One of the main things to do when visiting the temple complex of Zenko-ji, is to find the Key to Paradise. In the main hall of Zenko-ji, under the inner sanctuary and the main altar which holds Japan’s oldest Busshist statue, runs an underground passageway. This tunnel is said to contain the Key to Paradise. If you’ve found and touched this Key, it is said that you have obtained enlightenment and salvation.
If you want to try and find the Key, first you need to buy an entree ticket to the inner sanctuary at the ticket machine close to the stairs of the main hall (500 JPY adult fee). Go to the gates that will lead to the main part of the temple, take off your shoes, put them in a plastic bag which you will take with you, and give your ticket to the attendant. Now you’re ready to go to the main event, the tunnel covered by darkness.
The tunnel is so dark that you can’t even see your own hands if you waved them in front of your face. In the pitch-black darkness of the underground path, all people are equal. The dark space provides you with the opportunity to free yourself from all visual distractions and focus and reflect on yourselft
To find the Key to Paradise, keep your right hand on the wall to the right side. You should always keep your hand at hip-level, as the key is at this height. Do not expect to feel a traditional key shape. The Key to Paradise feels more an iron, round door handle.
After getting back into the light and out off the tunnel, go back to the gate, put your shoes on, and you’re ready to head on your way again. But now, you’re blessed by the Key to Paradise.