All fired up
Posted on 17th Mar 2021 by Bob Heffill

O-mizutori, the 1200-year old, sacred water drawing ceremony observed annually in mid-March, has just been held at the Nigatsudo Hall, a sub-temple of Todaiji Temple, in Nara. It’s the final, explosive finale to a two-week long observance known as Shuni-e. Strong monks carry huge, flaming torches, around the temple veranda, showering crowds below with sparks. It’s a miracle the wooden structure hasn’t gone up in flames. Many ceremonies and festivals in Japan are to do with purification. O-mizutori refreshes the soul and, along with the plum and cherry blossom, ushers in spring. Prayers for those we’ve lost to the pandemic, and for a speedy recovery from it, will for sure have been said this year.

In 2018, I attended the O-mizutori with a group of photographers I was guiding on a 13-day tour. With large crowds jostling to get to the front and risk setting their hair alight in a shower of sparks, getting pole position was essential. This meant turning up early and hanging around for a long time, but the resulting images made it worth the wait. Patience pays off in photography! Our expert local guide, Yoko, as usual was a mine of information about the origins and history of O-mizutori.

With the prospect of travel restrictions easing, travel corridors apparently going to open up, and our efforts to overcome this flipping virus slowly seeing results, I imagine travelers are starting to preen their wings and hoping to take flight to their dream destinations in the not too distant future. Domestic and European bookings certainly indicate this. There is a palpable sense of anticipation, a pent up desire to be on the road and wander once again.

Whilst we’re all still waiting, and gradually regaining confidence, I’m glad to say we’ve several postponed trips planned for this summer and autumn. Fingers, and everything else, crossed!


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