Monday, February 7, 2011

Setsubun Mantoro:lantern lighting ritual

万灯篭 Mantoro, or lantern lighting ritual, was carried out to pay respect to the spirit of creation on the night of “setsubun”, Feb. 3rd, at Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara City.  Since the ancient times, fire was used to purify the site and honor the kami, or god.   All 3000 of the shrine’s stone and bronze lanterns are lit at once by each of prayers and sightseers.   They create a lovely glow containing people's wishes.

Moss-covered stone lanterns line the path to sanctuary and light dimly the area. 
There are about 2000 stone lanterns.

A long pathway to the shrine is quite dark with only lantern light in themiddle of verdant grove. I felt close to God.

In a flare of photographer's flashlight, you see what are not seen in the dark.

Metal lanterns are hanging from the eaves of the corridor of the inner shrine.

Lanterns were offered over the years mostly by the common people, partly by feudal lords in the Warring States Period, or descendants of Fujiwara clan, who were politically powerful in the ancient times.  Kasuga Shrine was a family shrine of the Fujiwaras.  The oldest stone lantern dates back to 1324.  People donated lanterns to pray the god for providence and their families prosperity. 

Take a closer look at elaborate openwork of various patterns like  floral patterns, geometric patterns, or family crest of the donors.  The wisteria design means a lot to this shrine because Fujiwara means “grove of wisteria”.  Japanese papers is used inside the openwork so that people can see patterns clearly.

very old bronze lanterns

Mantoro has continued for about 800 years.
Setsubun means division of seasons, winter and spring, so from the next day is spring in the old Japanese almanac.

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  1. Thank you for sharing about the lantern lighting ritual. The wisteria patterns are lovely against the illuminated paper. And the appearance of the deer is a beautiful sight.

    The flowering tree you were asking about is called redbud. I wish you a very good day!

  2. It's amazing and the lanterns are gorgeous! I love the photo with a deer - fabulous!
    Thank you for sharing so great pictures with us!
    Have a great week!

  3. Though living in Nara, I haven't had a chance to go and see them actually. So many patterns silhouetted against Japanese paper are interesting. Thank you for this post.

  4. What a delightful, informative post for the day! The lanterns are indeed gorgeous! And I, too, love the photo with the deer! Thank you for sharing this with us today. I learned to truly appreciate the Japanese culture after working for Komotsu here in the northwest, so this was very special! Have a wonderful week!


  5. The metal work of the lanterns is so beautiful, but I believe my favorite are the moss covered stone ones. All together they must create a very magical scene!

  6. This is my favorite. All 3000 lantern are lit and cast dime light over the sanctuary. It is really awesome. As all of them are donations from worshippers, I am moved with the depth of their prayers!
    I were here, but I didn't see you.
    Thanks for sharing wonderful shots and blog.

  7. These are so beautiful. It must feel very magical wandering through with these lanterns all lit.

  8. What gorgeous lanterns! Sounds like a magical ritual - so beautiful.

  9. I look back with nostalgia seeing your photos, because my husband's father loved the event. We went to see the lanterns together when my sons were kids.

  10. Long ago, I went around there in Kasuganomori at night. I couldn't see anything well. I was scared. At that time I noticed some sign. I was astonished. A lot of deer were sitting near me. At that night no lanterns were lit.

  11. Hi!Stardust.
    You took many photos of beautiful lanterns! They are very Japanese, but exotic in the dark.
    I am very impressed to see them. By the way,it is surprising that you ,Sara and snowwhite were at the same place,but you did not see Feb.3rd!
    Thank you for sharing.

  12. Hello ... first of all, thanks for visiting my blog ... I try to photograph everything I see in nature around me mainly. This blog of yours is precious and you have some very beautiful photos. I follow and I hope new photos.
    A greeting from Spain

  13. Thanks for the wonderful tour of your world and information regarding the lanterns. It's great that these cultural practices are preserved for the future generations. Beautiful lanterns.

  14. I can imagine it's so beautiful to see thousands of lanterns lit, Stardust! It's hard to believe you can view stone lanterns dating from 1324. Such ancient relics saved for the public to enjoy is truly wonderful.

  15. The lanterns are very beautiful when lit! I would like to see them in person some day. :)

  16. It is an honor to be visited me and thank you very much!
    Your photos with lit Lanterns is wonderful!
    Have a great and ancient civilization!
    Thank you
    Greetings from Greece

  17. Hello, stardust.

    Kasuga Taisha Shrine...
    I do not have been to there.
    It is disappointing for me.
    Nara is the capital letting me rediscover Japan.

    Thank you for your visit.

  18. Thank you, each and every comment is warmly appreciated.

    I wanted to show the mystic and magical scenes when numerous stone lanterns were lit up, without using a flashlight so that I won’t spoil the atmosphere. Outside was too dark for this immature photographer to take pictures of those clearly.

  19. The world is full of coincidences. I decided to look at some of your older posts, and who do I see here? A deer again :)

  20. I was looking for explanation about this festival for my blog so thank you for the explination!
    I have been to this shrine in march so i missed this but maybe next time!

    1. Thank you, kusamakura, for the visit and comment. Lantern lighting Ritual is helo not only on “Setusbun” but also on 14th and 15th of August during “Obon”.

      Your blog is perfectly lovely filled with interesting information about Japanese things.


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