A Buddhist hall specialized in the rite of Shuni-e
Nigatsu-do is one of the Buddhist halls located at Todai-ji Temple. Founded in the 8th century during the Nara Era, the existing structure was rebuilt in 1669. In December 2005, it was designated as a National Treasure. This building specializes in the Buddhist rite of Shuni-e, a singular place reserved for this purpose. A strong air of the Middle Ages remains with the manners and customs regarding Shuni-e. The principal image of Buddha is of the 11-faced Kannon represented by the two statues of O-Kannon and Ko-gannon. These are Buddha that are never revealed to the public although many people have come to visit. Near Nigatsu-do to the south is the Hokke-do Hall, also known as Sangatsu-do. The area for these two halls is called Jouin. Known as the place where the predecessor to Todai-ji was located before the consecration of the Great Buddha, remnants of the building and tiles from the first half of the 8th century have been excavated there.
Shuni-e, a service that has unceasingly lasted for more than 1200 years
Shuni-e (Second Month Service) is a repentance service for national peace and security in which monks, on behalf of the people, take on the burden of worldly sins and pray to the principal image at Nigatsu-do, the 11-faced Kannon. Since its beginnings in 752, it has continued annually without stopping once. It was once held from February 1st to the 14th in the old lunar calendar which contributed to its name. Currently, it is held from March 1st to the 14th. The climax is the omizutori which is held overnight on March 12th. It is a ceremony in which sacred water (okouzui) from the Wakasa Well is offered to the Kannon. The group of 11 monks taking part in the ceremony (known as rengyoushuu) light the path to the well by carrying large torches. The spectacle of the brightly flaming torches as embers fly off into the darkness is a reminder to the people of Nara that winter is ending.