Updated: January 19, 2018
0 Bookmark

Wakakusa Yamayaki: An Ancient Mountain-Burning Festival in Nara

Wakakusa Yamayaki is an old tradition of burning the hillslope of a mountain located near Nara city. It's one of the most famous festivals during the winter season in the former capital of Japan.

Jan 27, 2018(Sat) - Jan 27, 2018(Sat)
Feel free to follow favy!

Wakakusa Yamayaki

The festival is held every year on the fourth Saturday of January in Nara City. This is a terrific event to see if you happen to be in the old capital during the winter season.

Nara City

Retina pixta 27538886 s
Firstly, Nara in itself is a must-visit area to anyone who has an interest in Japan's traditional culture. The city is not big, but it has countless cultural landmarks such as temples and traditional gardens. It was once the capital of Japan from 710 to 794 and many of its cultural assets date back to that period. What's more, the whole historic city is populated with wild deer that are not afraid of humans! So you can see them roaming by you as you marvel before 1,300 years old temples.

Mount Wakakusa

Nara is located at the base of Mount Wakakusa. The mountain is 334 meters high and a wide area of the flank facing the city of Nara is treeless. The name of the mountain "Wakakusa" literally translates into "young grass".
Retina pixta 33187453 s
Instead, the area is covered with grass. This dates back from the tradition of setting the mountain ablaze every year since the middle of the 18th century. Although the origin is not entirely clear, some theories claim that the tradition emerged as a byproduct of a boundary dispute between the Todai-ji and the Kofuku-ji temples. Another theory stipulates that the fire was meant to chase away pest and wild boars.

Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival

Before dusk, a huge bonfire is lit. The place to go to see the fire from up close is on the east end of the Nara Park.
Although this is not the highlight of the event, people start to gather at the base of the mountain before the bonfire is lit. The liting of the fire is done in a ceremonial way. A procession of people wearing traditional clothes light some torches at the Mizuya Shrine before making its way to the designated site. The liting of the bonfire starts at around 17:30. Note that the festival officially starts at noon, so you may witness other minor events around Nara during the day. There is a giant senbei cracker throwing competition during the day that's interesting to look at.
Retina pixta 2197584 s
Shortly after the bonfire is lit and dusk has set, the real spectacle begins! The grassy area of the mountain is lit. The fire spreads through the whole area in a matter of minutes. Depending on the dryness of the grass, it can take from 30 minutes to an hour for the whole area to burn.
There is, of course, a security perimeter delimited by a tall fence.
Watching from the foothill of the mountain is perhaps the best place to feel the energy of the blazing fire.
Retina pixta 29502712 s
However, the event can also be enjoyed from afar. Along with the yamayaki there is also a fireworks show.
With the ancient temples, the burning grass spreading in unpredictable directions and the beautiful fireworks, amazing pictures can be taken from so many different sites in Nara.


Wakakusa Yamayaki is such unique festival in such an awesome city! Hope you feel like visiting Nara in the winter now.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

Hot Posts!


Torisoba Kotobuki - Ikebukuro, Tokyo : When Life Gives You Lemons, Make An Awesome Bowl Of Ramen!


Love it or Hate it: How to Eat Natto!

Lili Wanderlust

3 Easy Cup Ramen Hacks! Here's How To Upgrade Your Cup Ramen From Blah To Bravo!

Lili Wanderlust

12 Must-Try Restaurants in Namba, Osaka


Mozuku: Okinawa's Unique Anti-Aging Seaweed! Japanese Doctors Always Recommend This Food!

More Hot Posts

Recommend Posts!


"Sushi Izakaya Number.4": Your Dreams Are Made Of This Japanese Cuisine


TOKYO Whisky Library - Omotesando, Tokyo : Discover 1,200 Kinds Of Whiskeys!


Hokkaido Restaurant Genshiyaki In Bangkok, Thailand For Amazing Cheese Pasta And Incredibly Fresh Fish!


YARUKI: A Must-Try Yakiniku And Wine Restaurant In The Heart Of Kyoto!


A Must Try Robatayaki Restaurant In Bangkok, Thailand!


Featured Posts

Spring Season Guide For Japanese Food!

For All Japanese Alcohol Aficionados!

Matcha Matcha Matcha! - Matcha in Japan

More Features


Tokamachi Snow Festival: Astounding Snow Festival In Niigata!

Feb 16, Fri 〜 Feb 18, Sun

Sakura Beverages Are Back At Starbucks Japan From February 15, 2018!

Feb 15, Thu 〜 Mar 14, Wed

Otaru Snow Light Path Festival: Japan's Most Beautiful Winter Candle Light Festival

Feb 09, Fri 〜 Feb 18, Sun

Starbucks New American Scone Caramel Toffee (Yeah it's sweet!)

Jan 24, Wed 〜 Mar 14, Wed

A New Chocolate Pie On The Value Menu at McDonald's Japan! From January 22, 2018

Jan 22, Mon 〜 Feb 28, Wed

Hot Words!