August 15th is a special day for the Japanese, as it marks the anniversary of the end of WW2 and it is also the last day of the Bon holiday. This is the day on which it is believed that ancestors’ spirits that came back to this world return to the netherworld again. On this day, an annual event called Mantoe matsuri is held at night in the Todaiji temple in Nara, Japan. Another name for the festival is Manto Kuyoe.
What is Nara Mantoe festival?
Mantoe or 万燈会 literally means ‘lantern festival’ during which thousands of paper lanterns dedicated by followers are lit. They are then displayed in the huge precincts of the temple. The scenery of thousands of lanterns’ lights spreading out in front of the world’s largest wooden building is truly magnificent.
About 10 years ago I made it a habit to dedicate a lantern and visit the festival every year. The dedicator can request the words written on the paper lantern. The words can be the name of the deceased loved one, your wish, or simply your favorite words. This year I chose one from the collection of Zen words, 明珠在掌, which means ‘A treasure is already held in your hand’. Time flies and when this festival rolls around there are only 4 months left in the current year. Embracing memories of deceased loved ones, I like to spend the rest of the days thankful with the words 明珠在掌.
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