Kasuga Taisha 春日大社
The torii marking the entrance to Kasuga Taisha.
Wisteria at Kasuga Taisha
Entry under the wisteria of Kasuga Taisha.
Do not take the deer for lanterns!
Like any shrine, Kasuga Taisha lets you catch your breath during a frantic tour of Nara. Its peaceful atmosphere is tinged with solemn oddities when you take the path that runs along its enclosure, lined with stone lanterns.
Once you have passed the entrance, small paths that separate one building from another are reminiscent of the small streets of a village. The ladies in traditional dress who maintain the site add to the delight of curious visitors.
After the stone lanterns, you'll see the bronze lanterns. Suspended from hooks on the eaves of the buildings, but at different heights, they look like they could begin to shake in the wind at any time, creating a terrible cacophony. However, nothing ever disturbs the tranquility of this place.
Although green spaces within the shrine are rare, deer invite themselves into the landscape and graze peacefully without disturbing anybody. The Shinto legend assigns them the role of messengers of the kami (deities). So does it mean that a prayer has been heard, when we see them at the heart of this sacred place?
In addition to the three thousand lanterns, donations from pious travelers, which decorate Kasuga Taisha, in exchange for a few hundred yen it's possible to access the interior of some of the halls where the monks pray.
Slightly away from the center of the shrine are twelve small places of worship dedicated to the gods of luck and the Wakamiya-jinja, famous for its On-matsuri. Another surprise, a botanical garden, also enhances the sacred place, its wisteria are best appreciated when they are in bloom from April to May.
Rebuilt every twenty years until the Edo period, Kasuga Taisha holds its own and charms visitors even more during the Obon festivals in mid-August, or Setsubun Mantoro in mid-February when the lanterns light up and the kami invite themselves to the vigil.