A water tradition stretching back more than ten centuries
One of the most famous springtime events in Fukui Prefecture is Omizu Okuri, a religious festival held every March 2 at Jinguji Temple in the city of Obama. This festival has a rich history that dates back more than ten centuries and is deeply rooted in the local culture and traditions of the Wakasa area.
Omizu Okuri is a unique event that involves the drawing of sacred water from a well called Akai at Jinguji Temple. This water is then brought to a river near Unose and poured in, symbolizing the purification and renewal of the area. The festival is a testament to the strong ties between Nara and the Wakasa area, as the holy water is dedicated to the principal image of Buddha at Nigatsudo, which is located in Nara.
The festival is filled with various rituals and activities that showcase the local traditions and customs. One of the highlights of the event is the spectacular nighttime parade of torches. During this procession, locals carry large torches and wave them through the air while shouting “aye!” This tradition has been passed down for generations and is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
Another popular ritual during Omizu Okuri is the archery ceremony held on the grounds of Jinguji Temple. Participants, dressed in traditional attire, showcase their skills and precision as they aim for the targets. This ritual not only demonstrates the importance of archery in Japanese culture but also adds a sense of excitement and entertainment to the festival.
In addition to the religious and cultural activities, visitors can also enjoy sampling amazake, a sweet non-alcoholic drink made from the rice used to brew sake. This traditional beverage is a favorite among locals and is often served during special occasions and festivals. It’s a delightful treat that complements the festive atmosphere of Omizu Okuri.
To attend the Omizu Okuri festival, there are several transportation options available. Jinguji Temple can be reached via shuttle bus, taxi, or on foot. For those traveling from Tokyo, the recommended route is to take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara, the Shirasagi limited express to Tsuruga, and then the JR Obama Line. The journey takes approximately four hours and offers scenic views of the countryside.
When in Obama, it’s important to note that the festival begins at 11 a.m., but the public is only allowed to enter at 1 p.m. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase a torch for 1,500–2,000 yen and participate in the evening procession with other festival-goers. The torch-bearing procession covers a distance of two kilometers from Jinguji to the Onyu River, creating a mesmerizing sight as the torches illuminate the night sky.
Upon arrival at the river, the head priest of Jinguji uses a sword to ward off evil spirits and reads an incantation before pouring the sacred water into the river. This act symbolizes the completion of the purification ritual and the transfer of the holy water to Todaiji Nigatsudo in Nara, where it will be dedicated to the principal image of Buddha.
Omizu Okuri is a festival that brings together centuries-old traditions, religious devotion, and a sense of community. It is a time for locals and visitors alike to come together and celebrate the arrival of spring while paying homage to their cultural heritage. The festival serves as a reminder of the rich history and traditions that have shaped the Wakasa area and continues to be a cherished event in Fukui Prefecture.
In conclusion, Omizu Okuri is a remarkable festival that showcases the deep-rooted traditions and cultural heritage of the Wakasa area in Fukui Prefecture. With its historical significance, religious rituals, and vibrant atmosphere, the festival offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors. Whether it’s witnessing the nighttime torch parade, participating in the archery rituals, or sampling traditional amazake, Omizu Okuri is an event that should not be missed. It serves as a beautiful reminder of the importance of preserving and honoring cultural traditions for generations to come.
Address And Maps Location:
30-4 Jinguji, Obama-shi, Fukui-ken