Press Tour (No.090)



Foreign Correspondents’ Press Tour in Kansai

Organized by The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion

Cooperated by Nara Prefecture


Oct. 13(Thur.)-14(Fri.), 2016



From Nara to the World!  Japanese Heart and Skill


Nara was once the place where the capitals, Asuka-kyo, Fujiwara-kyo, and Heijo-kyo, were established. The historical town areas, peaceful rural villages with paddy fields, and the gently sloped mountains are all weaved into a scenery that makes us feel nostalgic and relaxed. This time, the press tour will visit Nara in the early autumn and explore the Japanese heart and skill at “the hometown of Japanese history and culture.” The tour includes an interview with the Governor Shogo ARAI, participation in one of the Shinto rituals of Shikinen Zotai, ceremony held every 20 years continuously for 1200 years to renew the main sanctuary and replace the sacred treasures, visits to Nara Agriculture and Food International College (NAFIC) opened this year to produce leaders in the field of food and the Kitora Tumulus Area in the village of Asuka.




Kasuga Taisha’s Shikinen Zotai* with more than 1,200 years of history 


Which tells us about the Japanese heart and skill

*Shrine buildings’ repair project which is carried out every 20 years


-A Must-See! Osuna-mochi, the sand replacing ritual


-Japanese Sense of Beauty found in the traditional cypress bark roof





■Nara Agriculture and Food International College (NAFIC)

  Producing Food Professionals: Key to regional revitalization



-“Food” × “Agriculture”: A new learning institution with the support of the professional, Hirotoshi HIRAMATSU, Chirman of HIRAMATSU Inc.


-Gov. ARAI introduces the Charm of Nara’s “Food” and “Agriculture”





■Kitora Tumulus Murals at “Shijin no Yakata”



-Shijin no Yakata: A New Spot for Asuka Historical National Government Park


-The Star Map: The World’s Oldest Ceiling Mural will be opened to the public for the first time!





*Please refer to the "Highlights  of the Tour" for the details of each topic.


Tour Date Oct 13(Thu) - Oct 14(Fri),2016
Qualification Bearer of Press Registration Card issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tour Fee Please refer to the attached application form
Organized by

The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion
Osaka Nakanoshima Building 7F, 2-2-2 Nakanoshima Kitaku, Osaka City 

Cooperated by Nara Prefecture
Capacity 12 (1 reporter from each company, 2 for a TV company - 2 TV companies max for this tour)
Closing date/time for Application Sep 30(Fri),2016 04:00 PM
■The Foundation for Kansai Region Promotion, in cooperation with Nara Prefectural Government, organizes this press tour with a goal of disseminating information from Nara directly to the world through the participants' reports/articles based on press activities during the tour. We also ask participants to answer a questionnaire after the tour. We ask for your understanding and cooperation on those point.

■Some restrictions on photographing and filming at the sites are expected. Please follow the instructions of the staff on duty.

■The Foundation and the local parties concerned shall bear no responsibility whatsoever for any accidents or inconveniences that may arise during the press tour. The itinerary is subject to change due to business obligations of interviewees, weather conditions or other circumstances.

■Applications will be accepted on this page by the time of the above-mentioned deadline, but please note that if the number of applicants has reached the prescribed number before your application, your name will be put on a waiting list for cancellation.

■The Foundation may set an upper limit on the number of participants from each country/region and may decide participants in view of their past records based on the press tours if the reporters joined in the past, when it receives oversubscribed applications.

The Highlights of the Tour


■Kasuga Taisha’s Shikinen Zotai


Since the ancient times, Mikasa yama (Mt. Mikasa) has been highly revered by the people as the mountain where the kami reside. As a prayer for the nation’s prosperity and people’s happiness, Kasauga Taisha was founded at the foot of this mountain in 768. The shrine precinct, covering the area of some 100 ha, preserves the pristine nature, and the combination of the hinoki (Japanese cypress) bark roof of the main sanctuary, the vermillion pillars, and the white walls creates a scene of beauty that has been admired by people in all times. 

At Kasuga Taisha, more than 2,200 rituals take place annually. Among them, Shikinen (at regular interval) Zotai (the renewal of the shrine buildings and treasures) is the biggest ceremony held every 20 years for more than 1,200 years. In this ceremony, the national treasure-designated honden (main sanctuary), along with the chumon (middle gate), the oro (open corridor) and other important cultural properties are repaired and ritual offerings are renewed. As a result of the regularity of this repair and renewal, the buildings in Kasuga Taisha are well kept in their original sacred style.


The practice of this big ceremony of renewing the home of kami has given people chance to better understand and appreciate the existence of kami over the centuries. A twenty-year interval is appropriate for skilled artisans to pass on their techniques and knowledge to their apprentices. It has also been said that twenty years is the optimum time to re-roof the hinoki bark shingle roofs.


Kasuga Taisha is now celebrating its 60th Shikinen Zotai. Starting from 2007, the whole process of the Shikinen Zotai is about to reach its climax this November with the Honden Senzasai, the ritual of transferring the kami to the new honden. We will visit Kasuga Taisha, now in preparation for the upcoming highlight of Shikinen Zotai, and find out about the Japanese spirit and artesian skills through this sacred ceremony.


The tour begins with an interview with Sukekane CHIDORI, gonnegi shinto priest, who will inform us about Kasuga Taisha and Shikinen Zotai and will be followed by a visit to the new Kasugataisha Museum, which preserves and showcases some of Japan’s most priceless artworks. In the latter half of the tour, we will meet Nagateru TANIGAMI, a hinoki bark roofing artisan, who will enlighten us with the traditional skills for thatching hinoki bark that have been passed down over more than a thousand years. There are 31 structures on the site recognized either as national treasure or important cultural property by the central government, and most of their roofs are thatched with hinoki bark. During this Shikinen Zotai, 18 of them were repaired and Tanigami’s workshop was in charge of the honden’s re-roofing. Since hinoki is relatively resistant to decay from rain, and beautifully harmonizes with its surrounding nature, it has often been used as a material to construct shrine and temple buildings. The tour will get a chance to take a closer look at the brand new hinoki bark roof under the guide of Mr. Tanigami.


Furthermore, we will have the special opportunity to take part with the participants from the general public in one of the rites of Shikinen Zotai, Osuna-mochi, the ritual of replacing the sand. To celebrate the Shikinen Zotai, participants offer sand to the front garden of the naiin (inner sanctuary) which is usually only accessible to the members of the imperial family, except during this special period when the symbol of the kami awaits at the temporary sanctuary to be transferred to the repaired hoden. At the end of this tour, the lanterns of chumon and oro will be lit to give you the best moment to photograph this mysterious world.



Governor Shogo Arai of Nara Pref. will talk about Nara’s charm


During our visit to Kasuga Taisha, we will meet Shogo Arai, the governor of Nara, who will tell us about the attraction of the old capital Nara and the prefecture’s commitment to foster food/agriculture based environment, develop human resources and offer information widely to the public.



Photo-taking at Museum and at around renewed main sanctuary during Osuna-mochi ritual are specially permitted, but please pay enough attention to public visitors and follow directions of staff on site.



[Photo] Upper one: Honden (main sanctuary), Osuna-mochi sand replacing ritual, Kasuta Taisha Museum Leaflet, Lanterns  /  Lower one: Governor ARAI and Nara's official PR mascot Sento-kun

[URL] Kasuga Taisha Shrine 





■Nara Agriculture and Food International College (NAFIC)

Producing Food Professionals: Key to Regional Revitalization



Food is considered to be one of the integral parts to vitalize local community. It is believed to have a huge potential in enhancing the value and appeal of the community that will attract many people domestically and internationally. In response to the government’s policy of regional revitalization, the prefectural government has opened Nara Agriculture and Food International College (NAFIT) in April 2016, to create a food-base community. The tour will visit NAFIC which offers programs in order to produce food professionals responsible for the next generation of Nara.


NAFIC is a prefectural training and educational institution with two courses, Food Creative and Agri-Management, focusing on real work-based experience and training. The Food Creative Course offers the program to learn technical skills through French cuisine techniques, and to gain the knowledge of agriculture to produce professionals who can lead the food service industry. At the Agri-Management Course, students prepare for careers in the fields of the high tech agriculture. Both courses fosters the next-generation leaders in the food field by providing students with high quality training aiming to improve their marketing and managing skills and hospitality techniques. On the campus of the Food Creative Course, L'Auberge DE PLAISANCE Sakurai* stands to welcome the general public and the students get a hands-on experience in cooking and serving the guests. NAFIC has been receiving attention for its program that teaches not only cooking techniques but also management and service skills and its restaurant, which is the first auberge (inn/restaurant) built on the campus in Japan.


Hirotoshi HIRAMATSU, the chairman of HIRAMATSU Inc., is the president of NAFIC. He is an internationally renowned owner/chef who runs many restaurants in Japan, including HIRAMATSU in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and Fukuoka, and is the first Japanese to win a Michelin’s one-star in Paris, 2001. He is working to familiarize food culture through French and Italian cuisine and is also engaged in promoting the Japanese omotenashi spirit. The training program at L'Auberge DE PLAISANCE is organized and supervised by HIRAMATSU Inc. with the world’s first-rate professionals handing down their culinary skills and the hospitality spirit to the students.

The tour will meet Mr. HIRAMATSU and learn about the fundamental concept of the NAFIC and his enthusiasm toward fostering the food professionals.


*L'Auberge DE PLAISANCE Sakurai

This inn and restaurant with nine guest rooms stands in Sakurai, where history and culture are deeply rooted in its land. Its beautiful scenery of the season, the French cuisine with fresh local ingredients and a good night’s sleep in a cozy bed are attracting interest as a place you can fully relax and indulge in a quiet moment. We will have lunch at this on-campus auberge after the interview.


[Photo] Training scene at Food Creative Course, restaurant and terrace of the Auberge

[URL] NAFIC (in Japanese)





■Kitora Tumulus Murals Preserved and on Public Display at “Shijin no Yakata”



In addition to the four historical areas, Ishibutai, Amakashi no Oka, Iwaido, and Takamatsuzuka, Asuka Historical National Government Park is ready to open its fifth Kitora Tumulus Area this September. Kitora Tumulus, designated as a special historical site by the government, has been probed for several times to conduct a thorough survey and analysis of the mound, stone chamber, mural paintings and other parts of the tomb. Perhaps the most interesting of all are the murals painted with a delicate touch on the plaster, which is said to be the oldest extant example in East Asia. The star map, the shijin, known as the four divine animals of the four directions, and the figures with heads of 12 animals that symbolize geographical direction and time, have been discerned and are attracting international attention for their high cultural values.


In the new Kitora Tumulus Area, Shijin no Yakata will be opened to experience and learn about Kitora Tumulus and its murals. This time, the repaired Star Map and the Suzaku (Red Bird in the south) and the Byakko (White Tiger in the west) from the shijin are displayed on the first floor. The map depicting some 350 stars with gold leaf is believed to be the world’s oldest existing celestial map and will be open to the public for the first time. Be sure not to miss it!



Kitora Tumulus Murals section in the Shijin no Yakata will have some public visitors who have made prior applications. The viewing time of this section is limited to around ten minutes and taking photos is prohibited.


[Photo] Image of mural showcase

[URL] Asuka Historical National Government Park





Oct 13(Thu)

Meet at Shinkansen Kyoto Station
Travel to Nara by Kintetsu Ltd. Express Train and lunch

Sikinen-zoutai Ceremony of Kasugataisha Shrine 
PR of Nara by Governor

① Briefing on Kasugataisha Shrine and Shikinen-zoutai (renewal ceremony)
② Kasugataisha Museum
③ Interview with a craftsperson of hinoki cypress bark roof
④ PR of Nara by Governor
⑤ Osunamochi


Oct 14(Fri)

Nara Agriculture and Food International College(NAFIC)

Lunch at auberge at NAFIC

Asuka Kitora Tumulus
Newly Opened Facility "Shijin-no Yakata" (Showcasing restored mural paintings)