Zenko-ji main hall.

Exploring the Thrilling Togakushi Village

Nagano City, the capital of Nagano Prefecture is a popular destination for visitors. There are many historical sites to see such as the temple town around Zenkō-ji, which is one of Japan’s most popular temples.

Zenkō-ji main hall, Japan. | Magalie L’Abbé

Zenkō-ji is also famous for the hibutsu named Ikkosanzon Amitabha. The Hibutsu (secret Buddha), a hidden Buddha statue made of wood, has not been shown to the public since 654.

It is believed to be the very first Buddha statue ever brought to Japan.

In the lush forested mountains northwest of Nagano city is Togakushi Village, another area that has popular shrines and more so, the legendary home of the Togakure Ninja School.  Ninjas (忍者) or shinobi (忍び) were the secret agents of Japan. These specially trained spies or mercenaries resorted in unorthodox methods in warfare to gain an advantage or to win. The ninja and samurai are iconic Japanese symbols for defense and attack forces. The main difference between a ninja and a samurai is that the latter observes the bushido (way of the warrior) with its strict rules about honor and combat. Togakure-ryū is a historical tradition of ninjutsu (the tactics and strategy of unconventional warfare and espionage practiced by the ninja), known as the “School of the Hidden Door”, founded by Daisuke Nishina during the Oho period (1161-1162).

Togakushi Ninja Village (Togakushi Ninja Yashiki or Chibikko Ninja Mura) is a ninja themed park with ninja attractions. The village features within a forest with several obstacle courses and jungle gyms for visitors to have a go at their ninja training skills.

Ninja house, Nagano Japan. | Kevin Martin

The Togakure Ninpo Museum showcases historical Togakure school of ninja tools and weapons used specifically  by Togakure Ninja. It also exhibits  photos of ninja practicing various techniques in warfare and infiltration and a Ninja house with its many secret doors and passages.

Togakushi Shrine, Japan.

Togakushi Shrine is another must see in Nagano. The Shinto shrine is located at the base of Mount Togakushi , Myōkō-Togakushi Renzan National Park.

Togakushi Shrine, Japan. | Shinya ICHINOHE

Togakushi Shrine has five shrines known as the lower, middle, and upper shrine area, each area is about 2 kilometers apart. The upper shrine is known as Kuzuryu-sha. Kuzuryu literally means nine-headed dragon, with the dragon calling for rain, and Togakushi village having and abundant source of spring water from the mountains.