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Zenko-ji Omotesando Illumination

Zenko-ji Omotesando Illumination

Established in 642, Zenko-ji Temple is the spiritual and physical heart from which Nagano City grew. The road leading to the temple, known as the Omotesando or ‘Pilgrims Path’ now connects the city’s main train station to the temple and through winter each year bursts into light with the Zenko-ji Omotesando Illumination. From early-November until mid-February, the Omotesando will be illuminated, creating an avenue of light leading to the temple; followed by the main event, the illumination of the temple precinct from mid-December with lighting and projections transforming the temple into an imagined Buddhist paradise – an ephemeral world of purple and violet, silver and golden light.

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The festival was first held in 2018 and quickly established itself as a popular event for local residents and winter visitors, you come to wander the precinct at night and enjoy the light installations. Once again in 2022, the main temple will be open at night with a beautiful light display illuminating the inner sanctuary – a dazzling sight as the light reflects off and traces the golden furnishings and statues inside – running each night from December 10th to 18th.

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Entry to all areas of the temple including the inner sanctuary are free of charge. While popular, the festival is not crowded allowing visitors to wander freely and bathe in the light, capturing some fantastic photos and not having to queue for long (although there might be a short queue to enter the inner sanctuary).

During the festival, many of the shops along the Nakamise – the historic street within the temple complex – will extend their hours with additional stalls selling snacks and drinks along the way; while the traditional road of pilgrimage and temple itself will be a place of enchantment, an illumination of the mind reflected in the light. In the crisp air of late-autumn and early-winter, this vivid awakening of the city’s heart is certain to leave a lasting impression.

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If you would like to experience the illumination on a guided tour, we are offering two tours in December 2022. Our popular 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Winter Illumination Tour combines a visit to the monkey park with early evening dinner at Monzen Terrace Enya followed by enjoyment of the illuminated temple at night, while our new 1-Day Nagano’s Hidden Samurai Town & Zenko-ji Winter Illumination Tour transports you to the festival with an afternoon of samurai experiences in nearby Matsushiro. Both tours operate from Hakuba and Nagano and are guided by locally-based guides. We hope to see you at the festival!

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Temple Illumination: 17:00 to 20:00 / Omotesando Illumination: 17:00 to 20:00

Temple Illumination: Dec.10 to Dec.18 / Omotesando Illumination: Nov.23 to mid-Feb.

Free

Approximately 60 to 70-minutes from the Jigokudani Monkey Park

From Nagano Station, exit via the Zenkoji Exit and follow the signs toward Zenko-ji Temple. This will lead you to the Omotesando Road, which leads up toward the temple

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