Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri (Kasuga Shrine Festival) (春日若宮おん祭)

Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri is a festival held at Sesha Wakamiya shrine (a subordinate shrine) of Kasuga-taisha Shrine in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. "The entertainments performed at the shrine ritual of Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri" has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural property. Shaden-kagura (the sacred music and dancing which have been performed in the shrine since long time ago), Azuma-asobi (a traditional sacred performance of Japanese song and dance), Dengaku (a ritual music and dancing performed before rice planting for wishing good harvests), and Seino (a dance performed by six men, wearing a kariginu [informal clothes worn by Court nobles] and Tate-boshi hat, at the festival) are performed. Bugaku (a traditional Japanese court music accompanied by dancing) is performed by "Nanto-gakuso" (the gagaku [ceremonial court music of Japan]) performance group based in Nanto [Kofuku-ji temple in Nara Prefecture]) which inherits the tradition of Sanpo-gakuso Nanto-gata ("Sanpo-gakuso" is the collective name of three gagaku performance groups, "Kyuchu-gata" [the Imperial Court in Kyoto Prefecture], "Nanto-gata" [Kofuku-ji temple in Nara Prefecture], and "Tenno-ji-gata" [Shitenno-ji temple in Osaka Prefecture]). The whole Yamato country celebrated the festival magnificently. This festival has been held continuosly for more than 860 years.

In 1135, the main building of Wakamiya shrine (a shrine sacred to the son of the god of the main shrine) was renovated by Tadamichi FUJIWARA. It is said that the festival has been celebrated since the following year.

The whole process of the festival takes 24 hours from beginning to end, starting with "Senko-no-gi" which is a ceremony to welcome the young princess and ending with "Kanko-no-gi" which is a ceremony to send the prince back. The festival starts from midnight on December 17 and the prince goes back until midnight on December 18. During both "Senko-no-gi" and "Kanko-no-gi," turning on lights, taking photographs, and recording video tapes are prohibited.

[Original Japanese]