Walking along the path that leads to Kasuga Taisha shrine is like walking back in time, to a place where time stood still and nature and human arts combine beautifully.
Built in the 8th century Kasuga Taisha shrine is a Shinto Shrine, located on the eastern side of Nara Park in the foothills of Mt. Kasuga and Mt. Wakakusa. Kasuga Taisha shrine is surrounded by many large trees, from large suki trees, (Japanese pine tree) to fuji (Wisteria). If you go to visit the shrine at the right time (around May), the shrine yard will be filled with the colors and perfume of the Fuji flowers.
One thing that impressed me the most, were the old stone lanterns lining the path, welcoming and greeting visitors. It’s not just hundreds of them but it’s by the thousands.
I walked back and forth on this stone lanterns road. I would like to know them to get more details. I wish these stone lanterns could talk, so they could tell the many stories of the people who passed by since the time the shrine was built. In my hand was a Nara guidebook marked ‘Showa 62’, the Japanese year that was 1987.
Suddenly, I heard some chatting noises nearby; I saw a large stone lantern turn his head to talk to a smaller stone lantern with gentle hushed voices. From the voices I could tell the owner was quite old.
“Listen, we were standing here at Kasuga Taisha shrine for more than a thousand years, since Nara was the capital of Japan. There are more than 2000 of us. Later on there were over a thousand hanging lanterns joining us. We have seen so many people passing by from daimyo, samurai and villagers from near and far including this traveller who overhearing us.”
I was startled when a hand touched my shoulder. It was my partner; he asked if I talked to the stone lanterns. I wanted to say yes. But when I turned back, the lantern was standing still without saying a word; I might have too much imagination. Someday someone like me who has lot of imagination may walk by this path and overhear the lanterns of Kasuga Taisha shrine chatting.
Each year there are three rather special days when the stone lanterns shimmer beautifully. These are the Lantern Festivals held on the 3rd of February and on 14-15th of August of each year.