THE TEMPLE OF Zenko-ji, in modern-day Nagano, was built in 654 AD to enshrine the first Buddhist image - Ikkosanzon Amitabha Nyorai — to arrive in Japan from India via Korea. On the journey to Japan the statue was mistreated — some even say nearly lost at sea — and so on its arrival was kept in a sealed chamber under the then rustic temple and all were forbidden to view the image directly. It is said the Nyorai has not been seen in a thousand years - except once by a monk a few hundred years ago entrusted to verify its existence. The closest any mortal can get to the Nyorai is to touch the lock of the gate to the chamber in which it is held. One has to step down into the darkness under the altar and walk along a pitch-black tunnel called the Okaidan in order to reach the gate. There is a moment where one turns the corner into the far end passage and one is cut off from every last ray of light. In entering total darkness one is forced to use faith as a guide. This is a key aspect to Kaidan Meguri or what is explained as 'traversing the path of Buddha'. Continuing slowly and mindfully through the darkness to the other side, one moves through death and re-birth, experiencing symbolic and perhaps even true spiritual enlightenment.
// Documentary shoot in Nagano, Japan.