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NARA

Nara’s fire and water ceremonies to bring good luck to visitors

by Natalie Koch

People living outside of Nara who are up for a long weekend trip shouldn’t miss the city’s spring festival.

Shuni-e, meaning ceremony of the second month, is a series of Buddhist rituals in which priests pray to repent for the sins of the profane world to the goddess Kannon, who is enshrined in Nigatsudo Hall, a sub complex of Todaiji Temple in Nara. These rituals, annually held between March 1-14, go back more than 1,000 years.

Shuni-e consists of the ceremony of fire, otaimatsu, and the ceremony of water, omizutori. At otaimatsu, priests carry giant torches to and then across Nigatsudo’s balcony after sunset every night. The sparks are said to bring good luck, so be sure to catch one. At omizutori, priests descend from the Nigatsudo during the night from March 12-13 to draw water from a well in front of the temple hall, which only flows at this particular time of the year. The water is then given to the people and offered to Buddhist deities. This ritual is thought to have restorative powers and it has become so popular that the entire Shuni-e ceremony is more commonly referred to as simply omizutori.

The Shuni-e will take place March 1-14 at Todaiji Temple’s Nigatsudo Hall in Nara. For more information, visit www.japan-guide.com/e/e4110.html