The Wakamiya Onmatsuri is a time to pray for health and a rich harvest. It's origins date back to when the Wakamiya Shrine first welcomed it's deity of the same name to the local lands of Kasuga and the festival has been held every single year without fail since 1136. At this festival, the sacred spirit of the deity is brought to the "Otabisho" for a rest from its long year of work where it is catered on and made offerings. It is then returned to the shrine within 24 hours. Participants of the ritual dressed in various historical outfits march to the Otabisho where they pay respects and show their appreciation through traditional folk song and dance. Enjoy the atmosphere of the town through this sacred and solemn ritual and procession.
At the stroke of midnight on the 17th the Senko no Gi (Departure) ritual is commenced amongst the echoing sound of the flute and the local deity is returned to its resting place at the Otabisho. Every light in town is turned off and torches are lit. Since visitors are not permitted to witness the deity, the shrine servants proceed while encircling the portable shrine and hiding it with Sasaki branches. Viewers customly give deep bows as the spirit passes in front of them. Photographs and lights of any kind are not permitted and talking is strictly forbidden so please be mindful. Enjoy the darkness and stillness while viewing this sacred moment.
At the Owatari Shiki ritual held at noon on the 17th, ritual participants form a procession and march to the Wakamiya deity resting at the Otabisho dressed in flashy old school fashion ranging from the Heian period to the Edo period. There is also horse back archery and dramatic horse racing in front of the famous pine tree Kagemuko no Matsu that stands next to the path towards the Kasuga Taisha shrine.
Around 2:30pm, when the Owatari Shiki reaches the deity's resting place, the Otabisho Festival is commenced. At this event, bushels of rice decorated separately in blue, yellow, red and white are offered, followed by a traditional dance. The Onmatsuri is also referred to as a folk festival and offers continual dances performances of various kinds until 11:00 at night.
The Kanko no Gi (Return) ritual is commenced at 11:00pm and the deity is returned to the main hall of the shrine. Photography and lights are forbidden during this ritual as well. Locals and visitors show their feeling of gratitude regardless of the harsh cold.
Since there are certain times when photography is forbidden, please follow the directions of staff.
Access to Nara City
JR Nara Station, Kintetsu Nara Station
Line: JR Yamatojisen Line, Kintetsu Nara Line
Access to Kasuga Taisha
Bus from Nara Station
Nearest Bus stop: Kasuga Taisha Honten
Line: Nara Kotsu Bus
Shrine is viewable from the bus stop.
Kasuga Taisha's address:
160 Kasuganocho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture