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Things To Do in Nara - February Events

For the wintery month of February there are a number of fantastic things to do in Nara. At the start of the month, you can choose from a number of traditional bean-throwing or devil-chasing Setsubun activities. Nara also beats the winter blues with the Rurie illumination into the first half of the month. And, if you won't be around in Japan for cherry blossoms, make sure not to miss the plum blossoms.



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Best Japanese Cultural Event in Nara - Setsubun 2024

Setsubun is loved and celebrated throughout Japan. It literally means ‘seasonal division’ and marks the end of winter and the heralding of spring. Setsubun happens within the first four days of February just before the start of spring in the traditional Japanese Lunar Calendar.

There are various Setsubun customs, both modern and traditional, that are enjoyed at this time. The most popular are roasted bean throwing ceremonies. People chant "Demons out, good luck in!" while throwing beans. At temples, shrines, and in private homes, beans are thrown outside to expel omens and inside to summon in good fortune. 



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Here are some of the best places in Nara to enjoy Setsubun for 2024: 


1. Kasugataisha Shrine: On February 3rd, some 3,000 thousand lanterns are lit within the shrine. Admission is 500 yen and the light up runs from 17:30 to 20:30.

2. Todai-ji Nigatsudo Hall: A bean-throwing ceremony starts at 14:00 on February 3rd with people also receiving lucky beans. There’s a lantern light up and a display of the star mandala at 18:00. Nigatsudo is a short walk up the hill from the main Todaiji Temple.

3. Kinpusen-ji Temple: Kinpusen-ji Temple does Setsubun differently. Instead of shouting "Demons out!", they say "Demons in!", welcoming and exorcising them all at once. After the welcome, a fire ritual and demon dance precede the usual bean tossing.






Nara Rurie Illumination February 2024 

Nara Rurie is a fantastical illumination that runs from February 8th to 14th with lights on from 18:00 to 21:00. The theme color blue is associated with the lapis lazuli stone noted for its special relationship to the Medicine Buddha or Yakushi Nyorai.  Nara Park comes to resemble a blue-hued Milky Way. You can wander through illuminations from Sarusawa Pond up to Kofukuji Temple, Nara Park. Todaiji Temple and along the way to Kasuga-taisha Shrine. 





The main Happiness Corridor attraction has shifted this year at the Man'yo Botanical Gardens.

Other highlights are a night viewing of the Great Buddha or Daibutsu of Todaiji Temple. You can see the Buddha’s face lit up through open shutters even from a distance outside. There are also special night viewings at Kohfuku-ji Temple and the Kasuga-taisha Shrine, a Rurie Night Market, and stalls around selling hot chocolate.


The event ends of Valentines Day with a fireworks display to commemorate the founding of Nara Park.





February Plum Blossoms Nara Prefecture 2024

From late February (usually the last week) and into mid to late March is the best time for plum blossoms in western Japan.  The custom of enjoying the plum blossoms dates back to the Nara period predating sakura. Even though the popularity of sakura overtook that of plum, plum blossoms have retained a sense of beauty, hope and renewal in places such as Nara and Kyoto. Places to enjoy the plum blossoms in Kyoto include Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, the Imperial Gardens, and Nijo Castle.  However, the Kataoka Bairin plum grove in Nara Park is a less crowded option with a hundred or so trees. You can also find a few plum blossom trees around nearby Ukimido Gazebo.



Tsukigase and Ano Plum Blossom Groves

Nara’s most famous plum blossom grove, however, is out in the countryside, namely the Tsukigase plum groves (月ヶ瀬梅林). Access to Tsukigase is either by car or bus from JR Nara or Kintetsu Station. From JR west exit, catch the No. 94 or 95 bus. The nearest stop to the tourist office is Tsukisebashi (月瀬橋) near the bridge but you can also view a walking map online.

Another large plum grove area, although more remote, is the Ano (賀名生) Plum Grove in Gojo City. To access Ano plum groves, take the JR Wakayama Line to Gojo Station, and then a Nara Kotsu bus bound for Shingu (新宮), Totsukawa Onsen (十津川温泉), or Jodo (城戸). Get off at Ano Wada Kitaguchi (賀名生和田北口). The ride is about 20 minutes.



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Bonsai Plum Exhibition Yamato Koriyama

If tramping around the countryside is not for you, then you can stick to the indoors and enjoy a fantastic bonsai plum tree exhibition in Yamato Koriyama City.


Date: February 3rd to March 10th

Time: 09:30 to 16:30 and 17:00 on weekdays and holidays

Location: Koriyama Castle Ruins Otemon



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Access: 10-min-walk from Kintetsu Koriyama Station or 20 min from JR Koriyama.Fee: 500 yen at the door, 400 yen advanced booking.


Concurrently, another plum tree bonsai exhibition will be on at Sugawara Tenmangu Shrine (菅原天満宮) about a 12-min-walk from Amagatsuji Station. It ends on March 3rd and the fee is 500 yen.



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The 10th Annual Juko Tea Gathering 2024 - Nara Tea Ceremonies

If you’re a fan or practitioner of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, the 10th annual Juko Tea Gathering is not to be missed. Around seven tea ceremony schools will participate (PDF pamphlet). Numbers of participants are limited according to the venue, and you will need to make an online reservation. Most venues will be sold out by the end of January.

If you miss out, you can join our Wednesday Tea Ceremonies at the Nara Visitors Center and Inn.


Date: February 6th to 12th

Location: Various Nara temples and shrines




Asuka Village Onda Matsuri - February 4th

For a unique experience of some unique country customs, there’s the fertility and rice planting Onda Festival at the Asuka Niimasu Jinja Shrine in Asuka Village. It happens on the first Sunday of February. The festival is to ensure a bountiful harvest, good health, and family generation. It’s noted as being an eccentric or ‘kisai’ (奇祭) festival, and famed as one of the three most unusual festivals in Japan.



Nara Prefecture Intangible Cultural Asset Video Archive



Worshippers get their bottoms spanked by masked devils to ward off evil and there is a raunchy fertility scene between a goblin and a man dressed as a woman. The shrine itself is known for its many genitalia-like rock formations.


Date: February 4th

Fee: None 

From Kintetsu Kashihara-jingumae Station take the bus bound for Okadera and alight at the Asuka-daibutsu bus stop.



Ongoing Recommended Activities

As always, there are things to do in Nara that run throughout the month or for the length of a particular season. Recommended ongoing activities in February are: 


Shika Yose or ‘calling of the deer’ is an interesting event that happens on Saturday, Sunday and on public holidays. Starting from 10:00 for 15 minutes, a French horn player serenades willing deer with licks from Beethoven's Pastoral or 6th Symphony. The location is Tobihino, which is a wide stretch of open grass along the main path to the Kasuga-taisga Shrine towards Man'yo Botanical Gardens‒look for the huge trees and open ground to the right. Keep your ears pricked! 



Thank you for reading Things To Do in Nara February.

We aim to be as accurate as possible with the information we provide, but all information, times and dates are subject to change. Please refer to official sources


 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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