Enticed by the autumn breeze, recommended hiking courses in Nara Prefecture

Color gradations of yellow and red with green accents. Mountains in autumn are dyed with colorful beauty. That is evidence of various forms of life and rich nature. A refreshing wind sweeps across over the plains, and autumn is the best season to tour Nara Prefecture. Don’t miss the season when mountains and plains become most beautiful. Let’s go on a hike!

1) Enjoy the attractions of Mother Nature to your heart’s content: Odaigahara
Odaigahara, designated as part of Yoshino-Kumano National Park, has a high annual precipitation, and this humid climate allows various animals and plants to thrive. Around 1694-meter Hinodegatake, the highest peak on the east side, forests, grasslands, cliffs, falls, mountain streams, and wetlands spread out, and you can quite easily enjoy the wild panorama dyed red and yellow by maple trees. If you are in luck, you have a chance to encounter wild animals. On the other hand, on the west side, more mysterious primeval beech forests remain since the government strictly restricts entry to the mountains in order to protect the forests. Autumn in Odaigahara is painted by broad leaf forests containing Japanese beeches, Japanese oak, mountain ashes. The east side, which is recommended for beginners, is characterized by a fine view and the west side has lots of moss, big trees, and is full of attractions of the deep forests. Please take note of the early sunset and carry protection against the cold and rain, wear climbing boots, and be sure not to negatively impact the natural environment.

Stop-off point in the course
Odaigahara Visitor Center
Tel: 07468-3-0312
Address: 660-1, Kotochi, Kamikitayama-mura, Yoshino County
Open: 9:00-17:00 (Winter closure time: Late in November to late April)
Access: Kintetsu Yamato Kamiichi Station:
A short walk from Odaigahara bus stop.

2) Feel the breath of primeval forests: Kasugayama promenade and Mt. Wakakusa
Kasugayama Primeval Forest has remained primordial as the Kamiyama (a mountain where gods exist) of Kasuga Taisha Shrine since ancient times. It is on the Kasugayama promenade where you can feel this grove where over 800 species of various plants, big trees, insects and birds also inhabit. You can enjoy the place in various ways, such as forest bathing, or searching for big trees while indulging in the beauty and the tranquility in autumn with which ancient forests are ablaze.

There are some enormous trees in the untouched forests, with wildlife including squirrels and hares, and rare creatures such as forest green tree-frogs and clouded salamanders. Red and yellow contrast with green, and the brilliant coloring is especially beautiful. Fallen leaves strewn on the wide path are also beautiful, and make for the best photo shot. The destination of the hiking course is the top of Mt. Wakakusa, where wild deer graze peacefully, pampas grass rustles in the autumn wind, and the prospect from the summit is superb. The position gives a magnificent panoramic view of the roof of Daibutsu-den of Todai-ji Temple, Nara City, and Kongo mountain range in the distance.

3) Enjoy the features in autumn with satoyama hiking: Soni Highland
Soni Highland spreads out at the western foothills connecting Mt. Kuroso, one of the 300 most famous mountains in Japan, to Kameyama, resembling the back of tortoise. In autumn, a carpet of pampas grass bathes in the sun, and sways shining as if it were gold and silver waves from daytime toward evening, as you enjoy the magnificent sights. The season is changed in a subtle way by the crisp autumn breeze running through the grassland and the opening ears of pampas grass from October to November. You can feel the turn of the seasons.

Soni Highland, which is composed of a plateau and a damp area, is a rich repository of plants. You can see gentian, plants from the valerian family, Japanese clover, along with Japanese pampas grass in autumn. Okame-ike, or “tortoise pond”, originated from a Japanese folktale, “After a beauty who had married in the village gave birth to a baby, she
turned to be the incarnation of a huge serpent”, and is a swam which is positioned roughly in the center of the plateau. It is one of the sources of ‘natural springs in Soni Highland’, which has been selected as one of the 100 Exquisite and Well-conserved Waters of the Heisei Period. In autumn, ‘Soni Highland Yama-akari’, during which the pond is decorated with lanterns, is held. Nihonboso, where red leaves are beautiful, or the top of Mt. Kuroso, are both recommended for hardy hikers. You can enjoy the commanding view and wonderful scenery of autumn leaves. (You need to pay an entrance fee ahead of entering Nihonboso due to it being private property.)

Stop-off point in the course
Soni Highland Farm Garden
There are several spots worth while seeing in the Soni Highland Farm Garden. 'Mugi-no-Yakata' is a brewery where visitors can learn how their original beer is brewed. Food with fresh local ingredients and fresh craft beer are served at 'Susuki-no-Yakata.'
Tel: 0745-96-2888
Address: 839, Oaza Taroji, Soni-mura, Uda County
Open: 10:00-18:00 (Seasonally changed)
Access: Kintetsu Nabari Station: About 30-minute-walk from Taroji bus stop. (A short walk from Soni Highland Farm Garden. Only in Oct. and Nov.)

Soni Highland Hot Spring Okame-no-yu
This hot spring has a panoramic open-air bath, ‘Wooden Bathroom’, from which the whole view of Kabutodake, Yoroidake can be seen and a ‘Stone Bathroom’, which overlooks Soni Highland. It is popular as a beauty bath hot spring.
Tel: 0745-98-2615
Address: 830, Oaza Taroji, Soni-mura, Uda County
Open: 11:00-21:00 (until 20:30 From Dec. to Mar.)
Access: Kintetsu Nabari Station: About 30-minute-walk from Taroji bus stop. (A short walk from Soni highland Farm Garden but stop only in Oct. and Nov.)

4) Tawara-no-sato and Mt. Kunimi with a great view
If you move away from the center of Nara for just over 30 minutes by bus, you can encounter scenery that is dominated by paddy and tea plantation fields. It is in Tawara-no-sato that nature, man and history exist together in one place. At present, ‘Tawara Yamazato Museum’ enables people to experience the traditional craftsmanship and culture of the 16 places in the region, and local people have one corner of the workplace or individual works open to the public in each place as directors of the museum. (Prior booking essential for a tour.) Let’s go to Mt. Kunimi, 680 meters high, while looking at beautiful tea plantation fields where aromatic and delicious Yamato-cha green tea is grown. The summit overlooks the full view of Nara Basin, and Mt. Ikoma, Mt. Kongo can be viewed in the distance.

5) Hiking course related to Prince Shotoku: Mt. Myojin
Prince Shotoku was said to have died in Ikaruga in Nara Prefecture in 622, and his body was transported to his mausoleum in Shinaga (Taishi-cho, Osaka Prefecture) along the road ‘Taishimichi’ which runs through Oji Town. Ruins, old shrines and temples abound in the vicinity of Taishimichi. The area has a lot to offer to tourists, such as Daruma-ji Temple, which makes us feel the breath of Asuka era, Ashida-ike Pond, Mamatare Jizo (stone statue), Hobata Shrine, displaying lots of ema (wooden votive tablets) on which people’s wishes are written. You can enjoy the high spots that make us feel the romance of history and richly endowed with nature, Mt. Myojin. You can easily climb Mt. Myojin, 270 meters high, and the summit overlooks a 360-degree panoramic view. It also commands not only the Nara side, but also the Osaka side and Akashi-Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge.

Stop off point in the course
Daruma-ji Temple
Daruma-ji Temple was built in the place where Prince Shotoku raised a tomb for Daruma Daishi, and is a temple of the Nanzen-ji school of the Rinzai sect. A wooden statue of Darma seated and a statue of Prince Shotoku seated are housed in the main hall. (Important Cultural Property)
Tel: 0745-31-2341
Address: 2-1-40, Oji-cho Hon-machi, Kitakatsuragi County
Access: JR/ Kintetsu Oji Station: About 15-minute-walk.

6) Place of Japanese myth, the Old Road of Katsuragi
The Old path of Katsuragi stretches out in a north-south direction along the skirts of Mt. Kongo and Mt. Katsuragi. Old shrines connected with the Kamo clan and the Katsuragi clan (Ancient local ruling families) are dotted around the area. It is registered as ‘Hometown of Japanese myth, Old path of Katsuragi’ one of ‘the 500 best beautiful roads in Japan which attract you for taking a walk’. Let’s visit awe-inspiring old shrines dotting from ‘Kazenomori Pass’ while enjoying the commanding atmosphere of the old path. The origin of the name Kazenomori (forest of the wind) Pass comes from the strong wind blowing through from the southwest. As the sound of it is gentle, it seems to sooth the sightseer’s soul. If you walk on the old path, you will find a large number of place names including ‘kamo’ and ‘katsuragi’. How about getting back in touch with the romance of history at a leisurely pace while thinking about the divine world?

Stop-off point in the course
Takakamo Shrine
This shrine with its ancient and honorable origin is the principal shrine of Kamo-jinja Shrines across the nation, including Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto. The main sanctuary, Honden is Sangensha Nagare-zukuri * and is registered as an Important Cultural Property. *Sangensha is 3-bays wide and Nagare-zukuri has a flowing style gable roof of the same size on both sides.
Tel: 0745-66-0609
Address: 1110, Kamogami, Gose City
Access: Kintetsu Gose Station: About a 20-minute-walk from ‘Kaze-no-mori’ bus stop.

Takamahiko Shrine
The object of worship enshrined is a beautiful cone-shaped mountain called ‘Hakuunho peak’ at the back of the shrine, and the enshrined deity is the patriarchal deity of the Katsuragi Dynasty, Takamimusubi-no-Mikoto. The mysterious atmosphere is attractive.
Tel: 0745-66-0609 Shrine office of Takakamo Shrine
Address: Oaza Takama, Gose City
Access: Kintetsu Gose Station: About 40-minute-walk from ‘Toriido’ bus stop.

7) Stage for Jinshin War, from the Yaji Pass to Lake Tsuburo (Yoshino Town)
Between Miyataki and the pass road, on which a party of Prince Oama (later Emperor Tenmu) and his wife (later Empress Jito) are said to have walked at the time of the Jinshin War, the biggest domestic war in ancient times, there once stood Yoshino-no-miya, which Empress Jito visited many times. Prince Oama escaped from Yoshino and left for Suzuka in order to join his sons who had quietly slipped out of Otsukyo when raising an army. One of the routes to Lake Tsuburo included a steep pass to get over. Though it is a precipitous path, it is well worth walking from Shimoyaji to Yaji Pass where you will feel refreshed by the flow of Yoshino River around you. Descending the pass you will reach Lake Tsuburo, which is famous for its beautifully colored leaves. The course, being full of the romance of history blazoned with autumnal color, enveloped with the nature of Yoshino and is also perfect for forest bathing.

Stop-off point in the course
It is known for the cool and clear flow of Yoshino River, its beautiful scenery weaving of gigantic stones, and the mixed heritage from Jomon era. It is said that the Yoshino Detached Palace of Emperor Shomu, once stood here.
Yoshino Town Office Culture, Tourism, Exchange Division
Tel: 0746-32-3081
Address: Miyataki, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino County
Access: Kintetsu Yamato Kamiichi Station: About 15-minute by bus to ‘Miyataki’ bus stop.

Tsuburo Kasuga Shrine
This shrine was constructed as a sacred grove at the beginning of the period of the Northern and Southern Courts.
Tel: 0746-32-3081,Yoshino Town Office Culture, Tourism, Exchange Division
Address: Oaza Tsuburo, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino County
Access: Kintetsu Yamato Kamiichi Station: About 40-minute-walk from ‘Shimoyaji’ bus stop.

Lake Tsuburo Hot Spring
Lake Tsuburo is a man-made lake resulting from the completion of the dam, and is famous for its beautiful autumn leaves. The beautiful spectacle of being in harmony with water and forests can be viewed from a pleasure boat, and you can enjoy fishing, too. There is a hot spring bestowed by Kobo Daishi (Japanese great teacher), and the open-air bath is also attractive. Meals using local ingredients are also served.
Tel: 0746-32-5401
Address: 1013, Kaharaya, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino County
Open: 12:00~21:00 (Sat., Sun, and holidays: 10:00~)
Closed: Tue., Wed.
Access: Kintetsu Yamato Kamiichi Station: About 15-minute-walk from Tsuburokoguchi bus stop.

8) Main road linking Naniwa and Yamato, the Kuragari-toge Pass
The Kuragari-toge Pass Nara Highway was a main road that linked Osaka with Nara. It is said that Ganjin-wajo arrived in the capital of Nara through this road in the Nara era. Ganjin, a high-ranked priest from Tang Dynasty China, left behind great achievements in the development of Buddhism in Japan. He lost his sight making his fifth attempt to reach Japan, but he finally set foot in Japan on his sixth attempt in 753. It is said that the last difficult stage was making his way across Kuragari-toge Pass. Poet Matsuo Basho composed a haiku, ‘I am climbing Kuragari-toge Pass using the fragrance of chrysanthemum at the Chrysanthemum Festival’. Once crowded with people on pilgrimages to Ise, even inns and tea houses were built there. You can see the remnants of the past in the stone path constructed by the Koriyama Domain. The path you climb overlooks paddy fields with fine crops. If you turn around, there is an extensive view of Yata hill. A stone-paved path and a row of old houses remain on the top of Kuragari-toge Pass, and it leaves the air infused with elegance.

Stop-off point in the course
Restaurant in the forest, Lucky Garden
You can enjoy exquisite Sri Lankan dishes at this restaurant in the forest.
Tel: 0743-77-7936
Address: 168 Onitori-cho, Ikoma City
Open: 10:00~22:00 (Lunch: 11:00~14:00, Dinner: 17:00~21:00)
Closed: Mon.
Access: Kintetsu Minami Ikoma Station: About 40-minute-walk.

Enjoy the changing colors of autumn leaves in Nara
Enveloped in rich colors woven by nature, your body and soul becomes brilliant

Odaigahara (Kamikitayama Village)
From mid-October to early in November
Japanese beech, Japanese oak, maple, Rhododendron quinquefolium
Address: 660-1, Kotochi, Kamikitayama-mura, Yoshino County
Access: Kintetsu Yamato-Kamiichi Station: Get off the bus at Odaigahara.

Enjo-ji Temple (Nara City)
From late October to late November
When leaves of the trees in the beautiful garden in front of the two-storied gate begin to change their colors and are reflected on the surface of the pond, they are even lovelier.
Address: 1273 Ninnikusen-cho, Nara City
Access: JR/Kintetsu Nara Station: About 2-minute-walk from Ninnikusen bus stop.

Nara Park (Nara City)
From late in October to early in December.
Chinese tallow, ginkgo, maple.
Address: Zoushi-cho, Kasugano-cho, Takabatake-cho, Noborioji-cho, Nara City
Access: Each within a five-to-thirty-minute walk from Kintetsu/ JR Nara Station. Tel: 0742-22-0375

Mitarai Ravine (Tenkawa Village)
From early in November to mid-November
Japanese maple, painted maple.
Address: Kitazumi, Tenkawa-mura, Yoshino County.
Access: Kintetsu Shimoichiguchi Station: About 45-minute-walk from Tenkawa-Kawai bus stop. Tel: 0747-63-0999

Mt. Yoshino (Yoshino Town)
From early in November to early in December.
Address: Mt. Yoshino, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino County.
Access: Near to Kintetsu Yoshino Station. Tel: 0746-49-0001

Tomi Shrine (Sakurai City)
From early November to early December.
Address: 1176, Sakurai, Sakurai City.
Access: Kintetsu Sakurai Station: About 15-minute-walk from the station, or near to Kaminomori bus stop. Tel: 0744-42-3377

Hase-dera Temple (Sakurai City)
From mid-November to early December.
Address: 731-1, Hase, Sakurai City.
Access: Kintetsu Hase-dera Temple Station: About 15-minute-walk.
Tel: 0774-47-7001

Tanzan Shrine (Sakurai City)
From mid-November to early December.
Maple, Japanese cherry, ginkgo.
Address: 319, Tounomine, Sakurai City.
Access: Kintetsu Sakurai Station: About 3-minute-walk from Tanzan
Shrine bus stop. Tel: 0744-49-0001

Shoryaku-ji Temple (Nara City)
From mid-November to early December.
Address: 157, Bodaisen-cho, Nara City.
Access: JR/ Kintetsu Nara Station: About 30-minute-walk from Yanagijaya bus stop. (Special buses are operated in November for the autumn leaves.) Tel: 0742-62-9569

Muro-ji Temple (Uda City)
From mid-November to early December.
Maple, ginkgo.
Address: 78, Muro, Uda City.
Access: Kintetsu Muroguchi-Ono Station: About 5-minute-walk from Muro-ji Temple bus stop.
Tel: 0745-93-2003

Daigan-ji Temple (Uda City)
From mid-November to early December.
Address: 736, Ouda Hiro, Uda City
Access: Kintetsu Haibara Station: About a 3 minute walk from Ouda bus stop. Tel: 0745-83-0325

Tsubosaka-dera Temple (Takatori Town)
From mid-November to early December.
Address: 3, Tsubosaka, Takatori-cho, Takaichi County
Access: Kintetsu Tsubosakayama Station: Near to Tsubosaka-dera Temple bus stop.
Tel: 0744-52-2016

Oka-dera Temple (Asuka Village)
From mid-November to early December.
Address: 806, Oka, Asuka-mura, Takaichi County.
Access: Kintetsu Kashihara-jingumae Station: Get off the Asuka cruise bus at Oka-dera Temple, then a 10 minute walk. Tel: 0744-54-2007

Chogosonshi-ji Temple (Heguri Town)
From mid-November to early December.
Maple, ginkgo.
Address: 2280-1, Shigi-san, Heguri-cho, Ikoma County.
Access: JR/ Kintetsu Oji Station: About 5 minute-walk from Shigi Ohashi bus stop.
Tel: 0745-72-2277

Tsuburo Lake (Yoshino Town)
From mid-November to mid-December.
Maple, Japanese cherry.
Address: 849, Kaharaya, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino County.
Access: Kintetsu Yamatokamiichi Station: About 40-minute-walk from Tsuburokoguchi bus stop. Tel: 0746-32-2847

Chogaku-ji Temple (Tenri City)
Late November.
Address: 508, Yanagimoto-cho, Tenri City.
Access: JR/ Kintetsu Sakurai Station: About 10-minute-walk from Kaminanka bus stop. Tel: 0743-66-1051

Tatsuta River (Ikaruga Town)
From late November to early December.
Japanese maple, Trident maple.
Address: Tatsuta-Minami, Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma County.
Access: JR/Kintetsu Oji Station: Near to Tatsuta-Ohashi Bridge bus stop.
Tel: 0745-74-6800

*Littering is prohibited in order to prevent forest fires.
*Please refrain from gathering wild plants.
*Please prepare with proper clothes and shoes, and set up a reasonable plan.
*Be cautious of loose ground after rainfall or a typhoon.

Translators of this issue: Mihoko Kawashima


Traditional crafts in Nara first blossomed with the 8th century Tempyo culture, then prospered with feudal era temple and shrine artisans from the 12th to 16th century, and continued to gain excellence during the early modern period.

In the Shosoin Repository, various treasures brought back from Tang Dynasty China, and the traditional crafts inspired by them, are preserved. Elaborately constructed furniture indicates that craftsmen of the Tempyo era had excellent techniques. Various unique traditional crafts originated in Nara: Akahadayaki pottery, Nara lacquer ware, Nara dolls, Ittobori carving, Ink sticks, Narafude writing brushes, Nara-uchiwa round fans, kogakumen masks, Nara-sarashi, bleached cloth, deer-antler carving, kaya, mosquito nets, Nara-kawara, roof tiles and more. In Nara, you can discover the beauty of traditional skills handed down since ancient times.

Takayama Chasen, Bamboo Tea-whisk (Ikoma City)
*Government-designated traditional crafts
In winter, bamboo drying in the sun is a common sight in Takayama, Ikoma city. In truth, most chasen used in Japan are made in Takayama. This tradition started in the 14-16th century Muromachi period from a request by Murata Juko, a founder of the Japanese tea ceremony. There are 80 kinds of chasen, with types of bamboo and shapes differing for various schools of tea ceremony.

Three kinds of bamboo, Hachiku, Kurochiku, and Madake are cut, drained of oil and dried in the sun for over three years before being used to make chasen. Chasen are categorized for either Koicha (thick tea) or for Usucha (thin tea).The skill needed to carve these exquisite chasen has been handed down from the Muromachi period, reminding us of the profoundness of Chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony.

Don't miss it!
The "Takayama Chasen Festival" is held annually in March.You can see demonstrations of craftsmanship, and also participate in a tea-ceremony or try making Chasen (¥2,000). Demonstrations are performed on the 1st and 3rd Sundays every month at Takayama Chikurin Park. "Fingertip-skill" is admired in Takayama Chasen manufacturing. The beautifully curved bristles are produced by shaving and stroking the bamboo. This process is called “Aji-kezuri”.

Nara-fude, Writing Brush (Nara City)
* Government-designated traditional crafts
A custom-made writing brush translates the spirit of a calligrapher. It is said that Kobo Daishi (Kukai) visited China in the 9th century and learned how to manufacture writing brushes, bringing the skill back to Yamato-no-kuni (Nara) and originating the art in Japan. These custom-made brushes combine hair from animals such as sheep, horses, or weasels. Even today, artisans hand craft these brushes with traditional skills handed down from ancient times. Calligraphers all admire the Nara-fude.

Don't miss it!
"Color calligraphy pens" are very popular now, attracting worldwide attention. This is a new design fusing a Japanese traditional writing brush and a western pen, and various colors and types are available. The tip is finished by craftsmen so that you can experience the feel of a real writing brush.

Handmade Japanese Paper (Yoshino Town)
Traditional skills fostered by the clear Yoshino River are handed down to modern artisans. Yoshino, with its Yoshino River and clear air, is celebrated for its scenery, and handmade Japanese paper has been produced here since ancient times. In the 7th century, Prince Oama raised an army in Yoshino when the Jinshin War started. It is said he first taught villagers of Kuzu how to make paper. The pride and skills involved have both been handed down to modern artisans.

Don't miss it!
In a hands-on experience, you can make original postcards by arranging pressed-flowers inside, or dyeing them with your favorite colors. Kibaini Udagami paper is made by mixing white clay, only found in Yoshino, with homemade Kozo paper pulp. It is used for lining hanging scrolls and for repairing national treasures at major museums in Japan, as well as overseas.

Nara Ittobori Carving (Nara City)
Subtle and elaborated carving patterns determine the expression of each doll. Sharp chiselling and vivid color tones are features of Ittobori carving, also called "Nara dolls." During the 12th century Heian period, the dolls were originally used in the Kasuga Grand Shrine Wakamiya Festival. Then, from the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate to the Meiji period (19-20th century), a master craftsman, Morikawa Toen, improved it to the level of an art. Originally, the subjects were from Noh-kyogen, Japanese classical comedy, or zodiac animal symbols. Recently, some artists pursue their own original styles. Dynamically chiseled marks may seem rough, but carving and coloring are applied very delicately and elaborately. The vivid color tones with gold leaf and natural mineral pigments are exquisite.

Don't miss it!
Small Hina dolls, as small as three centimeters, are available today. Orders for Nara dolls come from all over Japan.

Akahadayaki Pottery (Nara City and Yamatokoriyama City)
The 16th century origin of Akahadayaki was when Toyotomi Hidenaga, brother of Hideyoshi, invited potters from Owarinokuni and Tokoname (Aichi prefecture). During the Edo period, Yanagisawa Gyozan revived and popularised the art. Paintings called Nara-e are applied to the reddish surface with a milky glaze.

Don't miss it!
You can find a variety of traditional Akahadayaki utensils, from tea ceremony bowls, to incense burners, coffee cups, sake cups, and Toka-ki candle shades.


Nara Uchiwa, Round Fan
Round fans originated from China and were introduced to Japan as charms against evil, often used for rituals. The origin of Nara uchiwa dates back to the Nara period, when Shinto priests at Kasuga Shrine made fans varnished with persimmon juice. In the feudal era, new types of fans were created and refined, and by the mid-Edo period, the features of modern Nara Uchiwa were established. Elegant openwork fans are highly admired.

Nara Shikki, Lacquer Ware
Lacquer ware blossomed along with the introduction of Buddhism. Various types of lacquer-painting techniques, such as Raden - motherof-pearl inlay, Kingin-heidatsu - gold and silver patterns, and Hyomon patterns are used to decorate lacquer ware. It is said that Japanese lacquer ware started in Nara. Craftsmen in Nara especially excelled in Raden - mother-of-pearl inlay. Shells such as turban, abalone oyster are cut into patterns and pasted on a base made of Hinoki cypress, polished and covered with lacquer. Today, boxes for such as for ink-stones and jewellery are made using traditional techniques.

Nara Sarashi, Bleached Cloth
Nara Sarashi started in the 8th century, but it was not until the early Edo period that people recognized it as high quality hemp fabric. Kiyosumi Genshiro succeeded in improving conventional bleaching methods in the 16th century, helping to spread its popularity. The spinning and weaving techniques of Nara-sarashi are designated as an intangible cultural asset by Nara prefecture. Nara-sarashi is well recognized for its neat and elegant texture and is used for special clothes for Kyogen play and Bugaku dance. Today, its usages are widened to such as Chakin -tea napkins, Noren - split curtains, and centerpieces with designs of Shosoin treasures.

Deer-antler Carving
The deer in Nara Park are designated as a national natural treasure, and their antlers are cut at an annual ceremonial event, and artisans receive those antlers to craft handiwork. Deer antlers are shed and regrown periodically so that they can be collected without harming the animals, unlike teeth and tusks of endangered species such as elephants and whales. Today, various types of deer-antler carving are available such as pendants, bracelets and knife handles.

Kogakumen, Mask
Kogakumen masks were introduced to Japan in the early 7th century, the time of Empress Suiko, as a form of Buddhist art. Most of them are stored as treasures at temples and shrines in Nara. In the 11th century, Japanese original masks were created together with Noh-kyogen plays. It was not until the 19th century that Kogakumen masks for Bugaku and Gigaku dances were appreciated as art.

Ink Sticks
There are two types of ink stick depending on which ingredients are burned in the process of collecting carbon black: pine resin for "Shoen-zumi" and rapeseed oil, sesame oil, or tung oil for "Yuen-zumi." Nara-zumi ink sticks are a kind of "Yuen-zumi" produced in the Nara area. As an envoy to 9th century China, Kukai brought back production methods for ink sticks and writing brushes. Later, he started producing them at Kofukuji temple, Nitaibo. In the 16th century, Matsui Dochin, a founder of the Kobaien ink-stick company, boosted the reputation of Nara-zumi and developed the business. Subsequently, other ink-stick manufacturers appeared one after another in Nara, and excellent craftsmen gathered from all over Japan. Today, Nara enjoys 90% of the domestic market share of ink stick manufacturing.

NARA Visitor Center & Inn
The center provides not only tourist information, but also hosts educational and fun events in which visitors can meet and experience some of Nara’s traditional crafts. There is also a small gallery where both traditional and new Nara crafts are exhibited. Check the center’s website for the educational and fun event information for overseas visitors!
Open: 8:00-21:00
Address: 3 Ikeno-cho, Nara
Tel: 0742-81-7461

Nara Craft Museum
Traditional crafts from Nara are displayed here, and some of them are available as souvenirs.
Open: 10:00 - 18:00 (enter by 17:30)
Closed: Mon., days follwing national holidays, December 26-January 5
Address: 1-1 Azemame-cho, Nara city
Tel: 0742-27-003

Translators of this issue: Michiko Umeda

A Prayer for matchmaking

People pray for their dreams or wishes at shrines and temples of matchmaking Visit places which bring happiness

Tenkawadai Benzai Tensha Shrine
This shrine enshrines Benzaiten, goddess of music, eloquence, wealth and wisdom. Founded in the Asuka period, this shrine is connected with Noh theater and other performing arts. It is considered the best place for praying for new connections.
Tel: 0747-63-0558
Address: Tsubonouchi, Tenkawa Village, Yoshino District
Opening hours: 7:00-17:00
Access: Bus from Shimoichi-guchi Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Tenkawa Shrine bus stop. Short walk from the bus stop.

Yoshimizu Shrine
Yoshimizu Shrine is a shrine to pray for success in love. It was the place where the lovers Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune and Shizuoka Gozen lived secretly for a while during the Heian period. Many cherry blossoms in bloom in spring.
Tel: 0746-32-3024
Address: 579 Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino District
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Entrance fee: 400 yen
Access: Take the Ropeway from Yoshino Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Yoshinoyama Station. 15-minute walk from the Station.

Kimpusen-ji Temple
Kinpusen-ji Temple is the leading temple in Yoshino and one of the most important temples of Shugendo, a religion based on mountain worship that combines tenets of both Buddhism and Shinto. The temple is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Yoshino. The 34 meter high Zao-do Hall is claimed to be the second largest wooden structure in Japan after Todai-ji Temple. Aizen Myo-o-son, who is generally believed to answer prayers for success in love, is enshrined in Aizen-do located in the temple grounds.
Tel: 0746-32-8371
Address: 2500 Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino County
Opening hours: 8:30-16:30
Access: Take the Ropeway from Yoshino Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Yoshinoyama Station. Its a 10-minute walk from the station.

Tsubosaka-dera Temple
“Tsubosaka Reigenki” is the title of a Ningyo-Joruri puppet play depicting love between a blind husband Sawaichi and his wife Osato. Prayers for a good marriage may be offered here.
Tel: 0744-52-2016
Address: 3 Tsubosaka, Takatori-cho, Takaichi District
Opening hours: 8:30-17:00
Entrance fee: 600 yen
Access: Take the bus from Tsubo-sakayama Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Tsubosaka-deramae bus stop. Short walk from the bus stop.

Hojuin Temple
Hojuin is said to be the place where Prince Shotoku met his Princess.
Tel: 0744-23-2261
Address: 101 Kashiwate-cho, Kashihara City
Access: 13-minute walk from JR Kaguyama Station or 15-minute walk from Kintetsu Miminashi Station.

Asuka-dera Temple
Asuka-dera Temple was the place where Prince Naka-no-Oe and Fujiwara-no-Kamatari, who were known for the Taika Reform, met. Prayers for matchmaking and good relationship between husband and wife will be answered.
Tel: 0744-54-2126
Address: 682 Asuka, Asuka Village, Takaichi District
Opening hours: 9:00-17:30
Entrance fee: 350 yen
Access: Take the bus from Kashihara-Jingu-mae Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Asuka-daibutsu-mae bus stop. Short walk from the bus stop.

Seiren-ji Temple
According to the legend, Chujo-hime, the daughter of minister Fujiwara-no- Toyonari, was banished and spent her days praying here. She is thought to have met her father who went hunting in this area again. From this story this temple is called the “temple of meeting again”. This modest story is said to lead you to meet someone you want to meet.
Tel: 0745-84-2455
Address: 1439 Utano-ukashi, Uda City
Opening hours: 9:00-16:00
Access: Take the bus from Haibara Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Utano bus stop. 45-minute from the bus stop.

Asuka Niimasu Shrine
Known for the Onda “festival of intimacy between husband and wife”. There are many divine stones in the shrine grounds. If a man lifts a stone by the strength of his left hand or a woman lifts it up with her right hand, a prayer is said to be answered.
Tel: 0744-54-2071
Address: 707-1 Asuka, Asuka Village, Takaichi District
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Access: Take the bus from Kashihara-Jingu-mae Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Asuka-daibutsu-mae bus stop. 3-minute walk from the bus stop.

Omiwa Shrine
This shrine enshrines Omononushi-no-Okami. There is a love story about Omononushi-no-Okami and Ikutama-Yoribime. An elegant man visited a young lady every night. When she got pregnant, her parents found out about it and told her to stick a needle and thread into his kimono. Next morning they followed the thread to a shrine on Mt. Miwa. The man was Omononushi-no-Okami.
Tel: 0744-42-6633
Address: 1422 Miwa, Sakurai City
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Access: 5-minute walk from JR Miwa Station.

Udano-Mikumari Shrine
A sacred tree with forked roots near the main hall is called the cedar of marriage. It is famous for answering prayers for good relationship between husband and wife, and matchmaking. The goddess of Sosha-Mikumari Shrine is believed to visit for a date with the god of this shrine at the root of this cedar during the autumn festival.
Tel: 0745-84-2613
Address: 245 Utano-furuichiba, Uda City
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Access: Take the bus from Haibara Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Furuichiba-Mikumari-jinja bus stop. 3-minute from the bus stop.

Taima-dera Temple Nakanobo
Taima-dera Temple, which has connection with Chujo-hime, enshrines the standing statue of the eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva, believed to be the guardian deity of women and good marriage.
Tel: 0745-48-2001
Address: 1263 Taima, Katsuragi City
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Entrance fee: 500 yen
Access: 15-minute walk from Taima-dera Station on the Kintetsu Line.

Abe Monju-in Temple, Hakusan-do Shrine
Hakusan-Kukurihime is the main deity of Hakusan-do Shrine located in the temple grounds of Abe Monju-in Temple. According to Nihonshoki, she is said to have reconciled Izanagi, a nation producing god, and his wife Izanami after they fought.
Tel: 0744-43-0002
Address: 645 Abe, Sakurai City
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Entrance fee: 700 yen (Main hall)
Access: Take the bus from either JR or Kintetsu Sakurai Station to the Abe Monju-in bus stop. Short walk from the bus stop.

Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Meoto Daikokusha
Daikokusha, one of Kasuga Taisha’s subordinate shrines, enshrines Daikoku deities of married couples. This is the only shrine which enshrines Daikoku deities of married couples in Japan. Daikoku, a nation building god, has the power of answering prayers for matchmaking.
Tel: 0742-22-7788
Address: 160 Kasugano-cho, Nara City
Opening hours: 9:00-16:30
Access: Take the bus from either JR or Kintetsu Nara Station to the Kasuga-Taisha-Honden bus stop. Short walk from the bus stop.

Mt. Ikoma, Hozan-ji Temple
Hozanji enshrines Daisho-Kangi-Jizai-ten who is said to have the power of answering prayers for a good match and intimacy between husband and wife.
Tel: 0743-73-2005
Address: 1-1 Monzen-cho, Ikoma City
Opening hours: 8:00-16:30
Access: Take the cable railway from Ikoma Station on the Kintetsu Line to the Hozanji Station on the Kintetsu Ikoma Cable Line. 15-minute walk from the Station.

Futai-ji Temple
Futai-ji Temple was founded by Ariwara no Narihira, one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry, who is believed to have prayed to the camellia here for success in love.
Tel: 0742-22-5278
Address: 517 Houren-cho, Nara City
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Entrance fee: 400 yen
Access: 15-minute walk from Shin-Omiya Station on the Kintetsu Line.

Senko-ji Temple
The iron clogs here are said to have the power of answering prayers. If women put them on and take a few steps forward, they are destined to find wealthy husbands. There is also a ceremonial staff made of iron, which weighs 60 kilograms. If men lift it up three times, they will marry desirable partners.
Tel: 0745-45-0652
Address: 188 Narukawa, Heguri-cho, Ikoma District
Opening hours: 10:00-16:00
Access: 40-minute walk or 10-minute drive from Moto-sanjoguchi on the Kintetsu Line.

Fukuin Temple
Near the entrance of Mount Kasuga, this temple is famous for prayers for matchmaking and refuge to women seeking divorce.
Tel: 0742-26-2910
Address: 1365 Takabatake-Fukui-cho, Nara City
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Entrance fee: 400 yen (during special opening: 500 yen)
Access: Take the bus from from either JR or Kintetsu Nara Station to the Wari-ishi-cho bus stop. 10-minute walk from the bus stop.

Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Mizuya Shrine
Kasuga’s Mizuya Shrine is said to have the power of answering prayers for matchmaking and good relationship between husband and wife.
Tel: 0742-22-7788
Address: 160 Kasugano-cho, Nara City
Opening hours: 6:00-18:00
Access: Take the bus from either JR or Kintetsu Nara Station to the Kasuga-Taisha-Honden bus stop. Short walk from the bus stop.

Isonokami Shrine
The sword god enshrined here is said to have the power to elicit recovery from a hopeless situation.
Tel: 0743-62-0900
Address: 384 Furu-cho, Tenri City
Opening hours: 8:30-17:00
Access: 30-minute walk from either JR or Kintetsu Tenri Station.

Translators of this issue:


Cosmos: Abe-no Monju-in Temple
Founded in 645, the main object of worship is here Manjushiri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and intellect. This statue is a National Treasure and the biggest in Japan at a height of 7 meters. The temple was built at the orders of Emperor Kotoku by minister Abe-no-Kurahashimaro. It was originally located 300 meters south-west from the current site. After being moved in the Kamakura era, the temple flourished as one of fifteen great Yamato temples. Much of the temple was burnt down in 1563, and reconstructed in 1665. The Cosmos Maze is famous in autumn.
Mid September to late October
Address: 645 Abe, Sakurai City
Access: Bus from JR or Kintetsu Sakurai Station, 20-minute walk from JR or Kintetsu Sakurai Station
Tel: 0744-43-0002.

Cosmos: Hannya-ji Temple
Hannya-ji Temple was founded in the Asuka era and flourished as a guardian temple for Heijo palace. Contains several National Treasures and Important Cultural assets. The temple is also well-known for other seasonal flowers such as narcissus and Japanese roses.
Late September to late October
Address: 221 Hannyaji-cho, Nara City
Access: 3-minute walk from Hannyaji Bus stop, the bus from JR or Kintetsu Nara Station. Tel: 0742-22-6287.

Rose: Ofusa Kannon
Ofusa Kannon is a temple of the Koyasan Shingon sect. Here, visitors can enjoy seasonal flowers such as roses, of which there are more than 2,300. A rose festival is held annually here from October 19th to November 30th. During the high season for Roses, in spring and in autumn, visitors can enjoy about 4,000 roses.
Mid October to late November
Address: 6-22 Ofusa-cho, Kashihara City
Access: 5-minute walk from Ofusa Bus stop, the bus from Kintetsu Yamato-Yagi Station, a 10-minute walk from JR Unebi Station
Tel: 0742-22-2212.

Rose: Ryosen-ji Temple
Modern gardens first opened in 1957 to wish for world peace. Roses bloom from mid May to mid June, and mid October to early November. There is a tea room where rose tea and various other rose products are available.
Mid October to early in November
Address: 3879 Nakamachi, Nara City
Access: Short walk from Ryosenji Bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Tomio Station. Tel: 0742-45-0081.

Cotton Rose: Tachibana Temple
Legend says Crown Prince Shotoku was born at the site, and the temple is thought to be one of seven temples which he later built. Over 150 cotton roses bloom in the precinct. They are white in the morning and gradually change to pink during the day before withering.
Early September to late October
Address: 532 Tachibana Asuka-mura, Takaichi-gun
Access: Short walk from Kawahara or Okahashimoto Bus stop. Asuka cruise bus from Kintetsu Kashiharajingu-mae Station or Asuka Station
Tel: 0744-54-2026.

Other spots for viewing autumn flowers
Pampas: Soni village
Soni Highland is tinted with the golden color of pampas in the sunset.
Light-up festival, Soni Kogen Yama Akari, is held from mid September to late November.
Early October to late November
Address: Taroji Soni-mura, Uda-gun
Access: 45-minute walk from Taroji Bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Nabari Station. Tel: 0745-94-2106.

Pampas: Katsuragi Highland
Nara basin and Osaka plain can be seen from Katsuragi Highland. The highland is covered with silver ears of pampas in autumn. Japanese bush clover: Yamato Bunkakan The flowers are red purple and occasionally white.
Late August to mid October
Address: 1-11-6 Gakuenmae, Nara City
Access: 7-minute walk from Kintetsu Gakuenmae Station
Tel: 0742-45-0544.

Cosmos: Hoki-ji Temple area
Cosmos with the three-story pagoda of Hoki-ji Temple in the background.
Address: Okamoto Ikaruga-cho, Ikoma-gun
Access: 30-minute walk from JR Horyuji station, Hoki-ji bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Koriyama Station
Tel: 0745-74-6800.

Cosmos : Amagashi no Oka area (Asuka Historical National Government Park)
Cosmos can be seen everywhere around Asuka Late October to Early November
Address: Kawahara Asuka-mura, Takaichi-gun
Access: 20-minute walk from Amagashi-no-oka bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Kashihara Jingu-mae Station
Tel: 0744-54-2441.

Ohatsuki Icho: Kaicho-ji Temple
It’s said that Crown Prince Shotoku built this quiet mountain temple. The height of the largest ginkgo here is 30 meters.
Mid November to late November
Address: 386 Kaiba Haibara, Uda City
Access: 40-minute walk from Tenmadai Higashi 3-chome bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Haibara station.
Tel: 0745-82-2457

Ohatsuki Icho: Kadofusa Shrine
Ohatuki Icho is known as a unique ginkgo in Japan, which bears its fruit above the fan-shaped leaves. The tree is designated as a prefectural natural treasure.
Late November
Address: 467 Imai Soni-mura, Uda City
Access: Short walk from Soni-mura Yakata-mae bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Haibara station.
Tel: 0745-94-2106

Recommended Places for Autumn Colored Leaves
Nara Park
Chinese tallow tree, Ginkgo, Japanese maple
Late October to Early December
Address: Zoshi-cho, Kasugano-cho, Takabatake-cho,
Noborioji-cho in Nara City
Access: A short walk from Kintetsu Nara station, Todai-ji Temple Daibutsu-den Kasuga Taisha-mae bus stop. Bus from JR Nara station
Tel: 0742-22-0375.

Tomi Shrine
Maple, Japanese maple
Early November to Early December
Address: 1176 Sakurai, Sakurai City
Access: 15-minute walk from JR or Kintetsu Sakurai station
Tel: 0744-42-3377

Shoryaku-ji Temple
Mid November to Early December
Address: 157 Bodaisen-cho, Nara City
Access: 60 minute walk from Kubonosho Minami bus stop. Bus from JR or Kintetsu Nara station.
Tel: 0742-62-9569.

Tsubosaka Temple
Japanese maple
Mid November to Early December
Address: 3 Tsubosaka Takatori-cho, Takaichi-gun
Access: Short walk from Tsubosakadera mae bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Tsubosakayama station
Tel: 0744-52-2016.

Lake Tsuburo
Maple, Japanese maple, Cherry trees
Mid November to Mid December, November 10th to 30th : Lake Tsuburo Autumn Leaves Festival
Address: 849 Kawaraya Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun
Access: 40-minute walk from Tsuburoko bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Yamato Kamiichi station
Tel: 0746-32-2847.

Beech, Japanese oak, Maple, Rhododendron
Mid October to Early November
Address: 660-1 Kotochi Kamikitayama-mura, Yoshino-gun
Access : Short walk from Odaigahara bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Yamato Kamiichi station. Tel: 07468-3-0312

Mitarai Ravine
Iroha momiji, Painted maple, Omomiji (Japanese maples)
Early November to Mid November
Address: Kitozumi Tenkawa-mura, Yoshino-gun
Access: 45-minute walk from Tenkawa Kawai bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Yamato Shimoichiguchi station. Tel: 0747-63-0999

Hase-dera Temple
Japanese maple, Maple
Mid November to Early December
Address: 731-1 Hase, Sakurai City
Access: 15-minute walk from Kintetsu Hasedera station
Tel: 0744-47-7001.

Muro-ji Temple
Maple, Ginkgo
Mid November to Early December. Autumn Leaves Festival: 15th to December 4th
Address: 78 Muro, Uda City
Access: 5-minute walk from Murouji bus stop. Bus from Kintetsu Muroguchi Ono station Tel: 0745-93-2003.

Oka-dera Temple
Japanese maple, Maple
Mid November to Early December
Address: 806 Oka Asuka-mura, Takaichi-gun
Access: 10-minute walk from Okadera-mae bus stop. Asuka cruise bus from Kintetsu Kashihara Jingu-mae station
Tel: 0744-54-2007.

Chogaku-ji Temple
Japanese maple, Maple
Late November
Address: 508 Yanagimoto-cho, Tenri City
Access: 10-minute walk from Kaminagaoka bus stop. Bus from JR or Kintetsu Sakurai station. Tel: 0743-66-1051.

Enjo-ji Temple
Colorful trees in a beautiful garden in front of a pond.
Late October to late November
Address: 1273 Ninnikusen-cho, Nara City
Access: 2-minute walk from Ninnikusen bus stop. Bus from JR or Kintetsu Nara station. Tel: 0742-93-0353.

Japanese maple, Maple
Early November to Early December
Address: Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun
Access: Short walk from Kintetsu Yoshino Station
Tel: 0746-32-1007.

Tanzan Shrine
Japanese maple, Ginkgo, Cherry tree
Mid November to Early December
Address: 319 Tonomine, Sakurai
Access: Around 3-minute walk from Tanzan shrine bus stop. Bus from JR or Kintetsu Sakurai station. Tel: 0744-49-0001.

Daigan-ji Temple
Mid November to Early December
Address: 736 Hiro, Ouda, Uda City
Access: Around 3-minute walk from Ouda bus stop.
Bus from JR or Kintetsu Haibara station. Tel: 0745-83-0325

Translators of this issue: Kyoko Fukumoto

The Deer of Nara Park

Meet Deer in Nara Park!
Deer enjoy an easygoing life around Nara Park, readily approaching people, roaming around freely in the city, and even using zebra crossings! Visitors to Nara are completely surprised to see these scenes. Why are there deer wandering around in Nara and how do they interact with people? The more you learn, the more you will come to appreciate them and feel like becoming friends!

What are the Characteristics of Nara’s Deer?
Deer in Nara Park are classified as Nihon Jika, or Japanese deer. Generally male deer live for about 15 years and female deer for about 20. Autumn is the mating season. Only male deer have antlers, and new antlers start to grow in April. At this stage, the antlers are still very soft and blood is circulating inside. Later, around August, they become harder as the blood circulation stops. Then the outer skin covering falls off to expose the complete brand-new sharp antlers. These antlers fall off the following March and the cycle is repeated. There are about 1300 deer in Nara Park today. To avoid danger to the public, male deer with antlers have them cut in October. This is a special event in Nara and open to the public in the Roku-en garden.

Why are Deer in Nara?
According to the Man’yoshu, Japan’s oldest anthology of poetry from the 7th century, deer have lived in Nara for over 1,300 years. Legend says that a deity worshipped in Kashima Shrine, Ibaraki Prefecture, descended to Nara’s Mt. Mikasa in 768 riding on a sacred white deer. Since then, deer have been considered a sacred symbol in Nara. In 1957, the deer were designated a National Natural Monument.

How Do They Live?
Despite the assumptions of many people, deer in Nara are wild and their staple diet is plants. Deer eat grass in the park, insects feed on their droppings and earthworms dissolve the remains and return it to the soil. A true eco-system in action to keep the park green! Deer in Nara Park start the day at sunrise. At first, they move to the feeding ground. Later, they move to their favorite places and hang around until evening. When sunset approaches, they begin returning to their sleeping area again (usually on the mountain side, but some deer stay in the city too).

The usual range of a deer is within 10 to 20 hectares inside which it has its own places for resting, eating and sleeping. Curiously, male and female deer usually form separate herds and have their own routines. Although deer in Nara Park are living very close to humans, members of the Foundation for the Protection of Deer in Nara Park keep watch over them 24 hours a day to assure they live an accident-free life.

What Do They Eat?
Besides grass, the deer rely on other plants in and around the park. Of course, crackers provided by people are important daily snack for them too. If you look at the trees in Nara Park carefully, you might notice something. Most of the tress have almost no branches on the trunk below two meters. This is called the “Deer Line”, which is produced naturally around this height since it is the height that deer can reach to eat leaves. Therefore, trees with branches below two meters are inedible for deer.

Although deer always want to be fed, don’t feed them with any human food like bread, snacks, or even vegetables. Another important point visitors to the park must remember is that we should make sure to take all garbage back home, otherwise deer can eat it causing them serious health problems. This is why there are no garbage bins in Nara Park; a way of showing respect for the wildlife and protecting their lives.

Want to Have Fun with Deer?
If you want to get close to deer in Nara Park, the easiest way is to buy deer crackers sold throughout the park. These crackers are safe for deer. Deer love them and will not miss a chance once they find someone buying them. You will be immediately surrounded by deer the moment you receive the crackers in your hand. When you finish feeding them, hold your hands up and show deer that there are no more crackers left.

Remember the “Don’ts” for Deer in Nara
- Do not feed them anything except for the deer crackers available in the park.
- Do not throw away garbage in the park as deer will eat it and have stomach trouble.
- Do not come too close to the male deer in the autumn mating season as they are often aggressive.
- Do not chase nor hit the deer or you could be charged under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties

Translators of this issue:


Omiwa Shrine, located in Sakurai City, has a long history. Its establishment is mentioned in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, Japan’s oldest chronicles. It is said to be the oldest shrine in Japan and noted for an ancient worship style, which prays to Mt. Miwa as the object of worship. Mt. Miwa is a conical mountain of about 467-meter high. It has been worshiped since as far back as the Jomon and Yayoi periods, when people believed that gods exist in every single tree and blade of grass there.

The main deity of the shrine is the Great Deity O-mono-nushi, enshrined together with the Deity Onamuchi and the Deity Sukunahikona. The worship hall, designated as an important cultural asset, was reconstructed in 1664 on the orders of Ietsuna, the fourth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. The deity is respected as a nation building god or a guardian god that protects the daily lives of people. People make prayers about medicine, brewing or Hoyoke, to keep away curses. Local residents feel close to him, calling him “Miwa-san”.

According to the Kojiki, in the reign of the tenth Emperor Sujin, an epidemic broke out. One night, he went to bed, wishing to receive a divine message. The Great Deity O-mono-nushi appeared in his dream and told him, “Find O-tataneko to enshrine me.” The emperor searched for O-tataneko, a descendant of O-mono-nushi, and appointed him Shinto priest to enshrine O-mono-nushi at Mt. Miwa. Then, the epidemic subsided and tranquility was brought back to the nation.

The lady Iku-tama-yori-bime is said to have been a shining beauty. One night, a dignified handsome man visited her. As nights went by, they came to love each other and soon she got pregnant. Her parents asked her, “You do not have a husband yet. How did you get pregnant by yourself?” She answered, “A fine man visits me every night. As we spend nights together, I got pregnant.” They wanted to identify him and told her to stick a needle and hemp thread into the bottom of his robe.” When the morning came, they found that the hemp thread led through the keyhole and only three loops of thread (Miwa) were left on the spool. Following the thread, they reached a shrine at Mt. Miwa. Finally they identified him as the Great Deity O-mono-nushi. This is how people came to call this place “Miwa.”

People believe that the Great Deity O-mono-nushi brings happiness in all aspects of their lives. For example, prosperity of industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, trading and brewing. They also appreciate the answering power concerning their prayers for Hoyoke, disease cures, traffic safety, safe voyages or match making. Mt. Miwa is an off-limits sacred area because gods exist there. Since the entire mountain of Mt. Miwa is seen as the Great Deity O-mono-nushi, Omiwa Shrine does not have a main hall to house its deity, that is considered as the early style of shrines.

The worship hall (Haiden) serves an important role instead. At the back of Haiden, there is a triple tori gate, known as “Mitsu-Torii”, as the boundary between the off-limits area and Haiden. Worshiping Mt. Miwa at the gate indicates that Omiwa Shrine preserves an early form of worship. This triple torii gate consists of one big gate and one small gate placed on either side. It is unclear when and why this gate was built, but it is clear that it has been long treasured as a sacred object.

A path called the medicine path is planted with medicinal trees and herbs, leading visitors from the treasury to Sai Shrine, which enshrines the Great Deity O-mono-nushi. Sai Shrine is said to have the power of answering prayers for recovery from illness. There is a well, “Medicine Well”, whose water is believed to flow out of Mt. Miwa and cure all ills.

Omiwa Shrine
Tel: 0744-42-6633. Address: 1422 Miwa, Sakurai City.
Access: 5 minute walk from JR Miwa Station.

Sake Ceremony (November 14)
Brewers and those involved in brewing from all over Japan attend the ceremony and pray for safe and successful brewing of new sake. At the ceremony, four shrine maidens perform a kagura dance as a religious offering, and various brands of sake dedicated from the brewers are exhibited. Also, cask sake is offered to visitors.

Translators of this issue: Akiko Hisano