Celebrated from March 1–14, this 1250+ year old festival is part of a collection of Buddhist repentance rituals held at Todaiji Temple, in the Nara Prefecture. Omizutori is performed inside Nigatsudo Hall (a subcomplex of the temple) and is one of Japan’s the oldest recurring events.
Among the many impressive events Omizutori festival hosts, the most famous, and most spectacular event, Otaimatsu draws in spectators both local and international.
Each night of the Omizutori festival is marked with an eye-catching display: massive torches (6-8 meters in size) are carried up to Nigatsudo Hall’s balcony, and then held above the Nigatsudo courtyard. These blazing torches shower down embers over the audience, and, much like a New Year celebration, this showering of sparks is believed to bestow upon the crowd a safe and fruitful year.
The number of torches, their size, and the duration of the event changes, depending on the date.
- March 1-11: 10 torches at 6 meters, begins at 7:00pm and ends at 7:20pm (20min)
- March 12: 11 torches at 8 meters, begins at 7:30pm and ends at 8:15pm (45min)
- March 13: 10 torches at 6 meters, begins at 7:00pm and ends at 7:20pm (20min)
- March 14: 10 torches at 6 meters, begins at 6:30pm and ends at 6:35pm (5min)
March 12 is the busiest day of the Omizutori festival, and this is when the pinnacle event happens. Although this is the most crowded day, it’s also one of the best days for a good view of the shower of sparks. The crowd is kept moving, steadily past the display, allowing everyone a chance to view the blazing torches and raining embers.
More Events at Omizutori
From March 12–13, between 1:30am-2:30am, priests can be seen descending from Nigatsudo Hall carrying torches and drawing water from a special well at the base of Todaiji Temple.
This special water, believed to flow only once per year, is rumored to contain restorative powers within, and grants this to whoever consumes it. It’s because of this event that the festival gets its name, as Omizutori literally means, “water drawing”.
Directly after the priests draw the water, the Dattan ceremony is performed in the early morning hours, creating an eerie setting. This mystifying ceremony is performed inside Nigatsudo Hall, where priests swing around burning torches, blow horns and ring bells until around 3:30 am.
Getting To Omizutori Festival
The Omizutori festival is a ten minute walk uphill from Todaiji Temple, where it’s held in the Nigatsudo Hall closeby. You either take purchase a bus pass to get to the Nara area or take the rail.
Two railway companies serve this area:
- Kintetsu – From Kyoto Station, a one-way trip takes about 35 minutes at 1130¥ to the Kintetsu Nara Station. There are also trains (running hourly) which take 45 minutes at around 620¥. The Japan Rail Pass is not valid on this Kintetsu trains.
- JR West – From Kyoto Station, a one-way trip takes 45 minutes at 750¥ to Nara Station. This is also covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
The Nara Bus Pass is also available and will provide limited to unlimited use of the buses around the prefecture. It costs about 500¥ for a 1-day pass with limited area coverage and the price can go up to 1500¥ for a 2-day pass with unlimited bus area coverage.
406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8211, Japan