Where: Nara, Japan
When: 28 January 2017 (or 29 January 2017 in case of bad weather)

The name of the festival literally translates as ‘The Mountain Roast’ and is where on the 4th Saturday in January each year, the dead grass on the hillside of Mount Wakakusayama is set ablaze – but until after one epic fireworks display. There are two theories of the evolution of the festival. The first claims that the burning of the mountainside began during boundary conflicts between Nara’s great temples (Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji), while another claims the fires were used to drive away wild boars. Once set ablaze the mountain can burn for up to an hour and because of the mountains elevation it can be seen from anywhere in the city. MORE HERE

An entire hill is set ablaze in winter. A New Year event which originated in boundary disputes among temples.

Rising 342 meters above sea level, Mt. Wakakusayama, also known as Mt. Mikasayama, was formerly a volcano. Burning up the entire hill, this New Year event is held every year on the fourth Saturday of January.

The origins of this event are said to lie in a dispute over the boundaries of Kofuku-ji Temple located in Nobori Oji-cho, Nara City and Todai-ji Temple, which is famous for its Great Buddha statue in Zoshi-cho, also in Nara City. The boundary dispute got out of control and when an official acted as mediator in 1760, Mt. Wakakusayama, the very center of the conflict, was set ablaze. According to other explanations, the mountain was burned to drive away wild boars or to exterminate harmful insects.

A torch is lit with sacred fire at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. This sacred fire is carried down to a small shrine at the foot of the hill by a parade of Buddhist monks. First, the hill is ignited with the sacred fire by members of Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji and Kasuga Taisha. Then 200 fireworks are launched and the hill continues to burn for some 30 minutes. With the fire brigade standing by, there’s no need to worry about the fire spreading. This fire spectacle can be seen from the surrounding towns, but Nara City which faces the hill offers the most beautiful views. If you wish to get a fine view, you are advised to secure a spot early. As it is very cold, make sure you are warmly clothed, and don’t forget to take binoculars with you for a better view. Of course, entry to Mt. Wakakusayama is prohibited during the festival, but it is also closed for the greater part of the year to protect the grass apart from certain periods during spring and autumn.

Henry Sapiecha

Henry Sapiecha

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