Sightseeing Calendar

Sightseeing Calendar

January

  • First Visit to Shrine
    Date
    New Year’s Day Jan
    Place
    Todai-ji / Nara City

    The gate of Daibutsu-den, or Great Buddha Hall, opens from 0-8 a.m. on January 1st, allowing visitors to walk in for free. The doors in front of the Buddha’s face opens as well, so worshippers can take a glimpse from outside of the temple.

  • Oyumi-hajime Festival
    Date
    4th Jan
    Place
    Oyamato Shrine / Tenri City

    After the annual ceremony for Great God of Yachihoko, Oyumi-hajime shiki (first arrow shooting ceremony) is carried out in accordance with traditional Ogasawara style. Zenzai (sweet soup with baked rice cake) is treated to the visitors.

  • Yama (God of Death) Visit
    Date
    16th Jan
    Place
    Byakugo-ji / Nara City

    The temple is said to be a former villa of Prince Shinuki, Emperor Tenji’s offspring. On January 16th and July 16th, Yama opens the hell’s lid and dismiss Oni (demons), and the imprisoned deceased are freed from all the agony for the day. The visitors read the Heart Sutra before the principal statue of sitting Yama in the Treasure Hall, praying for their health and long life.

  • Onnda Festival
    Date
    18th Jan
    Place
    Hiraomimakuri Shrine / Uda City

    It is a shrine ritual to pray for rich harvest. Especially the rice planting performance on special stage is worth seeing. A straw man called Wakamiya-san appears at the end of the ceremony, to which people pray for disease healing. The festival is designated as a prefectural intangible folk cultural asset.

  • Mt.Wakakusa Yamayaki
    Date
    4th Sat of Jan
    Place
    Mt.Wakakusa/Nara City

    The Mt.Wakakusa Yamayaki is an annual festival during the Mt. Wakakusa is set on fire.The burning of the mountain itself is preceded by a fireworks display.
    It can be seen from all over Nara city, but the best places are close to the mountain, around Nara Park.

February

  • Nara Rurie (Ruri-colored Illumination)
    Date
    8th-14th Feb. 2019 (The date changes annually)
    Place
    Nara City

    Kasuga-taisha, Kohfuku-ji and Todai-ji are connected with fantastic ruri (lapis lazuli) -colored lighting in this event, attracting many tourists in winter. The temples and shrine allow visitors at night during the period.

  • Juko Chakai (Nara Great Tea Party)
    Date
    6th-10th Feb. 2019 (The date changes annually)
    Place
    8 temples/shrines etc. / Nara City

    Venues: 8 temples/shrines (Kasuga-taisha, Todai-ji, Daian-ji, Saidai-ji, Toshodai-ji, Yakushi-ji, Hokke-ji), Hasso-an (located in Nara National Museum), Daijo-in Garden Museum, Nara-machi Nigiwai House

    Nara is known as a birthplace of Japanese tea ceremony. Juko Chakai, or Nara Great Tea Party, has been held since 2014, named after Juko, the Nara-native Wabi-cha founder. 8 temples/shrines, some of which are designated as World Heritage sites, and tea rooms in Nara-machi are the event venues. Masters from 7 tea ceremony schools gather for the occasion.

March

  • Syuni-e (Penance Ceremony)
    Date
    1st-14th March
    Place
    Nigatsu-do, Todai-ji / Nara City

    Jitchu kasho, the best disciple of Todai-ji founder Roben sojo, has initiated the Buddhism ceremony in 752. It has been held every year since then and it will be over 1200 years.

April

  • Yakushi Keka Hoyo (Buddhist Memorial Service for Penance)
    Date
    8th Apr
    Place
    Shin Yakushi-ji / Nara City

    The service begins by 11 torches being carried around the main hall (Same practice can be seen in Syuni-e at Nigatsu-do), casting the light to cherry trees in their full bloom and the white walls. The penance ceremony follows in front of the principal statue of Yakushi Buddha.

  • Neri Kuyo
    Date
    14th Apr
    Place
    Taima-dera / Katsuragi-shi

    It is the most important event of Taima-dera to reproduce the folklore scene of Princess Chujo becoming a living Buddha, when she was welcomed by 25 Buddhist saints to Pure Land of Perfect Bliss. The west sun casts light on statues of the saints, creating divine atmosphere.

  • Manju (Steamed bean-jam bun) Festival
    Date
    19th Apr
    Place
    Kango Shrine and Rin Shrine / Nara City

    Prosperity of the confectionery industry is prayed in this festival, with respect to Rinjoin the Manju inventor. Sweets makers from all over the country offer their best products before the shrines. Tea is treated for free after the event.

May

  • Ice Offering Festival
    Date
    1st May
    Place
    Himuro Shrine / Nara City

    The origin of this traditional event dates back to 710, when an ice storage (Himuro) was set up to enshrine God at the base of Mt. Kasuga, upstream Yoshiki River. The event attendees include ice makers, sellers and retailers. After the ceremony, the visitors can enjoy bugaku (Japanese traditional court dance and music) performed at the stage.

June

  • Sai Kusa Festival
    Date
    17th Jun
    Place
    Isagawa Shrine / Nara City

    This anti-plague ceremony is designated as a national religious service in Taiho Code enacted in 701. Black and white sacred sake are poured into casks called “Son” and “Hotogi” respectively, and they are decorated with fully-blossomed lilies from Mt. Miwa. The casks are offered to the shrine along with graceful instrumental music. The visitors can also enjoy 4 shrine maidens beautifully dancing with bamboo lilies in their hands, which is called “Uma Zake Miwa no Mai (Dance of Tasteful Sake and Mt. Miwa).”

  • Fireflies
    Date
    Mid to Late June
    Place
    in the upper reaches of the Saho River

    The fireflies appear in “The Great Buddha Pond” located behind Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji, and the upstream of the Saho River. It is counted as one of the 8 most beautiful sceneries of Nara.

July

  • Gion Festival
    Date
    Weekend of Mid-July
    Place
    Tsushima Shrine / Tawara-motocho, Shiki-gun

    This annual festival, famously known as “Gion-san,” attracts many visitors every year. It has been financially backed by wealth of the local merchants, which used to be frequently compared to Osaka’s.

  • Yama (God of Death) Visit
    Date
    16th Jul
    Place
    Byakugo-ji / Nara City

    The temple is said to be a former villa of Prince Shinuki, Emperor Tenji’s offspring. On January 16th and July 16th, Yama opens the hell’s lid and dismiss Oni (demons), and the imprisoned deceased are freed from all the agony for the day. The visitors read the Heart Sutra before the principal statue of sitting Yama in the Treasure Hall, praying for their health and long life.

  • Onpara Festival
    Date
    31st Jul
    Place
    Tsunakoshi Shrine / Sakurai City

    At Tsunakoshi Shrine, an auxiliary of Omiwa Shrine, a conventional Shinto event “Purification in June” is substituted by this festival. Visitors can see sacred horse promenade, as well as people ducking through wreath made of saw grass while humming old poem. At night, the visitors can enjoy the outstanding view of fireworks display seen through the main gate of Omiwa Shrine.

August

  • Nara Flower Candle Lighting
    Date
    Early-Mid Aug. (The date changes annually)
    Place
    Nara City

    This event is cherished as a seasonal event since 1999. 20,000 flower-shaped candles are lit in the vast Nara Park.

  • Chugen Lantern Festival
    Date
    14th and 15th Aug.
    Place
    Kasuga-taisha / Nara City

    This latern festival has been held for about 800 years. All the 3,000 lanterns in the Kasuga-taisha shrine will be lit at the same time.

  • Lantern Memorial Assemblage
    Date
    15th Aug.
    Place
    Todai-ji / Nara City

    During this special event which started in 1985, the Todaiji-temple opens its front gate in the middle of the temple’s ground, and visitors can enter the temple for free.

  • Nara Ceremonial Bonfire
    Date
    15th Aug.
    Place
    Tobihino, Kasuga-taisha and Mt. Takamado / Nara City

    The ceremonial bonfire is a memorial service started in 1960 for those people from Nara who lost their lives at war.

  • Jizo-e Lantern Memorial Service
    Date
    23rd and 24th Aug.
    Place
    Gango-ji / Nara City

    Following the capital transfer to Heijo-kyo (Nara) in 710, Hoko-ji (or Asuka-dera), the oldest authentic Buddhist temple in Japan, was moved to the new capital and was renamed Gango-ji. The temple, also known as World Heritage site, keeps some of the roof tiles from Hoko-ji up to the present. This event consists of “Children Festival” on 23rd and “Jizo-bon (24th) Dreamy Gourmet Festival”. One of the main features is lanterns with celebrities’ calligraphy and painting exhibited in the main hall, or “Hall of Paradise”.

October

  • Okina Mai
    Date
    8th Oct.
    Place
    Naratsuhiko Shrine / Nara City

    Okina Mai is a traditional folk dance passed down in Narazaka-cho. It was initiated approximately 1300 years ago, when two sons of King Kasuga danced to pray for their father’s health. It is considered as the origin of Noh dancing, and is designated as an important intangible folk cultural asset. The mask used for the occasion was created in 15th century or earlier, and is otherwise stored in Nara National Museum.

  • Storytelling
    Date
    12th Oct.
    Place
    Yahashira Shrine / Nara City

    This folk entertainment is unique to Yahashira shrine and was among the first traditions to be registered as an important intangible folk cultural asset in 1975. It was also designated as a UNESCO intangible cultural asset in 2009. The Shinto ritual event is carried out by locals in their late teens, during Early Evening Service on 12th. The visitors can take a glimpse of Japanese medieval entertainment in the unique inflection of the storytellers’ voice.

November

  • Shoso-in Exhibition
    Duration
    Late Oct – Mid Nov
    *Open throughout the term
    Place
    Nara National Museum / Nara City

    Shoso-in is closed to public, with an exception of this occasion; former Emperors’ belongings are exhibited once a year in Nara National Museum. During this event, the venue is clouded with visitors, who come see beloved treasures of Emperor Shomu and other valuable properties.

December

  • Onn Festival
    Duration
    15th-18th Dec.
    Place
    Wakamiya Shrine, an auxiliary of Kasuga-taisha / Nara City

    The event has continued since 1136, when Fujiwara Tadamichi initiated the ritual to pray for rich harvest. The concept is that locals treat enshrined god Wakamiya while he rests, so that he can restore his sacred power. The festival lasts for 24 hour, starting with “Senko no Gi (God’s coming to Otabi-sho (resting point))” at 0 a.m. and ending with “Kanko no Gi (God’s leaving)”. The visitors can enjoy various kinds of ritual dance and music performed until 11 p.m. It is a grand festival held and supported by the whole neighboring areas.

  • Cherry Blossom
    Place
    Nara Park / Nara City
    Season
    Late March- late April

    Various cherry blossoms with different flowering seasons are planted in Nara Park, thus visitors can see them flourishing from late March to late April. Our recommendation among them is “Nara no Yaezakura” with light pink-colored petals, which is famously read in a poem of Hyakunin isshu Karuta.

  • Cherry Blossom
    Place
    Miei-do, Toshodai-ji / Nara City
    Season
    Mid-April -May

    In 1963 Buddhist Association of China presented the flowers to the temple founded by Zianzhen, marking 1,200th year of his death. The flowers are originally from Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, the birthplace of the high priest. It bears beautiful white petals, much like hydrangeas’, and can be rarely seen in Japan.

  • Cherry Blossom
    Place
    Hase-dera / Sakurai City
    Season
    Mid-April -May

    Hase-dera is known for its beautiful flowers. It is elegantly decorated with 7,000 peonies of about 150 species, which was supposedly offered by one of Tang’s Empresses.

  • Cherry Blossom
    Place
    Kasuga-taisha / Nara City
    Season
    Late April-Early May

    The visitors can enjoy wisterias splendidly blooming all over the shrine, including the famous “Sunazuri no Fuji (Ground-reaching Wisterias).” In Manyo Botanical Garden, or God’s Garden, 200 wisterias of some 20 species can be seen. Especially this year after the shrine’s reconstruction, the newly-painted red walls and the flowers should make a terrific contrast.

  • Cherry Blossom
    Place
    Ofusa Kannon / Kashihara City
    Season
    Mid May-June

    This annual event in Ofusa Kannon (Kannon Temple) continued since 1995, allowing the visitors to enjoy 4,000 roses of approximately 3,800 species in Spring and Autumn. The temple’s treasures are also exhibited during the event.

  • Cherry Blossom
    Place
    Yata-dera / Yamato Koriyama City
    Season
    June -Early July

    The petals of the flowers look similar to the round-shaped jewel held by Buddhist saints (Jizo). 10,000 hydrangeas of some 60 kinds are planted to cover the temple, in a tribute to its principal Jizo statue.

  • Cherry Blossom
    Place
    Shoryaku-ji / Nara City
    Season
    November

    The ancient temple has been known for ages for its beautifully-colored leaves in autumn. It is also a birthplace of refined sake, and still produces shubo (literally “the mother of sake,” or yeast mash) in-house.