More than 3,000 lanterns in the precincts of Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara are lit up twice a year for the Mantoro Lantern Festival.

Kasuga Shrine’s thousands of lanterns used to be lit up every night, but these days you can only see them all lit twice a year, on February 3rd (Setsubun Mantoro) and August 14th-15th (Chugen Mantoro. In Japan, February 3rd, known as Setsubun, marks the transition from winter to spring, while Chugen refers to midsummer.

Large stone lanterns line the paths in the gardens, while intricately decorated metalwork lanterns hang in the corridors. Part of the festival involves people writing wishes on strips of washi (Japanese paper) and attaching them to the garden lanterns before lighting the lanterns, in an event which  has continued for 800 years.

Most of the lanterns were donated by ordinary citizens, with the exception of a handful which were dedicated by samurai warriors during the Warring States Period. Take a journey back in time to the bygone days before electricity as the reflections of the candlelight dance mystically on the surface of the river and the vermilion buildings of the shrine.

In spring, you can also browse stalls selling longevity charms such as beans, good luck amulets, and votive pictures of horses. In summer, you can enjoy watching performances of dancers dressed in traditional kimono.


February 3rd, August 14th-15th

Dates and functions are subject to change without notice. Be sure to check the latest information in advance.