Sacred Temple the Center of Japanese Faith
Posted February 6, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
NAGANO — They flock here by the millions, six to seven million each year. For people of Buddhist faith in Japan, Zenkoji Temple is most holy ground.
Zenkoji is a combination of three Japanese characters: Zen for good, ko for light for ji temple. In this huge temple, the light can only reach so far.
There is a darkened hallway underneath the temple that leads to a secret chamber that carries a sacred icon of Buddha. No one is allowed to see it. Buddhists believe that if you touch the door that leads to the secret chamber, you a guaranteed eternal salvation.
In the temple courtyard sits a huge urn. People of faith keep it going under the honor system. For 100 yen, or about a dollar, they buy incense and toss the smoldering stick into the urn. They believe the smoke heals their souls. The people literally bathe in it, waving it to their bodies, pouring it on, while praying.
Others with special needs or wants tie ribbons to trees. They leave their mark at Zenkoji Temple, praying for what they wish to come true.
Zenjoki Temple has been rebuilt 12 times in 1,400 years. Fire is the ever-present danger. While time has changed, Zenkoji traditions still echo the same way centuries later. Watch Jim Payne's Olympic Diary every night on the 11:00 news.