Nara's Weird & Wonderful Festivals

It's one thing to visit lots of beautiful temples, but to really get to the heart of a culture, you have to meet the locals. Nara's festivals, many of which have continued for hundreds of years, bring you closer to this fascinating and often bewildering country.

Kaerutobi Festival

This frog hopping ceremony has a touch of Monty Python to the outside observer. Based on the local legend of a man who didn’t take his religious discipline seriously and was changed into a frog, a man in a frog costume hops around Kinpusenji Temple. | Cultural Events | Yoshino

Dorogawa Onsen Gyoja Festival

In this summer festival, also known as the demon dance festival, hundreds of men in comical demon masks dance through the town, led by more serious Shugendo practitioners. The evening ends in fireworks. | Cultural Events | Dorogawa Onsen

Tsuribashi Festival "Yuredaiko"

Taking advantage of the natural accoustics of the valley, Tanizeno Tsuribashi Suspension Bridge hosts taiko players who drum up excitement throughout the area. The festival also features street stalls and fireworks. | Cultural Events | Totsukawa

Heijo Tempyo Summer Festival

Celebrating the ancient capital of Heijokyo, the ancient palace site is filled with performers in traditional Nara Period costumes, nightly illuminations and colourful floats, over three days and nights. | Cultural Events | Nishinokyo

Wakamiya Onmatsuri

In December, the streets leading to Kasugataisha Shrine are crowded with street stalls and visitors for this festival, one of the largest in Nara. Originally held to ward off sickness and pray for a good harvest, hundreds of performers parade in costumes ranging from the Heian to the Edo periods. | Cultural Events | Nara Park

Yamatoji Winter Shikayose

In February and March, the deer are summoned by a French horn player, to be fed acorns. Traditionally, it was hard for the deer to find enough food in winter, hence the daily event. Nowadays, tourists with shika senbei, deer crackers, keep the deer well fed. | Nature Events | Nara Park

Spring Kemari Festival

This early form of soccer can be seen in spring and autumn, with players wearing elaborate Nara period costumes. The event celebrates an historic meeting over such a game in 645, where the players plotted the overthrow of the powerful Soga clan, and ushered in a centralized Japanese government based on Chinese lines. | Cultural Events | Sakurai

Onda Festival

A rather bawdy fertility festival, masked actors pantomime a sexual congress to encourage good crops and safe childbirth. Niimasu Shrine also features many stones carved like genitalia. | Cultural Events | Asuka

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