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1,271st spring training of priests begins at ancient Japan capital Nara's Todaiji temple

A torch is seen burning around the Nigatsu-do hall at Todaiji temple as part of the Shuni-e ceremony, in this long-exposure photo taken in Nara on March 1, 2022. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii) =Click/tap photo for more images.

NARA -- The 1,271st annual "Shuni-e" two-week training of Buddhist priests began on March 1 at the Nigatsu-do hall of Todaiji temple in this western Japan city.

    Shuni-e is also called "Omizutori" and beckons spring to the ancient capital of Japan. On the first night, members holding an about 6-meter-long torch to light the way for monks called "rengyoshu" rushed around the stage one after another, spreading embers that are said to bring a state of perfect health.

    The Shuni-e ritual was inaugurated in 752 -- the same year the Great Buddha statue at the temple was completed -- and this year's event is its 1,271st edition. The ritual is called an "unwavering event" because it has been held despite conflicts and fire disasters in the past. Eleven rengyoshu priests will undergo harsh training until the predawn hours of March 15 to pray before an 11-faced Kannon -- the principal image of Nigatsu-do -- for peace on earth and a fruitful harvest, and make a confession on behalf of other people.

    As a measure against the coronavirus, participating monks were quarantined for two weeks before the "Bekka" preceding ritual, which started on Feb. 20 to purify their body and soul before Shuni-e, for the second year in a row.

    (Japanese original by Yusuke Kato, Nara Bureau)

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