Yakushiji Temple is located in Nara, near Nishi-no-kyo station.
The name of the temple refers Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine and Healing.
The Temple was ordered to be constructed by Emperor Tenmu in 680 as a prayer for his consort to recover from an illness. She recovered and completed it as his successor, Empress Jito, around the year 698. It was believed that the temple was originally built near Asuka, which was the capital at the time, then moved when the Heijo Palace in Nara become the capital (but copies of the temple may have been built at each location, existing simultaneously for a time).
Now Yakushiji is registered as one of the buildings UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the umbrella of "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara."
The temple has two pagodas, the East and West. The West Pagoda (Sai-to) is open but the 34 meter East Pagoda (To-to) is being renovated and is covered with a tent scaffold.
The temple features ceremonies and festivals at least once a month.
During the end of March, from 25-31, there is an event called the hana-e shiki. The hana-e shiki is a gathering in which flowers are arranged at the altar and springs prayers for national prosperity are offered.
The origin of the hana-e shiki date back to 1107 when the emperor was ill and flowers were offered with prayers at the temple. The emperor recovered and the next year the empress ordered that the ceremony be recreated for the well-being of the nation by presenting 10 types of artificial flowers, made from paper. These paper flowers include plum blossoms, lilies and chrysanthemums.
The last night of the prayers finish as the sun sets. Then the prayer session ends with a ceremony called Oni-oi-shiki ,鬼追式, the "ceremony to drive away demons." During the ceremony, torches are lit and men in demon masks purify that are with showers of embers.
After the ceremony the demons mingle with the crowd, to make children cry and pose for a few pictures.
|Saito, the West Pagoda. Note the gold ornament on the roof.|
The Toto, East Pagoda, is silver-colored.
|A cherry tree in bloom.|
|A nice full-moon for the ceremony.|
|The Kondou, Golden Hall serves as the headquaters of the Hosso sect.|
Nate the bamboo poles that are used to hold braziers full of green branches with pieces of white paper, shidare, handing underneath.
|The braziers a set aflame.|
Initially thick smoke fills the courtyard as the green vegetation
|Note the tented scaffold on the right. That conceals the other pagoda, which is under repair.|
|The demons (or ogres) enter the courtyard with their torches.|
|A nice pose from the red ogre.|
|The white ogre.|
|The ogres parade onto the stage and start to light the smaller torches.|
|The ogres beat their torches on the railing to scatter sparks all over the courtyard.|
|The exposure for these photos is exteneded to 1/4 of a second to show the sparks streaking through the air.|
|The long exposure streaking of the torches looks as if kanji are being written in the air.|
|1/4" exposure shows the arcs of the flames but osbcures the moving parts of the body.|
|A fountain of sparks.|
|I like how the burst of sparks here looks like a phoenix.|
|An ogre movnig about the stage. Alone in this frame.|
|A ogre climbs onto the railing to rile up to show off for the crowd.|
|A nice shot that shows off several well lit elements of the courtyard.|