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Things To Do In Nara - March Events

The best thing to do in Nara in March is to witness the fire and water festival at Nigatsu-do Hall in Todai-ji Temple, known as '0mizutori.' This must-see event runs for the first two weeks of the month. On March 3rd, Japan celebrates Girl’s Day with various Hina-matsuri Doll Festivals. With an average day time temperature of around 12°C, it’s a perfect time for strolling the streets of Naramachi old town or taking a cozy jinrikisha ride. You can view early cherry blossoms mid-month at Hase-dera Temple. And, if  you’re not busy on Sunday, March 10th, then head to on-the-rise Ikoma City to Hozan-ji Temple for their Fudo Myo-O fire-walking ceremony! 



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Nigatsu-do Hall Omizutori - Best Thing To Do in Nara for March

Nigatsu-do Hall is an important structure within the grounds of Todai-ji Temple. Located to the east of the Great Buddha Hall and nestled on the hillside of Mt. Wakakusa, it offers stunning sunset views. The name means ‘The Hall of the Second Month’ because these key purification and cleansing rituals are enacted in the second month of the Lunar calendar. Whatsmore, they date back some 1,250 years. Known collectively as Shuni-e, the fire ritual, or Otaimatsu,  happens after sunset everyday from the 1st to the 14th of March. Giant torches are carried up to the balcony of Nigatsu-do Hall and the embers shower down onto people as a purification and blessing.


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Otaimatsu Schedule: 

  • March 1st to 11th - 19:00 to 19:20, 10 torches of 40 kg

  • March 12th - 19:30 to 20:15, 11 touches of 70 kg 

  • March 13th - 19:00 to 19:20, 10 torches of 40 kg

  • March 14th - 20:30 to 20:40, 10 touches of 40 kg

Usually, torches are brought across the balcony one at a time. However, on March 14th all the torches are paraded in rapid succession for a 10 min extravaganza spectacle. You can view the Otaimatsu schedule (Japanese). March 12th is the most crowded day and a view of the torches cannot be guaranteed for late comers.


Omizutori Schedule: 

  • March 12th and 13th: 1:30 am to 2:30 am

For the water drawing ceremony, or the Omizutori, priests come out of the temple hall to draw water from the nearby well. Sounds from a secret ceremony can be heard from the outside of the hall until 3:30 am. If you’re staying in Nara City, this is a unique event to attend.


Please note: These events attract large crowds and, in continuation with health protection measures, there will be strict crowd and route controls. Also, don’t forget to wear a face mask and to refrain from unnecessary speaking.



Ikoma Mountain Fire Walking Festival - March 10th

Ikoma City is one of Nara’s most on-rise-rise tourism spots. Hozan-ji Temple on Mount Ikoma is particularly popular. From Kintetsu-Nara Station you take a train bound for Namba, get off at Ikoma Station (express stop) and transfer to one of the cutest cable lines in Japan.





The cable stop is Hozan-ji Station. Once out the gates, follow the path and turn right up the staircase. Just before the main lantern adorned section to the temple, you will see the ‘goma’ or sacrificial ground on your left. The Saito Daigoma ceremony will take place here.


At this event, you can witness traditional Shingon-shu Buddhist practices. An altar of wood and pine tree branches is burnt to the protector god Fudo Myo-O. Afterwards, the ashes are spread out and you can walk over them for purification and protection. The vibe is very low key and local. Afterwards, you can visit Hozan-ji Temple or walk a little down the staircase where there are a number of trendy cafes and restaurants.


Date: Sunday March 10th

Hours: 10:00 to 12:00

Fee: None

Place: Hozan-ji Temple, Mount Ikoma



Girls’ Day Hina Matsuri in Yamatokoriyama City

The auspicious day of 03/03, or March 3rd, is celebrated across Japan as Girl’s Day or the Hina Matsuri Doll Festival. Boys’ Day is celebrated on May 5th during the Golden Week vacation period. Traditionally, people make a ‘hina-dan’ or a tiered display of family ‘hina’ dolls. Families also dress up young girls in traditional outfits and go to a Shinto shrine for a blessing ceremony. 

In many locations, including shrines, temples, castles, and shopping centers you can view beautifully crafted ‘hina-dan’. Yamatokoriyama City in Nara Prefecture is famous for its ‘hina’ doll displays. 



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You can view these at a number of locations near the city center. The event starts in late February and runs until March 3rd, so you can double bill this with cherry blossom viewing at Koriyama Castle and other attractions. 


Date: Feb 24th to March 3rd

Hours: Usual business hours

Locations: Yanagimachi/Sakaimachi shopping streets, Machiya Monogatari Museum, Asmo Yamatokoriyama Storefront. 

Transport: Take a Kintetsu-Nara train for Saidaiji and transfer to a train bound for Kashiharajingumae, or take a direct train from JR Nara Station bound for Tennoji.



Early Cherry Blossoms at Hase-dera Temple

Although everyone looks forward to cherry blossoms around the end of the month, not many people know that Hase-dera Temple in Sakurai City has some rather early bloomers starting around 10 March. These are the Kanhizakura, Oshimazakura, and Kawazuzakura varieties.

Other blooms not to miss this month at Hase-dera Temple are daffodils and the yellow weeping forsythia or golden bell trees. 





From March 1st to July 9th July you can enjoy a free viewing of the temple’s national treasures. During this time, you can also enter the Main Hall with the 10 meter standing Kannon figure for an up-close viewing and feet touching. 


Entry Fee: 500 yen

Kannon Viewing: 1000 yen 

Museum and treasures: Free

Hours: 09:30 to 16:00


The best way to Hase-dera Temple is to take a train from Kintetsu-Nara station. Coming from Osaka-Namba you transfer at Tsuruhashi for the Kintetsu-Osaka Line.



Nara Cherry Blossoms 2024 - Late March

With cherry blossoms being seasonal phenomena, it’s always best to keep an eye on the cherry blossom forecast. For 2024, cherry blossoms are expected to start blooming around Nara from March 25th into full bloom around April 1st. Basically, the last week of March into the first week of April is best. For a full nationwide forecast of blossoming times, click here.



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Although Nara Park is one of the best places to view cherry blossoms, bookmark these amazing hanami spots in Nara as we head into April: 

  1. Koriyama Castle

  2. Hase-dera Temple

  3. Tsubosaka-dera Temple

  4. Abe Monju-in Temple

  5. Mount Yoshino



Himuro Shirayuki Shaved Ice Festival

Head down to the Nara Park Bus Terminal to enjoy some delicious shaved ice on March 24th. The festival is held by Himuro-jinja Shrine, the shrine that was originally tasked with creating and storing ice for the Emperor during the Nara period. In fact, the shrine's name literally translates to "Ice Room". On May the 1st of each year, they hold a special ice festival called Kenpyosai, dedicated to the gods of ice which are enshrined here and attended by those working in the ice and refrigeration business.



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The Himuro Shriayuki Shaved Ice Festival started in 2014 and this year will see 10 different outlets sell their amazing culinary creations at the recently built Nara Park Bus Terminal.


This year's participants:


Kori Shokutakuya(Hyogo)

Asahi Huuhu(Taiwan)

Betsubara(Osaka)

Paku-Paku Kumokumadou(Kanagawa)

A.cocotto(Aichi)

Amabile(Yamagata)

Saka-no-ue Cafe(Tokyo)

Cafe Laque(Chiba)

Hinata cafe ishigaki(Okinawa)

Himuro Shirayuki Shaved Ice Committee


Date: Sunday, March 24th, 2024

Time: 10:00 - 17:00

Location: Nara Park Bus Terminal

Admission: Free

Note: A reservation ticket is required for purchase and popular shaved ice may sell out early.

Purchase tickets here. (Japanese)




Final Strawberry Pickings 

If you have missed out on strawberry picking over the last couple months, or just arrived in Nara, March is the final month to enjoy this activity. Asuka Village is the most popular place for strawberry picking. You can check the strawberry picking calendar (Japanese) to make a reservation. 



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Hours: 10:00 to 16:00

Days: Sat/Sun/Wed and every day for the last week of March

Fee: 2000 yen / adult, kids discounted



 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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