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2019/4/8 Shunie Torch Festival (Otaimatsu)  

Shinyakuhshi-ji Temple celebrates Yakushi Nyorai’s birthday on April 8th through the Yakushi Keka ceremony where, in order to have everyone’s sins be forgiven, people’s minds and bodies are purified and Yakushi Nyorai is worshipped.

The main symbol of the ceremony is a practice known as Otaimatsu, where torches (taimatsu) lit on fire are carried around the main hall.

Through the help of Todai-ji Temple, starting at 5 p.m. 11 monks hold a Buddhist memorial service. From 7 p.m. 11 torches are carries around the grounds. Afterwards, the Keka rituals are carried out by repenting sins through Yakushi Nyorai.

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The 12 Divine Generals

Yakushi Nyorai is protected by the bodhisattvas for sunlight and the moon along with the 12 divine generals. The 12 divine generals are the generals who protect the world of Yakushi Nyorai and the people who worship it.

It is said that they each have 7,000 followers for a total of 84,000 followers. They surround Yakushi Nyorai and protect him. While there are numerous statues of the 12 divine generals across Japan, those at Shinyakushi-ji Temple are nearly life-size and are the oldest and largest in the country.

In addition, they protect the 12 directions and are worshipped as the guardian deities of the zodiac.

The 12 statues here are masterpieces from the Nara era, carvings made from a type of soil that is likened to plastic (sozo). With the exception of one of the statues, all of them are originals from the Nara era. Each statue was made by first wrapping a rope around a wooden skeleton and forming the rough shape using clay mixed with straw.

It then received a coating of soil mixed with paper fibers and mica. The eyeballs are made of dark blue, green, and brown glass.

The surface is painted in blue, vermilion, green, and purple (a color method that creates a three-dimensional effect by adding shades to each color of the same type), and some of the color remains even today.