Omizutori, a Unique Event at Todaiji Temple: Video Introduction
This video, titled "'Omizutori' at Todaiji Temple's Nigatsudo Hall, an Ancient Ceremony That Has Continued for More Than 1,200 Years" (東大寺二月堂「お水取り」 1200年以上続く不退の行法), was uploaded by "KYODO NEWS."
Omizutori (water-drawing ceremony) is held at Todaiji Temple's Nigatsudo Hall for two weeks from March 1 to 14 every year. This video introduces the traditional ceremony from the first day to the last day. On the final day, when the "Kagotaimatsu" (large torches made with pine) are lit, the temple is crowded with tourists and people wishing for good health and good fortune. Be sure to check out the videos to see what it's like.
The History and Meaning Behind the Unique Event at Todaiji Temple, Nara
Photo：Todaiji Temple, Nara
Todaiji Temple is a temple in Nara, Japan famous for the "Great Buddha of Nara" and its principal image is the Vairocana Buddha. It was built in the Nara Period (710-794 A.D.) at the request of Emperor Shomu. Omizutori, a traditional event to herald the coming of spring, is held at Todaiji Temple every year.
It's said that this event was first held in 752 by Jichu, a high disciple of Roben, and has a history of more than 1,200 years.
Originally, in February of the lunar calendar, "Shunie," a ceremony of repentance for more than two weeks, was held. "Omizutori," a widely known ceremony in Japan, is a part of this ceremony.
During Shunie, 6 repentance sessions called "Rokuji no Gyoho" are performed from noon to midnight. During the six repentance sessions, beautiful shomyo (Buddhist chanting) is performed. The six repentance sessions are: "Nichu" (midday), "Nichimotsu" (dusk), "Shoya" (late evening), "Hanya" (midnight), "Goya" (after midnight), and "Jinjo" (dawn).
The name "Omizutori" is derived from the transportation of okozui (scented water used for purification) from the manor of the Wakasa well. The water drawn is from a well in a building to which only parade performers are allowed. It is believed that drinking the okozui will cure all illnesses. The official name of "Omizutori" is "Juichi-men Kekka."
During the ceremony, priests who have purified their bodies and souls chant the name of the Buddha in front of the eleven-faced Kannon (Goddess of Mercy), repenting for their sins and praying for peace and tranquility under heaven.
In recent years, many events have had to be canceled due to the Corona pandemic, but the Shunie and Omizutori ceremonies have never been canceled, even when various natural disasters and epidemics have occurred.
Highlights of the Event at Todaiji Temple, Nara
Photo：Omizutori at Todaiji Temple, Nara
The famous scene of Todaiji Temple's Omizutori is the spectacular sight of torch sparks dancing from the stage of Nigatsudo. The torch sparks, called "o-taimatsu," are known to bring blessings of good health and good fortune, and every year many tourists visit Todaiji's Nigatsudo Hall to see them.
It's said that if you take home cinders from the burnt torches, wrap them in a piece calligraphy paper and tie it with mizuhiki (a decorative Japanese cord) to decorate your entrance or kitchen, you will be blessed with good luck that will ward off misfortune and evil.
[Video] 0:53 - Monks Led by a Large Torch Enter Nigatsudo One After Another
There are 10 torches lit each night during the procession, but on the night of March 12th, the largest basket torch appears, bringing the total to 11. The sight of these torches, 8 meters long and weighing about 70 kg each, leading the procession with fiery sparks amidst the solemn sound of bells is a sight to behold.
[Video] 1:40 - The Large Basket Torches
After the date changes to dawn on the 13th, the Omizutori, from which the festival takes its name, begins. The ceremony is extremely sacred, so the inside of the Omizutori itself is kept secret.
[Video] 2:10 - Torchlight and Monks Heading for the Omizutori
Omizutori 2023 – Event Dates and Schedules
Photo：The Omizutori stage, Nigatsudo, Todaiji Temple, Nara
The schedule for the Omizutori/Shunie ceremonies in 2023 is as follows:
Dates: Wednesday, March 1st - Tuesday, March 14, 2023
(However, the event will be held from 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 12th, and from 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14th.)
During the festival, the hall will be decorated with artificial "camellia" flowers made by the parade performers to delight the eyes of visitors. It's recommended that you check schedules and event times in advance.
How to Get to Todaiji Temple to See the Events
Although admission to Todaiji Temple's Nigatsudo Hall, where the "Omizutori" ceremony is held, is free of charge, the crowds usually increase with each passing day. It's said that the first half of the week from March 1st, when the "Omizutori" ceremony begins, excluding weekends, is the best time to visit the hall.
The crowds peak on the 12th, when the dynamic "Kagotaimatsu" can be seen burning, and the area around Nara Park, located near Todaiji Temple, is so crowded that police are dispatched to guide tourists.
Therefore, public transportation is recommended to access Nigatsudo. The nearest station is Kintetsu Nara Station. If you're driving, please use toll parking lots in the area, as there is no parking at Todaiji Temple.
Summary of Omizutori, a Unique Event at Todaiji Temple
Omizutori is a unique ceremony held at Todaiji Temple's Nigatsudo Hall. On March 15th, after the full performance of the ceremony, there's an event held for small children in which the hats worn by the monks who perform in the ceremony, is placed on the child's head to pray for his or her healthy growth. This marks the end of the traditional "Omizutori" ceremony at Todaiji Temple.
Although this event heralds the beginning of spring, Nara in early March can be quite cold, so be sure to dress warm when visiting. There are a variety of tours available for families, friends, or solo travelers as well. Planning a spring trip to Nara will be tons of fun! Witness the sparks of the giant torches and experience 1,200 years of history at a famous temple in Nara, Japan!
[Official Website] Todaiji Temple
[Tripadvisor] Nigatsudo, Todaiji Temple