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)
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)
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”.
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)
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.