Sitting quietly in the mountains of Nara Prefecture is the Tanzan Shrine, the home of this Spring/Autumn festival. Deep in roots, this festival brings back to life a game called Kemari that the royal family members used to play 1,400 years ago. The Tanzan Shrine is where the soul of Fujiwara Kamatari—founder of Japanese politics in the 7th century—is enshrined. Fujiwara was planning a political reform with the emperor of the time, and it was through Kemari that the two met. The game Kemari came to Japan through China. The object is to keep a leather ball called "mari" from touching the ground using only one's feet, like juggling, or lifting, in western football/soccer. At this festival, viewers can join in on the fun after viewing the official performers.
The colorful attire that the Kemari performers wear go splendidly well with both the lushes green mountains of Spring and the fully changed leaves of Autumn. They were worn by the royal family during the Heian period 1,400 years ago and each color represented the person's level in social rank. There are set rules and manners to the game so look forward to watching some brilliant actions.
After the official performers finishing playing, visitors can try the game out as well. It is interesting to know that there is no winning or losing in Kemari. The main point is to serve a ball that is easy to receive. What an interesting idea. Give the game a shot with respect to your partners!
From 11:30am on the 3rd, the Kemari performances start in the Kemari Garden within the shrine grounds. Players choose their standing positions in the circle according to bamboo poles located in four corners of the garden. There is an urn buried in the center of the garden that increases the sound of the Kemari being kicked. Enjoy the beautiful garden along with unique sounds.
In order to keep things moving smoothly, please do not stand in the way of the procession and refrain from asking performers to stop.
Access to Sakurai City
Sakurai Station on the JR Kintetsu Railway
Line: JR Man-yo Mahoroba Line and Kintetsu Osaka Line
[Nearest Bust Stop]
Line: Tounomine Line
The stop for Tanzan Shrine from the Sakurai Station (south exit) is the last stop on the route. It is a 5min walk to the shrine from the bus stop.