Kenpyosai Festival of Himuro Shrine
Himuro Shrine is one of the few shrines in Japan where the God of Ice is enshrined.
In the Nara Period, an ice pond and ice house were built in Kasugano to store ice during the cold season. It is said that the Kenpyosai Festival first started as a Shinto ritual to welcome the new spring and as an offering to the Emperor to pray for good weather and a bountiful harvest in summer.
Now, an ice pillar about a meter in height with shaved ice flowers, carp and sea bream encased in it is erected in front of the shrine. A court dance and music is presented to pray for the prosperity of the ice making and sales, refrigeration and cold storage industry.
This is an event where you can enjoy the charms of the ancient capital such as the court dance and music, as well as ice water served within the grounds using fine quality water as you enjoy the cool feeling of the ice pillar in the slightly warm and jovial atmosphere in May.
- Date and Time: May 1, 2014 (Thu.) 11:00 hours onwards
Bugaku 14:00 hours onwards, Kori Kento Nichibotsu – Until around 21:00 hours
- Venue: Himuro Shrine
- Access: Take the city loop bus (outer loop) from JK/Kintetsu Nara Station and alight at Himuro Shrine/National Museum. Or walk for about 15 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station.
Famous Wisteria Sites In Nara City
[The wisteria of Nanendo Hall in Kofukuji Temple]
Built within the grounds of Kofukuji Temple, a World Cultural Heritage Site in ancient Nara, is Japan’s largest octagonal hall, the Nanendo Hall. There is a large wisteria tree located on the right hand side facing the Nanendo Hall that blooms violet flowers tinged with a little bit of white. This wisteria tree is famous as one of the eight picturesque sights of Nara (bell of Todaiji Temple, deer of Kasugano, wisteria of Nanendo Hall, reflection of the moon in Sarusawa Pond, fireflies of Saho River, rain of Kumoizaka, traveler of Todorokibashi, snow of Mount Mikasa).
- Viewing Period: Late Apr – Early May
- Venue: To the right facing the Nanendo Hall within the grounds of Kofukuji Temple
- Access: Walk for about 5 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station, or take the city loop bus (outer loop) from JR Nara Station and alight in front of the Prefectural Office.
[Wisteria of Sunazuri in Kasuga Grand Shrine]
There is a wisteria trellis on the left hand side as you pass through the south gate of Kasuga Grand Shrine. Famous for being more than 700 years old, the tree is known as the “Sunazuri no Fuji” as the tassels hanging down from the wisteria trellis are almost long enough to reach the ground. The lavender flowers evoke a sense of elegant beauty in contrast to the vermilion of the main hall of the shrine.
- Viewing Period: The flowers will bloom for about two weeks in late Apr – early May.
- Venue: Main Hall of Kasuga Grand Shrine
- Access: Take the bus heading for the Main Hall of Kasuga Grand Shrine from JR/Kintetsu Nara Station and alight at the end point, or take the city loop bus (outer loop) and walk for about 10 minutes after alighting at the “Kasuga Taisha Omote Sando”.
[Exhibition on Miniature Potted Wisteria at Nara International Seminar House]
A variety of miniature potted wisteria in light purple, white and pink will be exhibited. Among these, the most eye-catching one is a large potted wisteria placed at the opposite end of the Japanese sliding screen. Framed by the screen, the scene looks just like a beautiful painting.
- Date & Time: Apr 18 (Fri) – May 3 (Fri), 2014 9:30-16:30
- Venue: Nara International Seminar House
- Entrance Fee: Adult (junior high school students and above) - 400 yen, elementary school students - 200 yen, infants - free-of-charge.
- Access: Take the city loop bus (outer loop) from JR/Kintetsu Nara Station and alight at the east side of the Prefectural Office.
Monjue Ceremony of Kofukuji Temple
Built in AD710, Kofukuji Temple is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site of ancient Nara. Every year in spring, a memorial service is held for the Manjusri Bodhisattva enshrined in the Tokondo Hall, a national treasure, to receive the wisdom of the Manjusri Bodhisattva.
A historical event that is said to have started in the Heian Period, adorable children decked out in hanagasa and hozu costumes parade the streets of Nara in a procession while pulling along a hogakusha in order to receive the wisdom of the Manjusri Bodhisattva which has been an object of faith as a kiganbutsu among scholar monks since ancient times.
Do come and see and this charming procession on a glorious spring day.
*Although the Tokondo Hall will be closed for the memorial service on that day, the Manjusri Bodhisattva will be available for viewing.
Date & Time: Apr 25, 1500 hours onwards
Venue: Tokondo Hall, Kofukuji Temple
Baby Procession: Depart Jokyoji Temple along the Sanjo-dori starting at 1430 hours
Access: Walk for about 5 minutes from Nara Kintetsu Station, or take the city loop bus (outer loop) from JR Nara Station and alight in front of the Prefectural Office.
Sakura and Tokae Festival along Sahogawa River
With its source located deep in the Kasuga mountain range, the Sahogawa River flows through the city of Nara. Extending about 3 km from the Funabashi Shopping District to the Daianji Temple, it is a well-known site for viewing cherry blossoms in Nara City, with the paths lined with more than a thousand cherry blossom trees that are about 30-40 years old.
About 160 years ago at the end of the Edo Period, the Nara magistrate “Kawaji Toshiakira” planted a cherry blossom tree known as the “Kawaji Sakura”. Since then, many more trees have been planted and now the place has become famous for its cherry blossoms where many people gather. In order to let visitors enjoy the charm of hand-made fixed paper lanterns and the sight of the cherry blossoms at night, local volunteers also started a Tokae Festival to light up the area 14 years ago.
Enjoy the view of cherry blossoms as they fall like snow flowers along the tree-lined paths on both sides of the river.
- Date & Time: Mar 29 (Sat) – Apr 11 (Fri) , 2014)
*Candles will be lighted up in fixed paper lanterns from 6pm-9pm on Apr 4 (Fri), Apr 5 (Sat) and Apr 6 (Sun)
- Venue: Near the Sahogawa River
- Access: Walk for about 20 minutes from Kintetsu Nara Station.
Hina Doll Ceremony of Hokkeji Temple
The Hina Doll Ceremony of Hokkeji Temple, a nunnery built by Empress Komyo during the Tenpyo Period (AD729-AD749), is a Buddhist memorial service that is held in spring to worship the 55 senzai-doshi statues of kids placed in front of the Eleven-Faced Goddess of Mercy that legend says is a reflection of the appearance of the empress. It has come to be known as the Hina Doll Ceremony due to the name “hina” given to the small and cute senzai-doshi statues measuring about 20-30 cm tall.
In conjunction with this ceremony, the Eleven-Faced Goddess of Mercy, the principal object of worship which is a national treasure, will also be open to the public. Besides this charming and elegant figure, magnificent weeping cherry blossoms can also be seen together with snow willows and the common camellia within the grounds of the temple.
Date & Time: Apr 1-7, 2014
Venue: Hokkeji Temple, Main Hall
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00
Entrance Fee: Adult 1000 yen, junior high school students 700 yen, elementary school children 400 yen
Access: Take the bus heading for Yamato Saidaiji Station/Air Self-Defense Force for about 14 minutes from the JR/Kintetsu Nara Station and then walk for 3 minutes after alighting in front of the Hokkeji Temple.
Sales of One-Day Free Bus Pass for Foreigners
Nara Kotsu Bus Lines has renewed the design of the one-day free pass for service buses within the city that ply the routes to UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites such as Kasuga Grand Shrine, Todaiji Temple, Nara Park and so on. Please make use of this one-day free bus pass for convenient sightseeing around the ancient city of Nara.
1. Ticket Name “Nara Tourist Local Bus Free Pass”
2. Price Adult: 500 yen, Children: 250 yen
3. Sales Locations Nara Kotsu Bus Lines Information Centers
JR Nara Station, Kintetsu Nara Station (Line House 1F)
4. Scope of Use Specified area in Nara city
5. Precautions ○This one-day free pass is valid for one day as stated on the ticket and can be used for multiple trips within the specified area.
○Refund is limited to unused tickets before the validity date.
○ Additional fares apply when using this ticket outside the specified scope of use. When going to Toshodaiji and Yakushiji Temples with this ticket, please display the free pass and pay an additional fare of 180 yen (as of August 1, 2013).
6. Ticket Face (image)
A pass holder will be issued at the sales counter when purchasing. Pass the string through the hole in the ticket and hang it from your neck. You can also use the ticket without the pass holder. Please let the sales staff know if you do not need it.
The Famous Ancient Temples and Shrines of Nara Reflect the Everlasting History of Japan.
Nara was the glorious capital, "like a fragrant flower in full bloom," as an ancient poet once described it. Nara was the cradle of the great Japanese arts and the essence of culture in the long-ago Tempyo Period. The old, world-famous temples and shrines of the province of Yamato (presently Nara Prefecture) have handed down to us their precious history.
Among others, the cathedrals of Todaiji, Kofukuji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji and the Kasuga Grand Shrine are settings where one can encounter the rich, elegant ambience of the Tempyo Culture.
As you go through the corridors, and glance at the tiled roofs of these cathedrals, the Tempyo Culture will make you forget all about time and space, and will whisper to you about the old days of well over a thousand years as though they were yesterday.
The Buddha in Nara
Nara is also a treasure-house of the Japanese arts. Since the introduction of Buddhism, the Buddhist Images played particularly important roles in creating special "Plastic Arts" in the artistic fields of Buddhism.
The formative (plastic) beauty of our country has been created from the change from the youthful appearance of the Hakuho Period through the gorgeousness and maturity of the Tempyo Period, the delicacy and grace of the Fujiwara Period, and finally to the vigorousness and animation of the Kamakura Period.
The standing dry lacquer figure of Ashura enshrined in the Kofukuji Temple, a masterpiece of the Tempyo Period; the standing Eleven-Headed Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy) enshrined at Hokkeji Temple, a representative product of the Jyogan Period, during which the craftsmanship of wooden carving was popular; and many other famous Buddhist Images are extant in the ancient city of Nara.
As one stars at the face of the Buddha, one gets the feeling that the statue will begin talking at any moment. It is probably true that the passion with which many people make wishes to the Buddha, are in the mind of the Buddha.
Significant Traditional Events in the Ancient City of NARA
As Nara is known as the home of Japanese history and culture, it is not surprising that its traditional events, which are carried out throughout the year, are indeed colorful.
From the Ceremonial Burning of Wakakusa-yama Hill (whose flames illuminate an evening sky in winter); to the Memorial Water-Drawing Ceremony of Nigatsudo (February Hall); through the summer performances of the Firelight Noh (the perfection of that art, performed with an open-air fire for a background); and the Kasuga Grand Shrine Lantern Lighting Ritual (in which about 3,000 stone and hanging bronze lanterns are all lit at once, forming a simple yet elegant atmosphere); to the Deer Antler Cutting Ceremony in the fall; it is no exaggeration to state that the four seasons are beautifully colored by the numerous traditional events that add a sweet innocence to the charm of Nara.
The Fragrance of the Four Seasons in Nara
Nara is the cradle of Japanese culture and the spiritual home of the Japanese people, keeping a beautiful harmony between history and nature.
In the spring, after the Water-Drawing Ceremony is over, the delicate cherry blossoms in the ancient city of temples and shrines begin to bloom all at once. Radiant greenness will cover the roof tiles of these cathedrals in the summer.
Later the ancient capital will be crowded with holiday-makers who seek the beauty of tinted autumnal showing the genuine nature of Nara.
The drama of Nara's four seasons undoubtedly paints its historical remains most colorfully and makes the elegance of an ancient city much more exquisitely attractive.
Arts and Crafts of Nara
Nara is the birthplace of the culture of Japan. Many traditional arts and crafts suited to the natural features and life style of Nara have been handed down to the present day.
The techniques of the ancient artists who created the masterpieces designated as Important Cultural Properties have been preserved in this district.
These refined techniques can be seen in the splendid works preserved in the Shoso-in (the depository for the treasures of Todaiji Temple) and various temples, shrines and museums. These works are not only magnificent, but also have a feeling of dignity and grace. The artists have given us works containing the essence of Nara, its culture, and its history.
Traversing times the spirit of the artisan still exists.