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IMAGE: Kasuga-taisha (drawing by Kawase Hasui, 1883-1957)
Kasuga-taisha (春日大社) is a Shinto shrine in the city of Nara. Established in 768 AD and rebuilt several times over the centuries, it is the shrine of the Fujiwara family. The interior is famous for its many bronze lanterns, as well as the many stone lanterns that lead up the shrine.
The architectural style Kasuga-zukuri takes its name from Kasuga Shrine's honden (sanctuary).
Kasuga Shrine, and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest near it, are registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara".
The path to Kasuga Shrine passes through Deer Park. In Deer Park, deer are able to roam freely and are believed to be sacred messengers of the Shinto gods that inhabit the shrine and surrounding mountainous terrain. Kasuga Shrine and the deer have been featured in several paintings and works of art of the Nambokucho Period. Over three thousand stone lanterns line the way. The Man'yo Botanical Garden is adjacent to the shrine.
The shrine became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period. In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers were sent to report important events to the guardian kami of Japan. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines including the Kasuga Shrine.
From 1871 through 1946, Kasuga Shrine was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.