Nara, an ancient capital of Japan, is known for its changing beauty throughout the seasons. If you think you’ve seen the city at its best blanketed in cherry blossoms or autumn leaves, you probably haven’t seen it during the To-kae Festival.
The Nara To-kae is an event during which historical sites in the Nara Park area are lit up by more than 20,000 candles for 10 days during the week of the Bon holidays. The paths leading up to world heritage sites such as Todaiji and Kofukuji temples will be lined with candles, enveloping them in a beautiful glow. Ten venues will be illuminated, and for three hours each night visitors will be able to walk to all of them. Two must-sees at the light show are the Ukigumoenchi and Kasuganoenchi gardens, where countless candles will create a breathtaking scene resembling a field of flowers.
Attracting around 700,000 visitors each year, the event has expanded over its 14-year history. The organization hosting the event is not-for-profit, but to support its efforts you can buy a ticket for ¥1,500, which will let you place special candles at three of the sites. If you can’t get enough of the lights, Todaiji and Mount Koenzan will have a spectacle of their own on the following day. There will be more than 2,000 lanterns displayed around the temple to send away the spirits, and there will also be a traditional daimonji okuri, in which a huge rendering of “dai,” the kanji for “large,” will burn on the mountain.
The flames of the candles are supposed to look like small flowers blossoming in the ancient city. Even if you have been to Nara before, to see the historic temples in candlelight is worth another visit.
Nara To-kae takes place in the Nara Park area Aug. 5-14. Candles will be lit from 7 p.m. till 9:45 p.m. For details, visit www.toukae.jp/tokae_e/index.html.