Nara - Ancient Capital of Prayers *RERUN
Nara, with a history of 1,200 years, is Japan's first capital city. The city is home to many temples, even older than the city itself, where people pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation. In addition to shrines protecting the whole country, there are also smaller deities that guard individual villages. In Nara, the ancient capital, Shinto and Buddhism are interwoven into daily life, and someone, somewhere is always putting their hands together in a quiet prayer. We see how various aspects of religion are infused into the fabric of the city.

The Temple of Yakushi-ji

This temple is dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of medicine, who has been protecting people from disease for 1,300 years. The Hanaeshiki is a 7-day ceremony that takes place at the temple in spring. 10 types of flowers are offered before the altar and 10 monks continue to pray throughout the night for the prosperity of the nation and the happiness of its people.

The Guardian Deity Mawari Myojin

Oyagyo-cho is a hamlet 15km east of Nara. The local guardian deity lives, for 1 year at a time, in local houses. Members of the household hosting the Mawari Myojin pray before a special altar every morning and every night. For the whole year, the chosen family must avoid eating any beef, pork or strongly odorous vegetables such as onions. This custom, which has a history of more than 400 years, is a key source of spiritual strength for the local people.

The Shrine of Kasuga Taisha

At this shrine, which is dedicated to the peace and stability of the nation as well as to love, shrine maidens perform the Miko-kagura, a sacred dance which has been performed for more than a millennium. The dancers, who wear special makeup to perform before the spirits of the shrine, learn from older shrine maidens as the dance is passed down orally from generation to generation.