Today for our family's New Years holiday, we took the day off and went to Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City. Several of our guests here at Kamesei had gone to Zenkoji this New Years and had talked about how crowded it was. Well, of course! When we Nagano-ites want to go for "hatsumode" (making New Years offerings at a temple), Zenkoji is THE place to go. We are naturally drawn there.
When we went, it was towards the end of the New Years holiday period, as well as the end of the day, so the temple was relatively quiet. Thanks to that, we were able to walk around and take in the massive temple and its surrounds at a leisurely pace. We were once again impressed with its enormity.
A lot of foreign travellers to Japan get "templed-out" while sightseeing, and I often reccommend seeing some of Nagano's natural highlights (e.g. snow monkeys, spiritual Togakushi, etc.) instead, but if you have the time to visit Zenkoji and take in some of its powerful details, it is well worth the trip.
Zenkoji is popular throughout the year, but after the New Years rush, the next big time is the Toumyou Festival where Zenkoji gets lit up in the Olympic colors. This year's dates are from 6-Feb to 14-Feb.
Zenkoji is 1 hour by car from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, or 25 minutes by train from Nagano Station to Togura Station.
善光寺灯明祭りのＨＰはこちら。Click here for the Zenkoji Toumyou Festival website.