Nagano temple offers rare public viewing of Buddha statue

e-Travel Blackboard, January 21, 2009

Nagano, Japan -- Nagano City’s famous Zenkoji will display the replica of the hidden Buddha image enshrined in the temple for public viewing from April 5 through May 31, 2009 in a special event held only once every seven years.

Called Gokaicho, the event involves the unveiling of the image of the Amida Buddha with the Bodhisattva of Mercy and the Bodhisattva of Wisdom bearing a single halo on their backs.

The image which is usually kept enshrined in the temple treasury is a replica of Zenkoji’s main Buddha image which is said to be the Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai - the trio of Amitabha and two Bodhisattvas. The Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai sculpture, the oldest Buddhist image in Japan, originated in India and passed through the kingdom of Paekche on the Korean Peninsula before reaching Japan in 552. It was designated a secret image in 654 and pilgrims lost the privilege of directly encountering the image as they worshipped.

During Gokaicho, the temple’s usual daily early morning and evening services and blessings will be held by Zenkoji’s Head Priest and Priestess in the Main Hall however, visitors will have the rare opportunity to see the statue of Amida Buddha and the two Bodhisattvas as they worship.
Major ceremonies during Gokaicho include the opening service on April 5, Festival of Buddha’s Nativity on May 5, Parade of floats on May 24 and the closing ceremony on May 31.