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Kansai Information: Opening events marking 1300th anniversary of Heijo-kyo

The long-awaited ""countdown and opening events"" for the 1300th anniversary of capital relocation in 710 to Heijo-kyo, the present-day Nara, will take place between New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. The commemorative events will be declared open at four locations in Nara Prefecture likened to the legendary ""gods of the four directions"" -- Seiryu (Azure Dragon), Suzaku (Vermilion Bird), Byakko (White Tiger) and Genbu (Black Tortoise) -- which appear in Emperor Genmei's rescript ordering the move of the capital to Heijo-kyo. Events based on local attractions will also be held.
The Byakko venue in the west will be Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji Temple, popularly known as ""Bishamon (god of warfare) on Shigisan (Mt. Shigi),"" whose symbol is a tiger. Visitors will be able to view the hidden sacred statue of Bishamon-tenno (VaizravaNa), which is in the temple's inner sanctuary and opened to the public only once in every 12 years. Other attractions include ""fukutora kanetsuki"" (ringing a good-luck tiger bell) and a collection of yuru-kyara (loose-looking mascot characters).
The Genbu venue (north) will be Nara Park (Nobori-oji-enchi). To be held are concerts, live performances of ""Sento-kun dancers,"" the offering of ""Yamato-nabe"" (a pot dish of local vegetables) and other events with residents' participation to welcome the New Year.
The Seiryu venue (east) will be Muro-ji Temple. The doors to the first floor of the temple's five-story pagoda, a national treasure, will be opened for the first time since its construction to allow viewing of the secret statue of Gochi-nyorai (Five-Wisdom Buddha). The pagoda will be lit up and ""fukumame-gayu"" (good-luck bean porridge) with ""Uda-dainagon"" (local red beans) will be offered to visitors.
The Suzaku venue (south) will be Kinpusen-ji Temple. Its Zao-do building (a national treasure) will be illuminated and ascetics will play conch-shell horns. Other events will include sitar performances, the service of ""Yoshino sen-nin nabe"" (a pot dish for mountain hermits) cooked in a giant pot and ""Yoshino hana-toka"" (flower lanterns on Yoshino cherry trees).
Admission to all these events will be free. Let's celebrate the start of the commemorative year together! [Photos: Top=Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji Temple, Byakko venue (west); bottom= Nara Park, Genbu venue (north)]

For inquiries, please contact Association for Commemorative Events of 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital. (Tel: 0742-25-2010; URL: http://www.1300.jp/foreign/english)