Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn Sky in Nara Park

Pampas grasses are reaching for autumn sky.
Dusk in Nara Park
Nara City is a blaze in a sunset.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Events around Nara Park (September 2011)

Around Nara Park:
Sept. 12(mon) Uneme Festival (Uneme Matsuri)
@Uneme Shrine by Sarusawa Pond
See a related entry for details: click here

Sept. 17(sat) The 17th Night (Jyuhichiya)
@February Hall in Todaiji Temple
18:00 ~ Ritual ceremony
18:30 ~ 21:00 Local Folk Dances (Bon Odori Dance)
18:30 ~ 21:00 February Hall area lit up with ca. 400 lanterns
17th day of a month is dedicated to a Buddhist saint, Kannon Bodhisattva. August 17th in the lunar calendar, which is roughly September 17th in the solar calendar, is especially celebrated. On this day, Todaiji Temple holds a ritual ceremony for Kannnon Bodhisattva at February Hall. After the ceremony and outside of the hall, there will be a crowd of people dancing local folk dances. Everyone is welcome to join the dance.

Sept. 17(sat) Live Charity Piano Concert by Suguru Matsutani
@ on a stage in front of Nara National Museum
See related entry for details: click here

Sept. 18(sun) Sake Festival 2011 by the Brewery of Harushika
10:00 ~ 16:00 @ S. Imanishi Co., Ltd in Naramachi area
Harushika is a popular local Sake brand brewed in old town area of Nara, Naramachi, by S. Imanishi Co., Ltd. This is the local sake brewery that we visit during our Afternoon Old Town Stroll for optional Sake-tasting. Sake Festival is admission free.

(Scheduled events at the Sake Festival)
=Special Sake you can buy only on this day at the brewery. (There will be a free Sake-tasting of this special Sake.)
=See Sake brewery. They open their actual workplace to brew Sake to visitors. (They are not brewing Sake at this time of year.)
=Food booths by local shops.
=A booth by Unicef. Part of proceeds of Sake Festival goes to Unicef.
...and more!

Sept. 19(mon) Longevity Festival (Chojyu-sai)
13:00 ~ @ Kasuga Grand Shrine
Third Monday of September, Sept. 19 for this year, is Respect-for-the-Aged Day. It is a day to thank elder members of society. On this day, Kasuga Grand Shrine offers Bugaku, traditional music and dance, to deities praying for longevity of elder people.

Sept. 17(sat) ~18(sun), Sept. 23(fri) ~ 25(sun) Night Time Opening of Kofukuji Temple National Treasure Hall
~ 20:30 @ National Treasure Hall in Kofukuji Temple
During these days, National Treasure Hall in Kofukuji Temple is open till 20:30.

Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays in Sept. Night Time Opening of Kofukuji Temple Eastern Golden Hall
17:00 ~ 19:30 @Eastern Golden Hall in Kofukuji Temple
Eastern Golden Hall in Kofukuji Temple is open till 19:30 on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays in September.

Around Horyuji Temple and Nishino-kyo:
Sept. 12(mon) View Buddhist Statues Under the Moon of the Year (Kangetsu Bussan-e)
18:00 ~ 21:00 @Toshodaiji Temple
Moon around this time of year is thought to be most beautiful. It’s a season for moon viewing parties. At Toshodaiji Temple, they specially open the temple at night to view the moon with their masterpiece Buddhist statues. Admission to the temple is free. Admission to Mieido Hall is 500 yen.

-NARAWALK guide   

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Charity Piano Concert by Suguru Matsutani

Suguru Matsutani has written music for many Japanese movies, TV programs and TV commercials. If you were to travel to Japan and turn on TV, probably you’ll hear one of his music. This piano concert is a charity concert trying to raise funds to save cultural properties damaged in March 11 Earthquake in Tohoku, Japan. 

Sept. 17(sat)
@ on a stage in front of Nara National Museum
18:00 ~ Admission starts. (Concert is Free of charge.)
18:30 ~ Concert begins.
Concert is cancelled if the weather is stormy.

-NARAWALK guide   

Friday, September 2, 2011

Uneme Festival

Uneme Festival is a festival to console the soul of a heartbroken woman, Uneme. Once upon a time, there was a maiden called Uneme who fell in love with an emperor and then who eventually lost his love... What happened to her afterwards? Ask our guides during our daily tours! 

Sept. 12(mon) Uneme Festival (Uneme Matsuri)
@Uneme Shrine by Sarusawa Pond

17:00 ~ Procession of people in traditional costumes
 (JR Nara Station ~ Sanjo-dori St. ~ Higashimuki-dori St. ~ Oomiya-dori St. ~ Konishi Sakura-dori St. ~ Mochiidono-dori St. ~ Sanjo-dori St. ~ Sarusawa Pond ~ Uneme Shrine)
18:00 ~ Ritual Ceremony, Offering of Flowery Fan to Uneme Shrine
19:00 ~ Miss Uneme and Miss Nara ride on a boat to throw a flowery fan into Sarusawa Pond. There will be musicians on a boat playing traditional court music.

-NARAWALK guide  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Get Coupons at Visit Japan 2011

Visit Japan 2011 is a web site run by JAPAN Tourism Agency. Including NARA WALK, over 4000 shops and companies have listed their shop/company information in Visit Japan web site. All shops and companies listed in Visit Japan web site offer deals (ex. discount offers, a small gift, etc) to those who have Visit Japan Coupons.

NARA WALK offers a discount on our two daily tours, Daily Nara Park Classic Tour and Daily Great Buddha Tour. To get discounts, present a Visit Japan Coupon to our guide when you join our daily tours. Coupons are accepted from September 1 - November 30, 2011.

Visit Japan 2011: Daily Nara Park Classic Tour page
Visit Japan 2011: Daily Great Buddha Tour page
Visit Japan 2011: Coupon Download page

-NARAWALK guide 

Monday, August 8, 2011

NARA TO-KAE, Ten Nights Of Lantern Illumination (pictures)

At Sarusawa Pond

Approach to Great Buddha Hall

Near Todaiji Temple

As for the schedule, please refer to

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Events around Nara Park (August 2011)

Around Nara Park:
Aug. 5(fri) - 14(sun) Ten Nights Of Lantern Illumination (NARA TO-KAE)
See a related journal entry for details: click here.

Aug. 7(sun) Cleaning of Great Buddha (Ominugui)
7:00 ~ 9:30 @Great Buddha Hall in Todaiji Temple
This is once a year cleaning day for Great Buddha. About 120 Buddhist monks and laypeople clean Great Buddha form head to toe. Although the cleaning starts from 7:00am, Great Buddha Hall is opened to the public from 7:30am.

Aug. 14(sun) & 15(mon) All 3000 Lanterns Light Up Day (Chugen Mantoro)
@Kasuga Grand Shrine
Lanterns of Kasuga Grand Shrine used to be lit up every night, but today they are lit up only on certain days.

18:30~ (Aug. 14) Offertory of Bugaku, traditional Japanese court music and dances / (Aug. 15) Offertory of Kagura, Shinto’s offertory music and dances
19:00~ All 3000 lanterns are lit.
 *With donation of 3000yen or more, you can light up a lantern by yourself.
20:30 Gates closed.

Aug. 15(mon) Thousands Of Lantern Lights Offered To Great Buddha (Manto Kuyo-e)
19:00 ~ 22:00 @ Great Buddha Hall in Todaiji Temple
About 2500 lanterns are lit in front of Great Buddha Hall. Each lantern is offered to Great Buddha with a prayer, varying from a health to world peace. This lantern offering started as a way to console the souls of the dead who are believed to be making their summer visit to this world form the other world during this time of a year. Inside the hall, Buddhist monks hold a religious ceremony to pray for the dead and to send the prayers on lanterns to Great Buddha.

Aug. 15(mon) Nara “大”-shaped Bonfire (Nara Dai-monji Okuribi)
“大”, pronounced ‘dai’, symbolizes cosmos. 108 small bonfires are lined to form “大” shape. This bonfire is a popular summer event, and you can watch the fire from mostly anywhere in Nara. Tobihino Field and Sarusawa Pond are very popular viewing places. The fire only lasts about 10 min.

Light up: 20:00~

Around Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji Station:
Aug. 19(fri) – 21(sun) Heijo Palace Site Summer Night Festival (Heijo-kyo Tenpyo-sai Natsu)
@ Heijo Palace Site
See a related journal entry for details: click here.

Around Horyuji Temple and Nishino-kyo:
Aug. 23(tue) & 24(wed) Special Viewing of Hidden Statue
@ Jizo-do Hall in Toshodaiji Temple
A statue of Jizo, a Buddhist saint for children, is open to the public. This opening is a part of Jizo Bon Ceremony, a Buddhist ceremony to pray for children’s healthy growth to Jizo. The statue is an important cultural property.

-NARAWALK guide 

Heijo Palace Site Summer Night Festival (Heijo-kyo Tenpyo-sai Natsu)

Enjoy your summer nights at Heijo Palace Site. From Aug. 19(fri) to 21(sun), a summer festival is held at Heijo Palace Site. There will be light installations, parades of people wearing a traditional costume with electric light decorations, food stands, music stages and more.

All Three Days:
16:00 – 21:00 Food and Goods Stands
18:30 – 20:45 Music and Performance Stage
-On Aug. 19, the stage ends at 20:00.
-On Aug. 19, there will be a stage by NMB48 starting from 19:15. (NMB48 is a Japanese pop girl group based in Namba, Osaka. They are one of sister groups of AKB48.)
18:30 – 21:00 Light Installations
-More than 10 light installations illuminate the palace site.
19:00 – 20:00 Parade of Light
- People wearing costumes of 1300 years ago (with electric light decorations!) walk in procession.
- You can try a similar costume that people are wearing in the parade for 500yen (17:00 – 21:00)

Only on Aug. 19:
20:00 – 20:15 Fireworks
-If it rains, fireworks will be postponed to Aug. 20.

-15 min. walk from Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji Station
-20 min. by bus from JR/Kintetsu Nara Station to Sakicho bus stop. 1 min. walk from there.
(Take a bus No. 12 or 14 from a bus stop No. 7 at JR Nara Station/ a bus stop No. 13 at Kintetsu Nara Station. 270yen. Only 1 or 2 bus is scheduled per hour.)
-Shuttle buses are planned to run from Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji Station (South Exit)/JR Nara Station (West Exit) to Heijo Palace Site.


Friday, August 5, 2011

NARA TO-KAE, Ten Nights Of Lantern Illumination

Enjoy a night time stroll around Nara Park with thousands of lanterns softly lighting your pathways. Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and other facilities have night time opening hours during this event.

Aug. 5(fri) - 14(sun)
=Lantern Light-ups=
19:00 ~ 21:45 @ around Nara Park

=Night Time Opening Hours=
Todaiji Temple: 19:00 ~ 21:00
-Great Buddha Hall is open. *Only on Aug. 13 & 14.
Kofukuji Temple: ~ 20:30 (enter before 20:15)
-National Treasure House and Eastern Golden Hall are open.
Mt. Wakakusa-yama: 9:00 ~ 21:00 (enter before 20:30)
-Enjoy a night view from the top of the city
Nara National Museum: 9:30 ~ 19:00 (enter before 18:30)
-Special Exhibition “On to India! Xuanzang’s 30,000-Kilometer Trek” is held.
-Aug. 8 is closed.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks Pickups! (2011)

Expect crowds, traffic jam, summer heat and beautiful fireworks! There are more fireworks festivals than listed below.

Mie: The 59th Fireworks Competition Dedicated to Ise Jingu Shrine
July 16(sat) 19:25-around 21:15
(Postponed to 17th if weather is stormy)
@Riverbank of Miyagawa River near Watarai Bridge (upper stream side) (10min ride on a shuttle bus from Kintetsu Ujiyamada Station/JR Iseshi Station)
*Shuttle buses from the stations to the competition ground run 17:00~19:30, from the competition ground to the stations run from 20:00 to 30min after fireworks are finished. Runs every 15-20min. Fare: 180yen/person
ca. 9000 fireworks

Osaka: Fireworks Dedicated to Tenjin Matsuri Festival
July 25(mon) around 19:00-21:00
(Cancelled if rains)
@Ohkawa area in Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Sakuranomiya Park ground
ca. 3000 fireworks
Nara: Fireworks Dedicated to the 55th Onpara Matsuri Festival
July 31(sun) 19:30-20:10
(Go rain or shine; cancelled if weather is stormy)
@Shiba Undo Koen Park (15min walk from JR Miwa Station; walk towards west from the station)
ca. 2000 fireworks

Nara: Uda-city Haibara Fireworks Festival
August 4(thu) 19:30-21:00
(Postponed to 5th if weather is stormy)
@Udagawa River riverbank (3min walk from Kintetsu Haibara Station)
ca. 3000 fireworks

Osaka: The 23rd Naniwa Yodo River Fireworks Festival
August 6(sat) 19:50-20:40
(Go rain or shine; postponed to 7th if weather is stormy)
@Yodo River riverbank (between Shin Midosuji Yodogawa railway bridge and National Highway Route 2)

Kobe: The 41st Minato Kobe Fireworks Festival
August 6(sat) 19:40-20:30
(Go rain or shine; cancelled if weather is stormy)
@Meriken Park
ca. 10,000 fireworks
Website(This is a link to last year’s website. Date and Time are wrong, but Map, Transportation and Inquiry parts are useful.)
 Shiga: 2011 Lake Biwa Fireworks Festival
August 8(mon) 19:30-20:30
(Go rain or shine; postponed to 11th if weather is stormy)
@Otsu Port, Lake Biwa(5min walk from Keihan Hamaotsu Station, 15min walk from JR Otsu Station) (Access to Otsu Port)
ca. 10,000 fireworks
Website (Jpn Only)

Kyoto: The 51st Uji River Fireworks Festival
August 10(wed) 19:45-20:45
(Go rain or shine; postponed to 13th if weather is stormy)
@Uji Bridge area (10min walk from JR/Keihan Uji Station)
ca. 5000 fireworks
Website (Jpn Only)

Nara: The 40th Yoshino River Fireworks Festival
August 15(mon) 20:00-21:00
(Go rain or shine; cancelled if weather is stormy)
@Riverbank of Yoshino River, near Ookawa Bridge (upper stream side) (10min walk from JR Gojo Station)
ca. 4000 fireworks

-NARAWALK guide  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Events around Nara Park (July 2011)

Around Nara Park:
July 5(tue) Priest Chogen Commemorative Ceremony (Syunjyo-ki) and Special Viewing of a Hidden Statue
@Todaiji Temple, Syunjo-do Hall (near the Great Bell)
Chogen is a Buddhist priest who made a great contribution in repairing Great Buddha and reconstructing Great Buddha Hall in late 12th century.
8:00 ~ Commemorative Ceremony
After the ceremony (around 11:00)~16:00 Special Viewing of a Hidden Statue (*Seated Statue of Chogen, National Treasure, 13th century This statue is open to the public twice a year on July 5 and Dec. 16 annualy.)

July 7(thu) Ritual Ceremony for Benzaiten (Benzaiten-ku) and Special Opening of Three-storied Pagoda
@Kofukuji Temple, Three-storied Pagoda
Benzaiten was originally an Indian goddess of river Sarasvati. In Japan, she is known as a goddess of wisdom, music and fortune. Buddhist priests at Kofukuji Temple used to worship Benzaiten wishing for progress in their Buddhist studies. Benzaiten statue is enshrined in Three-storied Pagoda (National Treasure, around early 13th century).
10:00 ~ Ritual Ceremony
9:00 ~ 16:00 Pagoda is open for the public viewing. This is an annual, once a year opening day. You can see Benzaiten statue and wall paintings of the first floor. Though faded, there are, in total, 4000 Buddha figures on the wall.

July 16(sat) Pay Respect to Enma Day (Enma moude)
@Byakugoji Temple
Enma is the lord of hell deciding who should go to hell and be punished. July 16 is said to be a holiday at hell; people in the hell get a rest from endless torture. On this day, people in this world pay respect to Enma wishing for health and longevity. At Byakugoji Temple, boiled konjac with miso paste and paper fans are offered to visitors (limited number). On paper fans, the temple’s head Buddhist priest has drawn a picture of Enma.
10:00 ~ Ritual Ceremony

July 23(sat) Special Viewing of Naked Jizo Statue
@Denkoji Temple
Jizo is a Buddhist saint. Jizo statue at Denkoji Temple was sculpted in naked form and wears real clothes. July 23 is an annual day for Jizo statue to change into new clothes. Jizo statue is open to the public only on March 12 and July 23.
17:00 ~ 18:00 Ritual Ceremony to Change Jizo’s Clothes

July 28(thu) Purification Ceremony For Summer (Gejyo-e)
8:00 ~ @Todaiji Temple, Great Buddha Hall
Buddhist priests pray for people to stay healthy during summer. In the beginning of the ceremony priests walk through a Chi-no-wa ring, a fresh green grass rope coiled into a 2 meters wide circle. After the ceremony, everyone is welcome to walk through the Chi-no-wa ring to pray for health.

Around Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji Station:
July 17(sun) Lotus Flower Ceremony (Renge-eshiki)
@ Hokkeji Temple
This is an annual purification ceremony for summer held at Hokkeji Temple. The ceremony is held in the evening with lanterns lighting up the temple precinct. In the beginning of the ceremony
Buddhist nuns walk through a Chi-no-wa ring, a fresh green grass rope coiled into a 2 meters wide circle. Before the ceremony, a bowl of rice porridge is served to everyone for free. People eat this porridge wishing for health.
17:00 ~ Rice porridge is served.
19:00 ~ Ritual Ceremony starts.
~ 21:00 Doors of the temple close.

-NARAWALK guide 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Events around Nara Park (June 2011)

Around Nara Park:
June 16(thu) – 17(fri) Lily Festival (Saikusa-no-matsuri)
@ Isagawa Shrine
Founded in 593, Isagawa Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Nara city. In Lily Festival, Sasayuri lilies (Lilium japonicum) are offered to deities, and people’s health is prayed. A legend tells a female deity enshrined here used to live by a river where Sasayuri lilies bloom beautifully.

On June 16
11:00~ Sasayuri lilies arrive at JR Nara station by a train from Sakurai city, a place where the deity used to live. A group of men carries lilies in a portable alter and walks around the town to Isagawa Shrine. Behind them are dancers wearing Yukata. They dance the dance of lilies with Sasayuri lilies in their hands.
13:00~ Shinto priests report the arrival of lilies to deities.

On June 17
10:30~ Lily Festival, Ritual Ceremony
Sake is offered to deities. Sake containers decorated with lilies look like flower bouquets. Four maidens offer a traditional dance to deities with Sasayuri lilies in their hands.
13:00~ Procession around the town (about two hours)
Miss Lilies and children in traditional outfits walk around the shrine’s neighborhoods.

June 17(fri) Lily Festival (Hana-shizume Sakikusa Matsuri)
10:30~ @Kangou Shrine
Lilies are offered to deities, but this lily festival is known for another offering – a ceremony of Hochodo( a mastery of a knife) called Hochoshiki. The history of Hochodo continues since the 9th century. On this day, a carp will be cut by a skillful master of knife, without a direct contact with the fish and using only chopsticks and knives.

June 19(sun) Thanks-giving Ceremony For Folding Fans (Oogi Kuyo)
@Gangoji Temple
People bring in old folding fans to the temple and burn them thanking fans for their long service. Dances are offered too. Time schedule is not released yet, but every year the time is about from 14:00 to 16:00.

June 23(thu) Thanks-giving Ceremony For Bamboos (Take Kuyo)
@Daianji Temple
According to an old folk Chinese belief, around June 23 is the best time to plant a bamboo. Taking a hint from this folk belief, Daianji Temple decided this day as a day to thank Bamboos. As well as the ritual ceremony (13:00~), bamboo related events are held at the temple ground such as a bamboo flute concert and tea whisk makings. And the most popular thing to do is to drink a cup of Sake poured from a bamboo trunk. This Sake is believed to prevent cancer.

June 30(thu) Purification Ceremony For Summer (Natsugoshi-no Ooharaeshiki)
15:00~ @Kasuga Grand Shrine near the second Torii gate
Before hot and humid Japanese summer, Shinto shrines pray for people to stay healthy during summer. At the end of the ceremony, Shinto priests walk through a Chi-no-wa ring, a fresh green grass rope coiled into a 2 meters wide circle. Everyone is welcome to walk through the Chi-no-wa ring to pray for health.

Around Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji Station:
June 5(sun) – 9(thu) Special Viewing Of A Hidden Statue
@ Hokkeji Temple
The temple’s main object of worship, eleven headed Kannon bodhisattva statue is open to the public. This national treasure statue is from early Heian period (Heian period: 8c.-12c.)

June 6(mon) Special Viewing Of A Hidden Statue
@ Akishinodera Temple
The temple’s hidden Buddhist statue, Daigen Myo-o, a guardian saint in Buddhism, is open to the public only on June 6, annually. The statue is from Kamakura period (12c.–14c.) and is an important cultural property.

Around Horyuji Temple and Nishino-kyo:
June 5(sun) – 6(mon) Priest Ganjin Commemoration Ceremony
@ Toshodaiji Temple
Ganjin is a Buddhist priest who founded Toshodaiji Temple. June 6 is his death anniversary. Ritual ceremonies are held to commemorate him.

On June 5
9:00~ Offertory of incense and tea by a tea master. Buddhist priest chant while the offertories are made.
16:00~ Ritual ceremony commemorating the temple’s founder
On June 6
13:00~ Ritual ceremony commemorating the temple’s founder

June 5(sun) – June 7(tue) Special Viewing Of A Hidden Statue And Drawings
9:00~16:00 @ Founder’s Hall (Kaizan Mieido) in Toshodaiji Temple
A national treasure statue of Ganjin, the temple’s founder, is open to the public for only three days a year. The statue depicts the last moment of him – he died while sitting in a meditation. Drawings on Fusuma sliding doors are masterpieces by Higashiyama Kaii. 

-NARAWALK guide 

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Born Baby Deer

Now they are with their mothers in a deer pen of Kasuga Grand Shrine. Someday in July, they will debut in Nara Park.

The deer pen is open from 1:00 to 2:oopm till July 10th.
Admission: Adult 300yen, child 100yen

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sky Over Nara

Where do we view this scenery? Ask us!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Everything is bathed in green breeze!

Now, Nara Park is amid the whirlpool of lush verdure of young leaves. The sunlight goes through the fresh leaves and flickers them.

I especially love young leaves of maple.

Camphor trees are shedding old leaves and growing new ones.

Not only leaves but also grasses are gorgeous. Here, people come to enjoy doing nothing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Torch Lit Noh Play

The annual Takigi Noh or torch lit Noh play will be held this weekend in Kasuga Grand Shrine and Kofukuji Temple, Nara. First performed in 869, this torch lit Noh play has the longest tradition among torch lit Noh plays performed in Japan. (From this year on, Takigi Noh is scheduled on third Friday and Saturday of May. Next year's Takigi Noh is on May 18 and May 19.)

Noh plays at Kasuga Grand Shrine are performed in older styles of Noh which you are unlikely to see in a theatre.

May 20(fri)
11:00~ 12:15@Maidono(Dancing Hall) in Kasuga Grand Shrine
 Noh play: "Okina"
17:30~20:30 @Nara Park(an area adjacent to Kofuji Temple and in front of Nara Prefectural Building)*
 Noh play: "Iwafune"
 (Torches will be lit after Noh play "Iwafune")
 Kyogen play(comical play): "Onigawara"
 Noh play: "Kagetsu"

May 21(sat)
14:00~15:15@Wakamiya Shrine (near the main hall of Kasuga Grand Shrine)
 Noh play:"Katsuragi"
17:30~20:30 @Nara Park(an area adjacent to Kofuji Temple and in front of Nara Prefectural Building)*
 Noh play: "Hagoromo"
 (Torches will be lit after Noh play "Hagoromo")
 Kyogen play(comical play): "Tsukuzukushi"
 Noh play: "Nue"

*If rains, plays are performed in Nara Prefuctural Culture Hall(Nara-ken Bunka Kaikan). (map: see point A)

Tickets: 4000yen per person
Sold at the entrance of each venues. =May 20= 10:00 ~ @Kasuga Grand Shrine, 15:00~@Kofukuji Temple. =May 21= 13:00~ @Kasuga Grand Shrine, 15:00~ @Kofukuji Temple.
Tickets are good for one day. With one ticket, you can enjoy a day-time Noh play at Kasuga Grand Shrine and night-time torch lit Noh plays in Nara Park.
Limited free seats are available, but to get best views to enjoy performances buy a ticket. (No free seats at Nara Prefectural Culture Hall) As the performances are put on an outside stages, you might be able to have free views of performances from a distance.

-NARAWALK guide 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

a day in Nara (May)

I went to Nara today.
A fine day it was in Nara.  Looking up, sky is clear and blue.
Glancing at a pond by Kofukuji Temple, turtles are taking sun bath.
 From the pond, I can see a wooden pagoda peacefully standing among fresh greens of spring.
Walking up stairs and entering Kofukuji Temple, I met deer taking a nap.
Purple clusters of wisteria decorated one of Buddhist halls of the temple.
From where I saw wisterias, I looked back at the pond downstairs.  People were walking around and enjoying a day in Nara.

(Pictures are all taken on May 8, 2011 around Kofukuji Temple)


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy Children's Day!

May 5th is Children's Day, one of national holidays in Japan. On this day, families with boys display Samurai armours, helmets, etc to wish for a healthy growth of their boys.

Colonel Sanders doll standing in front of KFC shop near JR Nara station knows just what to wear for Children's Day. Instead of his usual white suit, he dresses up himself in a Samurai armour suit.

(picture taken on May 3, 2011)

-NARAWALK guide 

Events around Nara Park (May 2011)

Around Nara Park:
April 23(sat) – May 8(sun) Special Opening of Hokuen-do Hall
Hokuen-do Hall houses three national treasure statues from 13 century. The hall itself is also designated as a national treasure.
9:00~17:00 (admission till 16:45) @Kofukuji Temple
Admission: Adults 300yen, Students 200yen, Elementary School Students 100yen

April 23(sat) – May 8(sun) Special Viewing of Temple Treasures
9:00~17:00(enter before 16:30) @Gangoji Temple
Chikou Mandala (important cultural property) and two picture scrolls are open to the public. Two picture scrolls, each over 10m (32ft) long, depict the history of Gangoji Temple. Chikou Mandala depicts paradise of Amitabha Buddha.

May 1(sun) Ice Offering Festival (Hyoken-sai)
@Himuro Shrine (in front of Nara National Museum)
The name of the shrine Himuro literally means ice storage. On May 1st, manufactured ice companies and people from ice related professions make an annual gathering at Himuro Shrine to pray for a successful business year. Ice cubes, with fish and flowers frozen inside, are offered to the deity of the shrine.
11:00~ ritual ceremony
14:00~ offering of Bugaku, traditional dance and music

May 2(mon) Emperor Shomu Commemoration Ceremony (Shomu Tenno Sai)
@Todaiji Temple
Emperor Shomu was the emperor who decided to make Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple.
Todaiji Temple commemorates Emperor Shome on this day.

8:00~11:30 Ritual Ceremony @ Tenno-den Hall near Great South Gate in Todaiji Temple
*You can observe the ritual from outside of the hall. This is the rare chance to see, otherwise hidden, Tenno-den hall. Admission is free.
13:00~ A procession of people in traditional costumes
Musicians, children, solder monks, Buddhist priests, beautiful Miss Nara and others, about 300 people in total, will walk from Nara Prefecture New Public Hall through Great South Gate to Great Buddha Hall in Todaiji Temple.
13:30~ Offertory of Traditional Music and Dance, and Noh
At a pond by Great Buddha Hall, Maigaku (traditional music and dance) and Noh are offered. A stage will be set over the pond for this occasion. You can view these offerings freely.

May 3(tue) Sanryo-sai
@ Todaiji Temple
This is the day two of Emperor Shomu commemoration. All Buddhist priests of Todaiji Temple walk in a procession to the burial mount of Emperor Shomu. The procession leaves Great Buddha Hall at 8:30.

11:00 ~ Offertory of Tea by Ura-senke School
After the offertory is done, Macha (powdered green tea) will be offered to everyone visiting Great Buddha Hall. There will be seats prepared at the eastern side of the corridor enclosing the hall. Sit there and wait for a tea to be served. (Tea is available for approx. 4000 people.)

May 5(thu) Iris Festival (Shobu-sai)
@Kasuga Grand Shrine
May 5th is Children’s Day, a day to pray for the healthy growth of children. Strong fragrance of iris is believed to drive away bad luck, and people take bath with iris leaves in it.
10:00~ Ceremony to pray for the healthy growth
*Cannot see the ceremony itself, but can see the offertory of Maigaku (traditional music and dance) performed after the ceremony

@Tobihino Field (open field near the main approach to Kasuga Grand Shrine)
10:00~ Kendo Competition by boys
Boys practicing Kendo, a fencing like duel with bamboo swords, compete.

@Manyo Shokubutsu-en (a botanical garden in the precinct of Kasuga Grand Shrine)
13:00~ Traditional Music and Dance Performed
Traditional music and dances that have been passed down for over 1000 years will be performed on a stage specially set over a pond. Enjoy Japanese traditional arts in the greens of the garden. *Admission into the garden is required. Adult 500 yen. Children 250 yen.

May 8(fri) Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday (Hana-matsuri)
The founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni Buddha’s birthday is April 8. Vaguely following the lunar calendar, some temples celebrate his birthday in May. Usually a birth statue of Buddha is placed in front of a hall. The statue is enshrined in a small temporary shrine decorated with flowers. Sweet tea made from Amacha, a type of hydrangea, is poured onto a birth statue of Buddha by visitors.

@Gangoji Temple in Nara-machi old town

May 10(tue) Tea Offertory Ceremony (Kencha-sai)
11:00~ @ Kasuga Grand Shrine
A tea is offered to the deities of Kasuga Grand Shrine by a tea master from Omote-senke School. Seats will be prepared for visitors to enjoy tea as well.

Around Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji Station:
April 29(thu)-May 5(thu) Nara Palace Tnpyo Festival (Heijyo-kyo Tenpyo-sai)
An annual festival to celebrate the old Nara capital. See ‘1301st anniversary at Nara Palace Site’ for detail.

May 28(sat) Commemoration Ceremony for Narihira (Narihira-ki)
@Futaiji Temple
Narihira is a celebrated Japanese waka poet from 9th century. Also, he is said to be the hero of The Tales of Ise. May 28 is his death anniversary. On the same day, an important cultural property pagoda is opened to the public.

Around Horyuji Temple and Nishino-kyo:
April 11(mon) – May 18(wed) Special Viewing of Hidden Statues
@ Hall of Dreams in Eastern Precinct of Horyuji Temple
A national treasure statue of Kannon Bodhisattva made in 7 century is enshrined in this hall. The Kannon statue is said to be modeled after Prince Shotoku, the father of Japanese Buddhism.
Admission: Adults(13yrs old and up) 1000yen for West and Eastern Precincts or 200yen for Eastern Precinct only, Elementary School Students(12-6 year olds) 100yen

May 4(wed) Saisho-e Ceremony
18:00~ @ Lecture Hall in Yakushiji Temple
Saisho-e is a ceremony to pray for wellness of the nation and rich harvests. The name of the ceremony comes from a sutra that is lectured and read in a ritualistic way during the ceremony. You can go inside of the hall to observe the ceremony. One of the three famous Buddhist ceremonies of Japan.

May 5(thu) Commemoration Ceremony For Buddhist Priest Genjo Sanzo (Genjo Sanzo e taisai)
@Genjo Sanzo-in Garan Precinct in Yakushiji Temple
A ceremony is held to commemorate Sanzo or Xuanzang, a famous Chinese Buddhist monk. He is also popularly known as one of fictional heroes of “Journey to the West” or “Monkey”.
16:00~ ceremony
17:00~ Gigaku, traditional masked play, is performed. The story performed is Sanzo’s famous Journey to the West.
*Seats are not open to the public, but the procession of masked actors to a stage is a fun view.
18:00~20:30 Lanterns cover the ground and illuminate the precinct.

May 19(thu) Fans Scattering Ceremony (Uchiwa-maki)
@Toshodaiji Temple
1500 heart shaped fans are scattered from a two-storied wooden building. People try to catch a fan believing it will bring a good luck. The heart shaped fan has origin in an anecdote of a Buddhist priest Kakujo. A commemoration ceremony for Kakujyo precedes the Fans Scattering Ceremony.
13:00~14:00 Commemoration ceremony and an offering of Bugaku, a traditional dance and music @Lecture Hall
15:00~ Fans Scattering Ceremony @Drum Tower

 *Sorry for late posting.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

1301st anniversary at Nara Palace Site

It's time to celebrate Tenpyo-sai, an annual festival celebrating the old Nara capital.

Basic Info:
Duration: April 29 to May 5
Hours: 9:00-17:00
Admission is free. (Some attractions are for fee.)
Access: click here
*During this event, there will be a bus (No. 81) connecting JR Nara station, Kintetsu Nara station, Nara Park and Nara Palace Site, running every 20 min. between 9:00 to 18:00. Fee is 200yen for adults (over elementary school age) and 100yen for children (elementary school students).
Bus route bound to Nara Palace Site:
Nara Park (in front of Nara prefectural building) > Kintetsu Nara station > JR Nara station (west side) > Nara Palace Site (near Suzaku-mon Gate)
Bus route bound to Nara Park:
Nara Palace Site (near Suzaku-mon Gate) > JR Nara station (west side; **unloading only) > Kintetsu Nara station (**unloading only) > Nara Park (in front of Nara prefectural building)
Event homepage: click here (in Jpn. only)

Event Schedule:
#April 29 to May 5# 
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-A stage by the official mascot of Nara, Sento-kun is held several times a day. Receive a warm welcome from this once regarded hideous, but now very popular mascot of Nara.

@near Nara Palace Site Museum
-Charity Bazaar
Calligraphy works by Nara's renowned Buddhist priests, Nara's famous Akahata-yaki brand potteries and other goods will be sold. All proceeds to go to the earthquake relief.
-Food court & hand craft workshops, 10:00-17:00
* Not all shops are available on May 2.

@near the south gate of Former Imperial Audience Hall
-Open Air Tea Ceremony, 11:00-16:00, 500yen
*Not available on May 2.
-Costume Rental. Walk the palace site in a costume of 1300 years ago. 9:00-17:00(last admission is 16:00)
300yen for 30 min. rental
500yen for 60 min. rental

@near Excavation Site Exhibition Hall
-Ride Segway, 10:00-16:00, 2500yen per person
*Numbered tickets will be issued from 9:00.
*The ride is for 16 years old and older.

#April 29#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
11:00 ~ Parade of 400 people in costumes of 1300 years ago with music.
14:00 ~ Calligraphy performance show by local elementary school students. They will write a cheer up message toward earthquake affected people.

#April 30#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-Wadaiko, Japanese drum stage by nine drum music group
Three stages: 10:30~, 12:30~, 14:40~
-Parade of people in costumes of 1300 years ago. (short version)
Time: 11:00~, 13:00~

#May 1#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-Kemari demonstration. Kemari is a type of ball playing that nobles of 1300 years ago played.
Time: 11:00~, 14:00~
-Parade of people in costumes of 1300 years ago. (short version) Time: 11:00~, 13:00~

#May 3 to May 5#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-Music concert.
Time: 13:00~, 15:00~ (On May 3, the second stage is from 15:30.)

@near Nara Palace Site Museum
-Japanese Tea Booth, 10:00-17:00
Learn and taste the Nara brand of Japanese tea, Yamato-cha.

@Field in front of Former Imperial Audience Hall
-Zorb. Try New Zealand born attraction Zorb for free.

#May 5#
@near Nara Palace Site Museum
-Vote on B-grade gourmet competition.
B-grade gourmets are usually inexpensive local soul foods. Eat B-grade gourmets, and cast your chopsticks to a chopstick-collecting box of your favorite B-grade gourmet shop! Each chopsticks is counted as a vote. Competition starts 11:30.

-NARAWALK guide 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Traditional Theater Training 2011

Noh and Kyogen, traditional theatrical arts of Japan, have roots in Nara. When I went to Noh theater near Todaiji Temple, I found a leaflet for a course to learn Noh, Kyogen and Nihonbuyo from leading performers of each genre.

This three week course (July 22 to August 12) takes place in Kyoto Art Center.  The course includes workshops, group training sessions with Japanese masters of each genre and a recital at a Noh theater. For people living outside of Kyoto, housing assistance is available.

On April 23, Kyoto Art Center extended the deadline for the early bird discount to May 10. They also reduced tuition by 10,000yen. They have already started to accept applications; apply quickly seats are only available for approx. 24 participants.

For details visit followings:
Kyoto Art Center website (quick overview to the program *Information is latest at this website than T.T.T. website below.)

Traditional Theater Training 2011 website (curriculum, requirements to participate, about instructors, pictures from past courses etc.)

-NARAWALK guide 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kuniyoshi: Spectacular Ukiyo-e Imagination

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797~1861) is an Ukiyo-e artist with imagination and humour. He is known for action-packed Ukiyo-e printings of historical and legendary heroes. As an ardent cat lover, he also created many works depicting personified cats (and other animals), in addition to usual subjects like Kabuki actors, beautiful ladies and landscapes.

This year is Kuniyoshi's 150th death anniversary. An exhibition "Kuniyoshi: Spectacular Ukiyo-e Imagination" is held to commemorate him. About 400 works, including newly discovered, are exhibited at Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition is scheduled to tour to Shizuoka and Tokyo after Osaka.

Exhibition Tour Schedule:
April 12, 2011 ~ June 5, 2011 Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
July 9, 2011 ~ August 21, 2011 Shizuoka City Museum of Art
December 17, 2011 ~ February 12, 2012 Mori Arts Center Gallery

@ Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
Duration: April 12, 2011 ~ June 5, 2011
Closed on Mondays (except for May 2)
Hours: 9:30~17:00 (enter 30min before closing time)
Admission: Adults 1300yen, University and High School Students 900yen, Junior High School Students and under Free
Access: click here


Sunday, April 24, 2011

After Cherry Is Wisteria

Kasuga Grand Shrine has a over 700 years old wisteria tree. Every year from late April to early May, fragrant purple clusters droop from the wisteria tree.

Around the same time, Bonsai Wisteria Tree Exhibition is held at Nara International Seminar House near Nara National Museum. This is the fifth year of this exhibition. (for pictures of the exhibition click here)

Duration: 2011, April 18 ~May 3
Admission: Adults 400yen, Elementary School Students 200yen, Children 5 and under are free.
Access: Nara International Seminar House

*You can also enjoy a bonsai wisteria tree at former JR Nara station building which is now used as one of the Nara City Tourist Information Center. The center is located next to the current JR Nara station building. Gorgeous aroma of wisteria fills the whole center.


Hanami in Kyoto

Last Sunday, on April 17, I went to Kyoto Botanical Garden and Kamigamo Shrine for a walk. Cherry blossoms were still beautiful, and people were enjoying Hanami or cherry-blossom-viewing-picnics.

On many cherries now in Nara, fresh leaves have sprouted. Some are still beautiful with pink blossoms. A news program tells me today that cherry blossoms in Tohoku area are now in their full bloom.

*by Kamo River*

*going to Kyoto Botanical Garden*

*Kamigamo Shrine*

All pictures are taken on April 17, 2011.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Birth of Chinese Civilization

2000 B.C. is a long loong looong time ago, isn't it?

Henan Province, located in the central region of China and in the Yellow River watershed, is a cradle of Chinese civilization. From around 2000 B.C. to up until the 12th century, Henan Province was the center of Chinese politics, economy and culture hosting capitals of many dynasties - including Xia dynasty (once regarded as nonexistent), Shang dynasty (where earliest form of Chinese characters were incised on oracle bones), Eastern Han dynasty(end of which the Battle of Red Cliffs depicted in the movie Red Cliff was fought), Cao Wei(one of the three kingdoms) and other dynasties.

In an exhibition "The Birth of Chinese Civilization", Nara National Museum displays ancient artifacts (2000 B.C. ~ 12th century) from Henan Province. Most of exhibits are unearthed articles excavated in 20th and 21st centuries. Artifacts laid out in chronological order neatly shows the development of craftsmanship.

My favourite part was face expressions of animal and human figure crafts; their faces were lively and some even humorous.

Duration: ~ May 29, 2011
Closed on Mondays except May 2
Hours: 9:30~17:00
*Fridays and Saturdays from April 29 will open late till 19:00.
*Entrance permitted until 30 min before the closing time.
Admission: General Admission 1400yen, College/High School Students 1000yen, Junior High/Elementary School students 500yen
*Half price off for married couples on April 22 and May 22. (At the ticket booth, say "we are visiting as a couple".)
Access: click here

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