Nara Tokae Lantern Festival
Nara Tokae Lantern Festival
If you happen to be in Nara during the Obon break then I would recommend going to the Nara Tokae Lantern Festival. There are rows of candle lit lanterns that are decorated and the area is illuminated by the lanterns only. You’ll even see some deer walking through the crows at this festival.
During the month of August there are lots of different ceremonies that are held at the shrines and temples in Nara and one of the popular events is the illumination of 2500 paper lanterns at the Manto Kuyoe at Todaiji Temple. The lanterns are believed to guide the souls of ancestors back home to their friends and family. By writing your wishes and prayers on the lanterns they are conveyed to the gods and the spirit world.
In 1999, the Tokae was created in Nara which is a 10 day long lantern festival and they do this because it has been a part of Nara history for over 1300 years to burn a fire. And to continue the tradition of fire in Nara they light lanters.
It is known that every single person who participates in the festival is to light one light. Each participant is allowed to light their own lantern and then put it on the grounds of the festival to make a wish. The word Toka in Tokae means light flower and it is called this because the shape of the hollow around the burning wick and a candle’s melted remains are said to resemble a flower. It is said the lantern is more lucky the more the hallow and the candle looks like a flower. The more your light looks like a flower the more your wish is to be granted.
Each person is to donate 500 yen when getting the light as the money is used to buy the candles for the following year’s festival. The word e in Tokae means meeting or gathering. This is because the Tokae is a gathering of fire flowers and it can be seen as of the same spirit as the gatherings of families and friends during the obon holiday.
This festival takes place at the Nara Park from August 5th to the 14th. The main part of the festival takes place right next to the Todaiji Temple right in the Ukigumo Enchi. It also takes place at the Asajigawa Kaijo which is south of the Nara National Museum. The must see event during this festival is on the 13th and 14th in which the Great Buddha of Todaiji is lit by lanterns from within. The windows in front of the Buddha’s face are opened so that you can view from outside of the hall. This is a very very rare occasion in which the windows are opened as this only happens twice a year.
There are two different ways in which you can get to the festival. The closest station to the main festival grounds is the kintetsu Nara Station. So you can take the train to this station or you can take a bus. If you take the bus then make sure to get off at the Daibustudenmae Bus stop. If you are going from the JR Nara station you can take the bus from the east entrance which will go to Daibutsudenmae station.