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The Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival: An Entire Mountain Set Aflame

  • 26
  • 01
  • 2018

Do you know what goes better with New Year’s celebrations other than fireworks? Setting an entire mountain in flames! The annual Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival in Nara Prefecture does just this…but why?


The unconventional event began in boundary conflicts among temples. Specifically, it stemmed from the dispute between the Kofukuji Temple located in Nobori Ojicho, Nara City, and the Todaiji Temple. In 1760, the mediator attempted to settle the long-standing dispute by burning Mt. Wakakusayama—the very center of the row.

Mt. Wakakusayama, also called Mt. Mikasa, is 342 meters above sea level and used to be a volcano

Based on another interpretation, the festival originated from the custom of setting the mountain ablaze to drive out wild animals (boars, bears) and eradicate harmful insects in the area.

Organized in the 18th century, the Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival is one of Japan’s most magnificent winter festivals.

The Best Bits

The Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival has been held annually, every fourth Saturday of January. This year, it’s scheduled to happen on January 27, 2018.


The festival officially begins with the ritualistic lighting of the torch with the use of sacred fire at the Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara. Buddhist monks then carry the sacred torch down to a small shrine located at the foot of Mt. Wakakusayama.


There, a massive bonfire is lit.


As the bonfire continues to burn, hundreds of fireworks light up the sky for the entire city to see.

#WakakusaYamayaki #FireFestival #mtWakakusa #mtWakakusaOnFire

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Members of Kofukuji, Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha use the flames from the bonfire to light their torches to set the grass on fire.


Depending on how dry the grass is, the burning ceremony can take anywhere from a half hour to an hour.

The burning of the mountain #wakakusayamayaki

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The burning spectacle can be seen in different places in the city but the best location would be in Nara Park. Just make sure you have your binocs ready and get there early so you can grab the best spot.

You can also see groups of deer freely roaming around the park and nearby areas.

Day trip to Nara #WakakusaYamayaki #BurnTheMountainFestival

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Taiko drumming performances, a staple for every Japanese festival there is, also injects even more liveliness into the event.

Now, we realize that this does look and sound extremely dangerous but police and members of the fire brigade are available to make sure the fire doesn’t spread.

Getting There

If you’d like to witness the festivities straight from the base of Mount Wakakusayama, you can take a 10-minute walk from Kasuga Taisha Shrine or Todaiji Temple.

From Kintetsu Nara Station, you can reach the mountain on foot in about 30-35 minutes.

If you’re making your way to the mountain from the JR Nara Station, walking to the mountain will take you around 50 minutes.

If you don’t prefer walking to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, you can ride buses that run from both stations.

Location Details


Mount Wakakusa


Zoshicho Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8211 Japan

Event Date

January 27, 2018

Hours & Fees

6:00 PM | Free

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