Honda Yoshimitsu refused. After three days and three nights of chanting Buddhist prayers, the Amida Nyorai statue turned into two statues. One became Zenkoji Temple’s principal image of worship (honzon), and the other became the principal image of worship at Zenkoji Temple in Nagano Prefecture. Thus, this temple is known as the “original Zenkoji” or “Japan’s first Zenkoji.” The principal image of worship is the Ikko Sanzon, a concealed Buddha (hibutsu) that is normally hidden from view. It is unveiled to the public every year on April 24.