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Wednesday, 6th August 2014
In Events In Japan,

Todaiji Temple holds annual health ritual

Visitors to Todaiji Temple in Nara will no doubt have noticed the giant wreath inside the main hall that people are being encouraged to walk through, as part of an annual ritual that is said to bestow good health for the year.

Monks could be seen erecting the structure - which is made of miscanthus grass and measure[s] more than two metres in diameter - on Monday (July 28th). They stood outside the gate and chanted sutras while people filed through to see the beautiful religious imagery within.

The ritual first came to pass in the tenth century and was followed in the hope that it would help ward off the plague. But since then, its meaning has changed dramatically and it now helps people to cope with the summer heat.

Visitors practising the ritual said that they made wishes for good health as they passed through the miscanthus grass, and added that it had brought them great happiness to participate in such an ancient ritual.

Todaiji Temple is revered as one of the holiest places in Japan, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the enormous Great Hall to take in the sights every year.

It's easily accessible from Nara train station, which in turn can be accessed in only an hour from both Shin-Osaka and Kyoto transportation hubs.

If you're unlucky enough to miss the health ritual this week, it's also worth coming to the temple during Omizutori, a series of events held annually from March 1st to 14th that sees monks setting torches alight from Nigatsudo's balcony. These are then held over the crowd, with the burning embers that shower down said to bestow a safe year.

Related news stories:
Viability of Buddhist temples 'in doubt' (3rd September 2008)