Nara Tokae Festival (なら燈花会)
Nara Tokae is the annual event that has been held in Nara (mostly in and around Nara Park) in the early August (for ten days) since 1999 using the candles called toka (lantern). Toka is the flower-shaped lump of candle formed on the tip of lamp wick. The event is named 'Tokae' because in Buddhism the lump is considered something auspicious. During the festival, candles are lit on all over the ground of Nara Park surrounded by World Heritage. In the event fantastic and mysterious atmosphere is produced, and the festival has become established as one of the summer features in Nara. At the beginning about ten thousand candles per day were used. But the number increased every year, and in 2007 about twenty thousand candles were used. The festival is held in venues described as below. Sometimes the residents' communities and shopping arcades hold their own Tokae during this period. The number of the festival venues was as large as twenty in 2007.
The number of the visitors has been increasing every year since the first festival in 1999. Recently the festival has grown to a big annual event in summer that more than 700 thousand tourists visit.
Candles and cups
At first the floating candles made from commercially available normal paraffin were used. In around 2003, however, the candles were changed into the ones made with natural material and eco-friendly palm oil so that deer may not be poisoned if they should eat them. The candles made from natural materials emit little soot, so, as a result, the number of cleaning up the cups that hold candles has decreased. And the shape of the candle has been changed to the one in the motif of Tokae's logo. Since 2005 colored cups started to be used, making the festival more colorful. The cups used at first were gradually replaced with new ones. The most of the cups currently used are 'non-burnable cups' with which incombustible materials are used, and by doing so further safety measures have been taken.
(From the beginning incombustible cups have been used.)
The festival is managed by incorporated nonprofit organization 'Nara Tokae no kai (association of Nara Tokae Festival), which is an operating body of the festival. All of the members are volunteers, and the number of the membership is about 150. The number of 'registered volunteers' that do the work of lightening the candles and cleanup for the days during the festival is about from 200 to 300 a day. So the festival is managed by 400 per day and in total 4000 volunteers. The number of volunteers tends to increase year by year.
Venues of the festival
Ukigumo-enchi Park site
Kasugano-enchi Park site
Kagami-ike Pond of Todaiji Temple site (only August 13 and 14)
Ukimi-do Hall site
the site in front of Nara National Museum
Sarusawa-ike in Kofuku-ji Temple and Gojunidan (52 steps) site
Sando (an approach to the temple or shrine) of Kasuga-taisha Shrine site
Hayazaki no hi (precocious day), the pre-event the day before the festival for the elderly and disabled.
Hihire shiki (lightening ceremony)
Ikkyaku Itto, the visitors can light their own candles and put them on the festival site (500 yen).
Honoakari Live (concert), the live concert in which invited various instrument players and vocalists perform concert surrounded by the light of the candles.
Nara Tokae Noh (Noh performance at Nara Tokae Festival) performed at Noh Theatre in Nara Prefectural New Public Hall.
The events held in neighboring areas during the period of the festival
Illumination street Nara, from Tuesday, July 1 through Friday, October 31. Kasugataisha Chugen Mantoro (Lantern festival at Kasuga-taisha Shrine), Thursday, August 14 and Friday, 15.
Todaiji Manto Kuyo-e (event of offering votive lights to Buddha at Todai-ji Temple), Friday, August 15
Nara Daimonji Okuribi (bonfire at Nara) in which 2,000 bonfires are lighted on Friday, August 15. Jizo-e Manto Kuyo-e (an event to commemorate Jizo as the protector of children, and offering many votive lights) at Gango-ji Temple, Saturday, August 23 and Sunday 24.
The history of award-winning
The Most Tasteful 100 Landscapes, Ministry of Environment
Award of organization of building national communities by Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Award in the field of the industry and environment in the 7th Furusato Award by Japan Center for Regional Development
Five to fifteen minutes' walk from Kintetsu Nara Station of Kinki Nippon Railway Company
Fifteen to thirty minutes' walk along Sanjo-dori Street toward east from JR West Nara Station
Get off the bus at 'Himuro-jinja National Museum' or 'Daibutsuden Kasuga-taisha mae' of the outer loop of the Nara Kotsu City Loop Bus.