Summer

Urabon-e Manto Kuyo Hoyo – a Sacred Memorial Candle Service in Osaka

Kay

Writer

When you think of Osaka, Dotonbori or Kuromon market would come up to your mind first. On the other hand, Osaka has relatively serene tourist spots like traditional temples or shrines. Shitennoji temple is one of them. This famous temple hosts a sacred memorial candle service for ancestors – Urabon-e Manto Kuyo Hoyo every year in August. If you would like to learn more about this traditional Japanese celebration, please keep on reading this article!

Urabon-e

The temple has a special candle festival – Manto Kuyo Hoyo in mid-August. In mid-August, local people usually conduct an annual memorial service – Urabon-e or Obon. People believe that ancestors’ spirits return to this world during this season. They show their respect by entertaining the spirits. This candle festival is one of the ways to show respect to the spirits. How about visiting the Shitennoji temple? It’s very close to Dotonbori or Kuromon market.

Festival Breakdown

In the evening, you will notice a few thousand candles are surrounding the central complex of the temple. Before the main ceremony, around 6:15 pm, all the candles are lit up. Then, Buddhist monks walk around the compound reciting sutras. Local people follow the monks or pray for ancestor’s happiness in the other world.

The ceremony takes place at least four times a day (on August 15th is more than four times a day.) It is said that ten thousand candles are burnt in one night.

Joining the Festival

If you would like to join the festival, you can do the same as local people do. Usually, when the residents get candles, they write their ancestors’ Buddhist posthumous name on a candle, then bring it to the temple. Next, the temple’s staff sets your candle in the central complex. When the monks come to the central complex, you can follow the group together with local people.

The highlight of this festival is thousands of candle lights in the evening. The atmosphere that it creates is overwhelming and hypnotic indeed. The views of the Five-story pagoda and the main hall with candle lights are picturesque!

Obon

Japanese people believe that ancestors’ spirits return to this world during the Obon season (mid- August). In Shitennoji temple, they pay respect to their ancestors’ spirits with lighting candles., or special memorial service during the daytime. In Japan, during the Obon season, many companies have 5-7 holidays straight. So, many Japanese people return to their hometowns and visit their ancestors’ graves. Buddhist monks are very busy with Obon memorial services during the season as well.

Shitennoji Temple

Shitennoji temple was established about 1,400 years ago by Prince Shotoku, and this temple is older than famous temples in Kyoto such as Kiyomizu temple or Golden Pavillion. The highlight of the temple is the central complex with the five-story pagoda and the main hall. Besides, the Paradise gate donated by Panasonic founder, the Turtle pond or other interesting spots are dotted in the compound.

Today, the temple is dedicated not only to Prince Shotoku but also other great Buddhist monks. Besides, the temple accepts every Buddhist sect, so today local people who belong to various Buddhist sects use this temple for memorial service as well.

In addition, the temple is known for a monthly flea market. On the 21st and 22nd of every month, the flea market takes place in the compound, because 22nd is the anniversary day of Prince Shotoku’s death. The market is popular among local people and features interesting goods such as second-hand kimonos, antiques, books, etc.

Among Japanese people, Prince Shotoku is regarded as a genius person. It is said that he could listen to ten people’s petitions at the same time, and answer appropriately. In addition, he was the first person to start the foundation of Japan’s governmental system.

Image courtesy of 白石准 さん

Details and Access

Dates: August 9th – 16th every year

Schedule: 18:00 – 21:00 every day of the event. Memorial service occurs every 40 minutes.

Place: Shitennoji Temple

Address: 1 Chome-1-11-18 Shitennōji, Tennōji-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu

Official website (Japanese only): http://www.shitennoji.or.jp/event/8/#event2294

Access:

From Shitennoji-mae-Yuhigaoka Station on the Tanimachi Subway Line ・From JR Tennoji Station on the JR Loop Line (about 10 minutes on foot)

Closing Remarks

How about appreciating the candle festival in Shitennouji temple where you can not only witness the ceremony but also take an active part in it? It would become a great memory of your trip! Check the dates and come to Osaka! And if you would like to explore this festival and Osaka city with a knowledgeable local guide, please check the banner below!

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Kay

I'm into guiding foreign tourists and interacting with them. Raised between Kyoto and Osaka, I love both cultures and life styles.

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