‘Kasuga Taisha’ or ‘Kasuga Grand Shrine’ is the most important Shinto complex in Nara. Located at the heart of Nara Park, Kasuga was founded in the same period as the city itself, dedicated to the protector spirit or deity – named ‘Takemikazuhi-no-mikoto’ – that is believed to reside there. Takemikazuchi is said to have ridden on the back of a white deer and visitors to the shrine will today can expect to be greeted and accompanied by the deer that roam freely within Nara Park as they move along the path toward the shrine.
Kasuga also enshrines the powerful deities ‘Ame-no-koyane’, ‘Himegami’ and ‘Futsunushi-no-mikoto’ and much-like the Grand Shrine of Ise – Japan’s most important Shinto site – sections of the Kasuga Taisha complex are deconstructed and then reconstructed every twenty years in order that the knowledge and skill required to maintain and build such shrines is retained. Famous for the hundreds of bronze lanterns that hang from buildings within the shrine, Kasuga is highly photogenic and a colourful contrast to the more austere exterior of nearby Todai-ji.