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Omizutori (お水取り) is the commonly used name for Shunie, a series of events held annually from March 1 to 14 at Todaiji Temple. This collection of Buddhist repentance rituals has been held every year for over 1250 years, making it one of the oldest recurring Buddhist events in Japan.

Omizutori is performed at Nigatsudo Hall, a sub-complex of Todaiji, which stands not far from the temple's main hall on the slope of a hill. Nigatsudo literally means "second month hall", referring to the second month of the lunar calendar, when Omizutori has traditionally been held. The second month of the lunar calendar roughly corresponds to March of the solar calendar.

Otaimatsu

Among the many different events held during Omizutori, Otaimatsu is the most famous and spectacular. Just after sunset on every night from March 1 through 14, giant torches, ranging in length from six to eight meters, are carried up to Nigatsudo's balcony and held over the crowd. The burning embers, that shower down from the balcony, are thought to bestow the onlookers with a safe year.

The size of the torches and the duration of Otaimatsu vary from day to day. On most days, ten medium sized torches are brought up to and carried across the balcony one after the other, and the entire event lasts about twenty minutes, while the audience stands in the courtyard below the wooden temple hall.

Otaimatsu Schedule
Date
Start Time
Duration
# of Torches
Torch Size
March 1-11
19:00
20 minutes
10
6 m / 40 kg
March 12
19:30
45 minutes
11
8 m / 70 kg
March 13
19:00
20 minutes
10
6 m / 40 kg
March 14
18:30
10 minutes
10
6 m / 40 kg

On the 12th and 14th, however, the procedure is slightly different, as shown in the table above. On the 14th, the last day of Omizutori, the event lasts only about ten minutes, but all ten torches are brought up to the balcony at the same time, making for a particularly spectacular sight.

On the 12th, the torches are larger and more numerous, and the ceremony lasts longer. It is also the most crowded day, so that most spectators cannot settle down in front of the Nigatsudo, but are kept continuously moving past the hall in a queue, limiting actual viewing time to around five to ten minutes.

On all days of the event the courtyard below Nigatsudo becomes crowded before sunset, and it is advised to arrive early in order to get good views of the balcony. Crowd size varies from day to day, with heavier crowds expected on weekends and lighter crowds when the weather is poor. On the 12th it becomes most crowded, but it may not be necessary to arrive early, as the spectators are rotated through the courtyard, offering everyone a brief view of the action.

Other Events

In the night from March 12 to March 13 between around 1:30am and 2:30am, priests descend repeatedly from the Nigatsudo by torchlight to draw water from a well at the base of the temple hall. The well's water is said to flow only once a year, and to have restorative powers. It is this event that is actually named Omizutori ("water drawing"). Yet the entire two-week event has become popularly known under its name.

Following the water drawing event, the mysterious Dattan ceremony is performed inside the Nigatsudo hall. During the ceremony, horns are blown, bells are rung and priests swing around burning torches inside the wooden building. The event comes to an end around 3:30am.

Getting there and around

Omizutori is held at Nigatsudo, a ten minute walk uphill from Todaiji Temple's main building.

How to get to and around Nara

Hotels around Nara

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    • Guest House Oku
      Budget-friendly
      A 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station, Guest House Oku is located a 15-minute walk from JR Nara station. Guest House Oku features a total of 3 guest rooms and free WiFi throughout the property. All rooms come with air conditioning. A toilet and shower is available for guests. You will find luggage storage space at the property. Kofuku-ji is 900 metres from Guest House Oku, while Todaiji Temple is 1.4 km away. Kansai International Airport is a 95-minute limousine bus ride away.
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    • NARA Visitor Center and Inn
      Budget-friendly
      The Nara Visitor Center and Inn is situated in the heart of Nara, just a 3-minute walk from Kofuku-ji Temple and Naramachi. The Todai-ji Temple and Deer Park are a 10-minute stroll away, while Nara Station on the Kintetsu Line is a 7-minute walk. JR Nara Station is 14-minutes away on foot. All guest rooms feature air conditioning and heating, and are equipped with a fridge and flat-screen TV. Japanese samue nightwear are available to all staying guests. Some units come equipped with an en suite bathroom with a shower, while some Japanese-style rooms come with an en suite shower. Japanese-style rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. The property offers free WiFi access and a 24-hour front desk. Luggage storage is available. There is a public bath on site, where guests will find free toiletries and hairdryers. A coin launderette, a shared kitchen and free-use internet PCs are offered on site. The on-site tourist information desk offers information in English, Chinese and Korean. Services offered at the desk include transport and meal tickets at a discount, currency exchange, bike hire at a charge, cultural activities at an additional charge, such as Japanese calligraphy lessons, and tour arrangements. Some cultural activities such as origami folding are offered free of charge.
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    • Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park
      Budget-friendly
      Situated in Nara, near Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha and Kofuku-ji Temple, Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park features free WiFi. Each unit is fitted with air conditioning, private bathroom and a kitchen including a microwave, fridge, stovetop and a toaster. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings. Todai-ji Temple is 2.4 km from the lodge, while Heijo Palace Ruins is 6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 39 km from Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park.
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    • Guesthouse Tamura
      Budget-friendly
      Renovating a Japanese-style private house with a 100-year history, Guesthouse Tamura offers an accommodation in Fushigazushi-cho, Nara. Kintetsu Nara Station is a 13-minute walk away, while Kasuga Taisha Shrine is a 20-minute stroll. Every room comes with a shared bathroom. Some rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon bedding. You will find luggage storage space at the property. Vegetarian meals can be offered upon request. Kofuku-ji is 8 minutes on foot from Guesthouse Tamura, while Nara Park is a 20-minute stroll away. Osaka Itami Airport is 38 km from the property.
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    • Yuzan Guesthouse
      Budget-friendly
      Conveniently located a 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station and a 8-minute walk from JR Nara Station, Yuzan Guest House Annex offers cosy accommodation with a shared kitchen. Free WiFi access is available throughout the property. Each room is simply decorated and comes with air conditioning and heating facilities. Guests can choose to stay in Japanese-style rooms featuring tatami (woven-straw) floor and futon bedding. Bathroom facilities are shared. At Guest House Yuzan Annex you will find a small garden, a terrace and a shared lounge. Free luggage storage is also available upon request. Guests can make a 10-minute stroll to the Nara Park, located in the city central area. Todaiji Temple and Heijo Palace are both a 10-minute drive away while Kansai International Airport can be reached with a 80-minute drive. Meals are not served on site.
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    • Guesthouse Naramachi
      Budget-friendly
      The 100-year old Guesthouse Naramachi offers simple Japanese-style accommodation just a 5-minute walk from JR Kyobate Train Station. The property is completely non-smoking. It offers massages, bicycle rental and free Wi-Fi throughout. The World Heritage registered Nara Park is a 10-minute walk away. Guests at Naramachi can choose a private room with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon beds. All rooms are air-conditioned, and bathrooms and toilets are shared. Bath towels, washclothes and Yukata robes can be rented. JR Nara Train Station is a 20-minute walk, and Kofuku-ji Temple is a pleasant 10-minute walk away through the traditional streets of Nara. Gangoji Temple and three public baths are available within a 5-minute walk. Various types of bicycles can be rented. A free-use kitchenette is provided, with a microwave, fridge and electric kettle. At time of booking, you must inform the hotel what time you plan to check in. If your check-in time changes, please update the hotel. Guests who require parking must inform the hotel at time of booking.
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    • Hotel 楢の葉守
      Mid-range
      Hotel 楢の葉守 offers rooms in Nara near Nara Prefectural Art Museum and Nara National Museum. The 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The hotel features family rooms. All rooms in the hotel are fitted with a kettle. The units in Hotel 楢の葉守 are equipped with a flat-screen TV and a hairdryer. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kofuku-ji Temple, Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from Hotel 楢の葉守.
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    • Kotonoyado Musashino
      Luxury
      Kotono yado Musashino offers accommodation in Nara, and is located a 11-minute drive from Nara Station on the Kintetsu Nara Line. Free WiFi is provided throughout the property and free private parking is available on site. Every room includes a flat-screen TV. You will find a kettle in the room. Rooms include a shared bathroom. For your comfort, you will find slippers and a hair dryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. The ryokan also offers free use of bicycles. Kofuku-ji is 1.1 km from Musashino, while Kasuga Taisha is 300 metres from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • Guest House En
      Budget-friendly
      Guest House En is set in Nara, within 2.5 km of Todai-ji Temple and 2.7 km of Kasuga Taisha. Featuring a shared lounge, the 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. The guest house features family rooms. Guest rooms in the guest house are equipped with a kettle. The units will provide guests with a microwave. Popular points of interest near Guest House En include Kofuku-ji Temple, Naramachi and Gangoji Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring
      Luxury
      Featuring natural hot spring baths on site, Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring is set in Nara, just a 3-minute walk from JR Nara Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property, and private parking is available on site. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Kofuku-ji Temple is 15 minutes on foot. All rooms include a flat-screen TV and electric kettle in the room. Rooms have a private bathroom fitted with a bath or shower and bidet. For your comfort, you will find slippers, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Extras include a fridge and toothbrushes. There is a 24-hour front desk at the property. Free luggage storage service is provided. Todaiji Temple is 10 minutes by car from Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring, while Nara Park is a 20-minute stroll from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 37 km away.
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