Famous for the more than 2,000 stone mantoro (lanterns) that line its pathways, Kasuga Taisha is a monument to the Shinto tradition of worshipping nature. The lighting of the lanterns on three days of the year attracts large crowds that whisper with reverential excitement. February 3 is the Mantoro Festival, celebrating the beginning of spring, and August 14 and 15 are the Chugen Mantoro Festival, when the living show respect to their ancestors by lighting their way back to Earth for their annual visit.
Kasuga Taisha was founded in 768 and for centuries, according to Shinto custom, the shrine was reconstructed every 20 years on its original design—not merely to renew the materials but also to purify the site. It's said that Kasuga Taisha has been rebuilt more than 50 times; its current incarnation dates from 1893. After you pass through the orange torii (gate), the first wooden structure you'll see is the Hai-den (Offering Hall); to its left is the Naorai-den
(Entertainment Hall). To the left of Naorai-den are the four Hon-den (Main Shrines). Designated as National Treasures, they are painted vermilion and green—a striking contrast to the dark wooden exterior of most Nara temples. To get to Kasuga Taisha from Nara Koen, walk east past the Five-Story Pagoda until you reach a torii. This path will lead you to the shrine.