A lot of the content that makes its way onto our site is a combination of curious Catholic-Pagan hybrid celebrations, or else festive folk just having a laugh with something a little bizarre. Right now we’re going to check out a different breed; a popular Buddhist tradition.
Omizutori is an annual celebration held at the Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan. The festival encompasses a series of Buddhist repentance rituals and has been going strong for over 1250 years, meaning that it is one of the oldest events in Japan. Omizutori is also known as the Sacred Water-Drawing Festival and it is part of the larger Shuni-e ceremony.
During Omizutori, priests get up in the wee hours of the morning and draw water from a well that lies at the base of the Temple hall. The water is reported to only flow once a year and is highly revered for its restorative qualities. It is, after all, only there because of a God. It is believed that the water was a gift of one of the Gods who was late to a ceremony held by Jitchu, the founder of Shuni-e, because he was busy fishing on the Onyu River. To make up for his tardiness he offered scented water from the river, which then magically sprung up from the ground at his feet.
While Omizutori is known as the Water-Drawing festival, it is not the water-drawing that has crowds gathering each night; it is the curtain of sparks. Just after sunset, monks carrying giant torches (6-8 meters long) are carried up onto the Nigatsudo’s balcony and held over the gathered crowd. As the torches burn, firey embered fall onto the crowd; symbolizing a safe year for all of the onlookers.
Though being rained on by hot embers might not be your idea of safety, it certainly looks beautiful and has many returning year after year. For more information about Omizutori, check out the Japan Guide Website.
When: 1st – 14th of March, 2013
Where: Nara, Japan
- A fiery festival at Nara (postcardsfromfukui.com)