Hints of love fill the air at Nara’s Manyo festival


Staff Writer

Japan’s oldest market in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, will host the Manyo Matsuri on Sept. 8, a festival to commemorate the market and the region’s (central Nara Prefecture) ancient culture.

One side of the Hatsuse River used to be the location of an old road that led to the village of Asuka, which was also the capital city of the region during the Asuka Period (593-710). The road intersected with a road to Nanba, today’s Osaka. That crossing was a meeting spot for many people and was where the market, known as Tsubaichi, took place.

The ancient Tsubaichi market had an event called the utagaki, which translates as “poem party.” During such parties, young men and women gathered and sought out partners by exchanging love poems. Several such poems were included in “Manyoshu,” Japan’s oldest existing poetry collection, which was compiled some time after the year 759 during the Nara Period (710-794).

Imitating the romantic tradition, festival organizers will sell paper lanterns on which participants can write romantic messages to their loved ones. The lanterns will then be set afloat on Hatsuse River.

Expect many local farmers, craftsman and restaurants to be selling their specialties at the festival.

Manyo Matsuri takes place at Kanaya Kasenjiki Park. It is accessible by shuttle bus from Sakurai and Miwa stations located on the Kintetsu Osaka Line. The festival starts at 2 p.m. For more information, visit manyou-fes.jp (in Japanese only).