Nara – Kasuga Taisha

untitled-315Kasuga Taisha, a Shinto shrine, is the most celebrated shrine in Nara and is famous for its numerous lanterns which had been donated by worshipers and was established in 768AD by the Fujiwara family.

untitled-310We arrived at the shrine through a path surrounded with matured forest and numerous stone lanterns with the top encrusted with lime green moss. We entered the shrine through a large vermilion gate, “minamimon”, past the ticket office. I noticed a large signage which read “Fortunes in English”. Instead of stone lanterns, here, hundreds of bronze lanterns hung from the ceiling. Walking through these corridors of lanterns gave an impression of being in a “wonderland”. I can only imagine how it would look when the lanterns are all lit up which happened only twice a year.

untitled-316Although there were a few people wandering around, the atmosphere here was serene. A structural wisteria tree with barely any leaves was positioned on the east end of the rather long vermilion and gold lacquered building. We continued towards the “chumon” gate. Inside the Main Hall, “Honden”, a wedding ceremony was in progress. The groom and bride were dressed in white flowing robes. In attendance were the family members, seated on the floor, and a Shinto priest assisted by a white top and orange gowned miko. A small clump of purple wisteria was attached on her forehead. It was a sombre ceremony. On the wall was a colourfully painted mural.

untitled-319untitled-317 untitled-320The cypress-bark roof of the shrine buildings stood in harmony with the natural surroundings. The west end, was dominated by a 20m tall with over 7m width giant Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), “sugi”. A sacred rope, “shimenawa”, made from braided rice straw is coiled around this tree. This scared tree is said to be over 1000yrs old. It certainly had a grand look. There are over 1000 bronze lanterns hung around the corridors in this shrine. All donated by worshipers. Some painted in gold and mostly in bare emerald bronze.

DSC_0630The wisteria flower, “nodafuji”, is considered very important for the shrine. The name Fujiwara could also be read as ‘Wisteria field’. Near the exit of the shrine we encountered a couple of “Mikos”, temple assistants, whom had wisteria worn in their hair. A sika deer greeted Navindd on the exit corridor. The deer that roam freely are protected and said to the messenger of the Shinto Gods. They are not only protected but also revered and adored. We passed several sculptures around this green Nara Park.

Looking back, the shrine is in the midst of woods. The celebrated Kasuga Primeval Forest, Mountain home of the Gods, covered the mountains behind this shrine. However, it was closed to public.

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