Kansai Scene Magazine


Ako Gishi Matsuri

Dec 14

JR Banshu-Ako stn

This sensational event began back in the 18th century. In essence, it is based around the revenge taken by 47 samurai warriors of the death of their lord. The story is so popular that it is often dramatised in film, plays and on TV. The location of the festival is regarded as the hometown of the samurai, and the annual celebration usually goes off in style. Brass bands, samurai warriors and ladies dressed in period attire parade through the streets, and look out for the impressive combat performances on stage. There will also be live taiko drumming and street performances, with cafes set up for the day. Kagaku temple, Oishi shrine and the castle will be illuminated with lanterns on the evening of December 13th to commemorate the samurai.

Time: 10am
Getting there: JR Ako line, Banshu-Ako stn
Admission: free
Tel: 0791-42-2602

Joya no Kane

Dec 31

Kimiidera Temple, Wakayama

On New Year's Eve, temples across the country strike their bells 108 times to represent the number of earthly passions and desires believed to cause human suffering. Oh, and to announce the passing of the year. It is thought that with each toll of the bell, one of those desires is dispelled. At the historic Kimiidera temple –if you are lucky–you can participate in the rite. Every year sees long queues of people lined up beside the beautiful belfry, designated a National important cultural property. It is thought to be an honour and privilege to participate in the bell ringing; only the first 108 people are blessed with this opportunity each year.

Time: 10:30pm
Getting there: JR Kisei Honsen line, Kimiidera stn
Admission: free
Tel: 073-444-1002

Kansai Festival Listings

Onmatsuri Festival

Kasuga-taisya Shrine, Nara
Dec 15-18

On the 17th, people wearing beautiful costumes from the 12th-19th centuries parade through the town. Large varieties of Japanese classical performing arts go on very late into the evening.
Time: 12pm (Dec 17th; enquire for other times). Getting there: Kintetsu Railway, Nara stn.Admission: free. Tel: 0742-22-7788

Kabocha Kuyo

Yatadera (Yatajizo), Kyoto
Dec 23

Decorated with red paper lanterns, this temple is located in a bustling shopping arcade of Kyoto. Many people come to rub the large pumpkin that is placed on the altar, and pray for prevention of disease. Free pumpkins will be given to the first 1,000 visitors.
Time: 10am. Getting there: Subway Tozai line, Sanjo-Keihan stn.Admission: free. Tel: 075-241-3608

Shimenawa Shinji

Hiraoka-jinja shrine, Osaka
Dec 25

This is one unique and amusing ritual for welcoming in the New Year. The shrine’s priest and believers renew the shimenawa (an ornamental straw rope that separates the sacred place from the unclean outer world). After the shimenawa has been replaced, priests and participants laugh loudly in front of it in order to cast out evil spirits.
Time: 9am. Getting there: Kintetsu Railway Nara line, Hiraoka stn.Admission: free. Tel: 072-981-417

Ootaimatsu Oshi

Shimohanazono-jinja Shrine, Wakayama, Dec 31
Ritual is considered a significant cultural folk asset of Wakayama. 30 men carry a 6m long torch walking in rhythm while singing.
Time: 9pm. Getting there: JR Wakayama line, Kasada stn, 50min by car. Admission: free. Tel: 0736-22-0300

Okera Mairi

Yasaka-jinja Shrine, Kyoto
Dec 31

The special herb Okera, that is believed to cleanse the spirit, will be burnt at the shrine, and small bamboo ropes then placed in the fire. Participants take the small burning ropes home, constantly swinging them so as not to extinguish the fire. The rope at the shrine is then used to start a fire to cook zoni (traditional soup made of vegetables, chicken and mochi).
Time: 7pm-5am. Getting there: Keihan Railway Gion-shijo stn, 5min walk. Admission: free. Tel: 075-561-6155

The bells on New Year's Eve
Participate in a bell ringing ritual at several temples in Kansai. (It is better to be there by 11pm as the custom is very popular.)

Todaiji Temple: numbered tickets indicating the order to hit the bell will be distributed at 11pm. Only the first 800 people will be accepted.
Getting there: Kintetsu Railway, Nara stn, 15min walk. Tel: 0742-22-5511
Asukadera Temple: ringing will start around 11:30pm. Getting there: Kintetsu Railway Kashiharajingu-mae stn, bus to Asuka Daibutsu-mae. Tel: 0744-54-2126

Daikakuji Temple: bell ringing will start around 11:50pm. Getting there: Hankyu Railway, Arashiyama stn. Tel: 075-871-0071

Sumadera Temple: numbered tickets will be distributed around 9:30pm. Getting there: JR Kobe line Suma stn, 15min walk. Tel: 078-731-0416

Taiyuji Temple
Getting there: Subway Tanimachi line, Higashiumeda stn. Tel: 06-6311-5480

EVENT section compiled by Yuki Uchibori

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:: news

Trial by media

:: travel

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:: environment

Attack of the 4-legged structures

:: tech know

The weird & the wonderful from japan's gadget gurus

:: Kansai Listings

:: Film

Current cinema listings so you always know what's on, where and when!

:: ART

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All the hot picks


Best festivals & listings

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:: Getaway

Castle Quest
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