Zenko-ji is the largest temple in Japan after Todai-ji in Nara. The vast complex with numerous subsidiary temples can be called "original" on more than one count. First, it houses both the Jodo and Tendai sects which take it in turns to hold services. Second, it has always been open to women, unlike other Japanese temples. Finally, the layout of the site is unique: orientated on a north-south axis, the temple has its back to Mt Omine, a symbol of the paradise of the West. A village-fête ambience reigns at Nakamise-dori, the large path leading to the shrine.
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