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Omizutori () 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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    • Hilo Hostel
      Mid-range
      Located less than 1 km from Nara Station, Hilo Hostel provides rooms with air conditioning in Nara. This 3-star hostel offers a shared kitchen, luggage storage space and free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is set 18 km from Iwafune Shrine. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 21 km from the hostel, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 22 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 53 km from Hilo Hostel.
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    • Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park
      Budget-friendly
      Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park is situated in the Nara Park district of Nara, 3.3 km from Nara Station and 20 km from Iwafune Shrine. Complimentary WiFi is available throughout the property. Each unit is fitted with air conditioning, private bathroom and a kitchen including a fridge, microwave, stovetop and a toaster. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 23 km from the lodge, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 25 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 55 km from Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park.
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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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    • 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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    • Hotel Rokune
      Mid-range
      Located in Nara, Hotel Rokune provides 3-star accommodation with private balconies. Featuring a terrace, the 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property is non-smoking and is set 700 metres from Nara Station. All units are equipped with a fridge, microwave, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel every room is equipped with bed linen and towels. Hotel Rokune offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub. Iwafune Shrine is 17 km from the accommodation, while Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 21 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 52 km from Hotel Rokune.
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    • SLOW HOUSE NARA
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring 2-star accommodation, SLOW HOUSE NARA is located in Nara, 1.3 km from Nara Station and 19 km from Iwafune Shrine. The 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen and luggage storage space for guests. At the guest house, each room comes with a desk. At SLOW HOUSE NARA every room is equipped with bed linen and towels. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 22 km from the accommodation, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 23 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 54 km from SLOW HOUSE NARA.
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    • Hotel Naranohamori
      Mid-range
      Featuring 3-star accommodation, Hotel Naranohamori is situated in Nara, 19 km from Iwafune Shrine and 22 km from Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium. The 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is set 2 km from Nara Station. The units in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. At Hotel Naranohamori all rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 23 km from the accommodation, while Shijonawate City Museum of History and Folklore is 23 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 54 km from Hotel Naranohamori.
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    • The Deer Park Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Located within Nara Park, The Deer Park Inn offers free Wi-Fi throughout the property and a chance to feed the many deer roaming around the park. Kintesunara Train Station is an 8-minute taxi ride away. Rooms feature air conditioning/heating and free toiletries. Bathrooms and toilets are shared with other guests. Meals are not served on the property, but guests can use the communal kitchen to prepare their own meals. Luggage storage is available for free and a coin launderette is available at a surcharge. Kasuga Taisha Shrine is located a 7-minute walk away, while the Todaiji Temple is located within a 15-minute walk from the property. Guests can also take a 13-minute walk to access the Nara National Museum or a 17-minute walk to see the beautiful Isuien Garden.
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    • Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Nara, 2 km from Nara Station, Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi offers accommodation with a garden, private parking, a shared lounge and a restaurant. Offering a bar, the property is located within 20 km of Iwafune Shrine. The accommodation features a shared kitchen and luggage storage space for guests. With a shared bathroom fitted with a shower and free toiletries, rooms at the guest house also feature free WiFi, while some rooms also feature a balcony. At Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi, the rooms are equipped with air conditioning and a safety deposit box. The accommodation offers a continental or American breakfast. The area is popular for cycling, and bike hire is available at Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi. Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium is 23 km from the guest house, while Nippon Christ Kyodan Shijonawate Church is 24 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 55 km from Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi.
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    • Nara Hotel
      Luxury
      The century old Nara Hotel features classic Japanese architecture and elegant rooms with free WiFi. Located on Nara Parkfs beautiful hills, it overlooks the ancient capitalfs historic sites. The cosy rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows and warm colours. They come with an LCD TV with satellite channels, a minibar and a bathrobe. From Nara Hotel, the center of Nara Park is a 10-minute walk, Isuien Garden is a 15-minute walk and Todai-ji Temple is a 20-minute walk. Nara Station is a 10-minute bus ride away and connects to Kyoto in 45 minutes, while Kansai Airport is a 100-minute bus ride. Guests can explore the ancient city with Hotel Narafs rental bicycles. They can relax with a massage or browse in the hotelfs gift shop. French cuisine can be enjoyed in a mixture of classic Japanese and French d?cor at dining room Mikasa, while Restaurant Hanagiku serves seasonal Japanese dishes. Guests with a dinner-inclusive plan can choose either French or Japanese dinner. Freshly baked pastry and park views are offered at the Tea Lounge.
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