Nagano

The host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano city is surrounded by world-class ski slopes and breathtaking summer hiking.

Nagano city grew up around the Zenkoji temple. Founded in the seventh century, this ancient place of worship holds a statue of Buddha which is said to be the first such effigy brought to Japan. Every seven years a replica of the hidden statue is put on public display - the next viewing is scheduled for 2010.

The temple also offers “the key to paradise” attached to a wall in an underground tunnel. Any visitor able to locate and touch the key in the pitch black tunnel is reputedly granted enlightenment.