Things to do / Traditional festivals

Shigisan Tora Festival

On your way to Shigisan Chogosonshiji temple in Nara Prefecture, it's likely that you'll encounter the fukutora, an imposing tiger that guards the temple's entrance. Don't be frightened, though. The oversized feline is actually the world's largest papier-mache tiger. As you continue through the entrance, you'll have a chance to test your courage and prove your valor by walking down the Santora no Fuku Tainai Meguri, a spooky, dimly lit tunnel covered in paintings of tigers.

The temple has a history of celebrating tigers that goes back to the sixth century, and this weekend it will hold the Shigisan Tora Festival, an annual two-day event.

The highlights of the festivities include a Sunday parade in which around 50 people born in the Chinese zodiac's Year of the Tiger will walk around the temple, accompanied by Buddhist monks, participants hoisting a tiger mikoshi (portable shrine) and musicians playing traditional Japanese instruments.

There will also be workshops for painting papier-mache tigers, which will take place in the main hall throughout the event, so come prepared to unleash your creativity. Finally, don't forget to check out the special altar where roughly 5,000 tiger figures will be stacked like a pyramid. (Yuki Yamauchi)

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