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Shikinen Zotai: Once in 20 Years at Kasuga Taisha (Nara)

Shikinen Zotai: Once in 20 Years at Kasuga Taisha (Nara)

Translated by Shinji Takaramura

Written by FukuiTakao

Nara 2015.04.29 Bookmark

Kasuga Taisha is a UNESCO Heritage Site in Nara. This year, we will celebrate Shikinen Zotai - which only happens once every 20 years!

Kasuga Taisha is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, a UNESCO World Heritage. This year, a special event called Shikinen Zotai is under way.

What is a Shikinen Zotai?

Shikinen means a certain period of time, and Zotai means a rebuilding of the sanctuary. Every 20 years, the deity moves from the place of residence [Gohonden: main sanctuary] to a temporary site [Karihonden: temporary sanctuary]. During that period, the main sanctuary will be rebuilt, or restored.

Since 768, the year Kasuga Taisha was built, Shikinen Zoutai has been repeated once every 20 years, for more than 1,200 years. The year 2015 will be its 60th anniversary, and the move from the main sanctuary was on March 27th, and the move back to the main sanctuary will be on November 6th, 2016.

Special Admission

From September, 2014, a special admission to the main sanctuary has been granted. It will be an opportunity for the visitors to see usually closed areas.


Ichi-no-torii: The Entrance to Kasuga Taisha

From Kintetsu Nara station, it is a ten minutes walk to the Ichi-no-torii [first gate], where the sando [approach to the shrine] starts. The distance from here to the Ni-no-torii [second gate], which is near the main sanctuary, is about 1.2 kilometers, a 15 minutes walk. The stone lanterns lining up the sando is an impressive sight, creating a solemn atmosphere.


The South Gate

After passing the Ni-no-torii, the main sanctuary, where the special admission is allowed, comes into view.


The Reception for the Special Admission

After entering the south gate, the reception for the special admission is on the right side, where you pay the 500 yen admission fee. There is also a leaflet with an English commentary.


The Mikasayama Ukigumonomine Youhaijo, Outside of the East Cloister

The Mikasayama Ukigumonomine Youhaijo [a special place of worship], which is usually closed to the visitors, will be open during this period.


The Ushirodono Gate, Opened After 140 Years

The Ushirodono Gate, in the back of the main sanctuary, has been opened for the special admission after 140 years.


The Dreamlike Stone Lanterns at the Fujinaminoya Hall

At the Fujinaminoya Hall, an important cultural asset designated by the Japanese government, the quiet beauty created by the stone lanterns can be appreciated.

Visiting Manners

Kasuga Taisha is a place where a deity resides, so be careful not to sit down where ever you like, or wander into restricted areas.
Also, taking a photograph from the front of the main shrine is regarded as disrespectful, and taking photographs of the shrine maidens are forbidden by the Kasuga Taisha.

A Great Time to Visit Kasuga Taisha


A Voice Guidance Application Experiment for Visitors from Aboroad

At Ni-no-torii, Nara Audio Guide, Nara Prefecture's official voice guidance application, is on trial until the end of March for the visitors from abroad. English, Chinese, and Korean versions are available, along with the rental terminals. Click here for the application. Detailed information about Nara, as well as Kasuga Taisha, will be presented in each language.


The Mascot for the 60th Anniversary of Shikinen Zoutai, Sugachan the White Deer

Sugachan is the mascot for the 60th Anniversary of Shikinen Zoutai. It is sold at the ofiicial goods store located inside the grounds.

On March 1st, the Shikinen Zoutai started with Kozukuri Hajimeshiki [the opening ceremony for the rebuilding of the sanctuary] and will continue until Honden Senzasai, on November 16, 2016, which celebrates the return of the deity to the main sanctuary. Other ceremonies and functions, such as the special admission, are also scheduled.

This is the time to visit Kasuga Taisha, a shrine worshipped by the Japanese people for over a thousand years.


Kasuga Taisha

Address: 160 Kasuganocho, Nara City
Telephone: 0742-22-7788
Open Hours:
6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (From April to September)
6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (From October to March)
*The special admission is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
*Kasuga Taisha is open all through the year.
*500 yen will be charged for the special admission.
Multilingual Support: An English leaflet is available.
Station: Kintetsu Nara station
Access 1 (on foot): 25 minutes walk to the main shrine.
Access 2 (by bus): Take the Nara Kotsu bus, headed for "Kasuga Taisha Honden," from the Kintetsu Nara station or the JR Nara staion. Get off at the "Kasuga Taisha Honden" bus stop.
Access 3 (by bus): Take the Nara Kotsu "shinai junkan" [city loop line] bus, or the "shinai junkan sotomawari" [city loop line, outer circle] bus, and get off at the "Kasuga Taisha Omote Sando" bus stop. It is a 10 minutes walk to the main sanctuary.
Official HP: Kasuga Taisha (English information is available on this site.)

From April 1, 2015, special viewing of the Gohonden [main sanctuary], a Japanese national treasure will start, and visitors will be able to see the Gohonden Iwakura [a rock of myth] for the first time.

Open Period: April 1st to May 31st, 2015
Time: 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Admission: 1,000 yen (A commemorative item is included in the admission.)

Once every 20 years, the Gohonden is open to the visitors, though this is the first time that the Iwakura, a rock of myth enshrined in the Gohonden, will be shown.
A visit to the Karihonden [temporary sanctuary] will also be granted, but this may be cancelled due to the ongoing ceremonies.

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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