Mt. Yoshino (Yoshinoyama) is a mountain in Nara Prefecture that has been a subject in so many literary writings, and with good reasons: it is a gorgeous spot for cherry blossom viewing. It has also served as an important destination for religious purposes such as pilgrimages and the area continues to attract many foreign people. Its significance is clearly depicted in its many religious festival celebrations, which you can witness all throughout the year. Read on to find out more about 3 of the most popular ones!
This is a traditional spring festival which occurs from April 10-12 every year at the Kinpusenji Temple, the head temple of Kimpusen-Shugendō (a branch of the Shugendo religion). This festival is considered to be a very traditional one, with its roots dating back to the Heian era (early medieval period). The event involves the use of mochi rice that has been donated by people all over Japan. This rice is pounded with pestles and distributed to visitors. The reverence of rice has been an ancient tradition in the country as it is believed to provide strength. A lighting ceremony is also held, which is done by female secular participants.
The autumn festival in Mt. Yoshino is held every year from September to October. Various events occur on the following locations: Yoshino Shrine, Sakuramotobo, Kinpusenji Ryuouin, and all around Mt. Yoshino. Some of the autumnal events include singing, dancing, a flower exhibition, rice-cake making, and traditional chanting. There’s also a day set aside for monks to come together to make a holy fire, as well as a day of using the Taiko drum for good blessings. It is also a great time to view the colorful autumn leaves in the area!
This is a ritual event that occurs every year on November 3rd, where Shugendo Priests (also called ‘Yamabushi monks’ which means ‘mountain monks’) walk over burning coals. This is held at the Dainichiji Temple which was founded by famous monk Kobo Daishi. They do this as a part of their training, in which physical endurance is the path to enlightenment. It is also at this time when visitors are given the chance to pray to avoid bad things from happening in the future.
These three religious annual events prove that Mt. Yoshino is continuously thriving in a spiritual environment. Hence, it is very important that the mountain is maintained and preserved as an indispensable property to be shared by all. If you are in the Nara area during one of these festivals, don’t miss the chance to witness the impressive event!
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