Check out these articles

Wakakusa Yamayaki: Video Introduction

This video, titled "'Yamayaki' Mountain Burning and Fireworks at a Traditional Winter Event on Mt. Wakakusa, Nara" (冬の風物詩・奈良の伝統行事『若草山焼き』:『Yamayaki』Mountain Burning and Fireworks at Mt.Wakakusa in Nara), was uploaded by "Nara Tourism Concierge JUN" (奈良観光コンシェルジュ JUN).

Wakakusa Yamayaki is a traditional winter event held on Mt. Wakakusa in Nara city, Nara prefecture, as a requiem for the souls of the deceased that rest in Uguisuzuka Kofun (Uguisuzuka Tumulus), a keyhole-shaped burial mound located on the summit of Mt. Wakakusa. Today, the three major temples and shrines in Nara, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Kofukuji Temple, and Todaiji Temple, unite to hold this event to repose the souls of our ancestors, to pray for protection of the entire Nara area from fire, and to wish for the peace of people all over the world.

Wakakusa Yamayaki takes place on the fourth Saturday of January every year, and many tourists come to Nara to watch to see the both the event and the fireworks show. Amidst the solemn atmosphere, the night sky of the ancient capital of Nara is decorated with fireworks and roaring flames, and the sight of the mountains rising up in the darkness is truly divine. Be sure to check out the amazing footage in the video before reading along.

 [Video] 0:53 - Wakakusa Yamayaki
 [Video] 1:50 - Wakakusa Yamayaki
 [Video] 2:55 - Wakakusa Yamayaki

Mt. Wakakusa Highlights and Characteristics

Image of a deer on Mt. Wakakusa, Nara Prefecture
Photo:A deer on Mt. Wakakusa, Nara Prefecture

Mt. Wakakusa is a famous tourist spot and a symbol of Nara. It is a small, gently sloping mountain 342 meters above sea level with an expanse of grass called "Noshiba." The mountain is also referred to as "Uguisuyama" due to the presence of the large keyhole-shaped tumulus Uguisuzuka Kofun, and "Mikasayama" (三笠山, lit. "Mountain of three hats") because it looks like three kasa (straw hats) stacked on top of each other. The mountain is also home to many deer.

The summit provides a panoramic view of Nara Park and the city of Nara, and the night view of Nara from the top of the mountain has been recognized as one of the Top 3 Night Views of New Japan because of its beauty. When the mountain is open to the public, visitors can enjoy a 30-minute climb to the summit. The mountain is home to cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, and mountain burnings, offering beautiful views in every season.

Wakakusa Yamayaki, a fire festival that signals a visit from spring, is popular among Nara residents and tourists alike as a wintertime tradition in Nara.It is held on the fourth Saturday of January each year, with the 2024 event scheduled for January 27.

The History and Significance of Wakakusa Yamayaki

Image of Uguisuzuka Kofun, Mt. Wakakusa
Photo:Uguisuzuka Kofun, Mt. Wakakusa

Wakakusa Yamayaki originated as a festival to appease the spirits buried in Uguisuzuka Kofun at the top of Mt. Wakakusa. People in the past feared that ghosts buried in Uguisuzuka Kofun would appear, so they decided to burn the mountain to prevent ghosts from appearing. From there, superstition spread that bad things would happen if Mt. Wakakusa was not burned, and there have been many incidents of people passing by the mountain setting it on fire without permission.

In December 1738, the Nara Magistrate's Office issued an ordinance banning arson on Mt. Wakakusa, but even still it continued, and nearby temples and shrines, including Todaiji Temple, a famous World Heritage site, were in danger of catching fire. As a result, toward the end of the Edo period (approx. 1853 to 1868 A.D.), Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, and the Nara Magistrate's Office, all of which are located near Mt. Wakakusa, began to cooperate in the burning of the mountain.

Today, the Shinto and Buddhist traditions of Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Kofukuji Temple, and Todaiji Temple work together to conduct this traditional event, which is meant to repose and comfort the souls of the dead, prevent fires throughout Nara, and pray for the peace of people around the world.

Where to See Wakakusa Yamayaki and Fireworks

Image of Wakakusa Yamayaki, Nara Prefecture
Photo:Wakakusa Yamayaki, Nara Prefecture

One of the reasons why Wakakusa Yamayaki is so popular is that visitors can enjoy fireworks in winter. During Wakakusa Yamayaki, a large fireworks display is held with beautiful midwinter night sky. Once the fireworks start, the mountain is ignited simultaneously. Among the fireworks, there's Nara Prefecture's specialty "shakudama." This massive firework, with a one-foot diameter, measures 320 meters in diameter when it explodes, making it one of the most powerful fireworks in Nara Prefecture and heightening the anticipation for the Wakakusa Yamayaki fireworks display.
 [Video] 0:25 -Fireworks
 [Video] 1:22 - Fireworks
 [Video] 2:18 - Fireworks
 [Video] 3:01 - Fireworks

Here, we'll introduce viewing spots where you can enjoy both the fireworks and the Wakakusa Yamayaki mountain burning.

●Daibutsuden Intersection (Ukigumo Enchi)
At the Daibutsuden Intersection in front of Ukigumo Enchi (Ukigumo Park, 浮雲園地) and by the Daibutsuden Kasuga Taisha-mae Bus Information Center (大仏殿 春日大社前バス案内所, Daibutsuden Kasuga Taisha-mae Basu Annaijo), visitors can enjoy a nice view of Wakakusa Yamayaki. There's a bus stop and a parking lot as well, making this a popular spot for viewing the event.

●Kasugano Enchi
Kasugano Enchi (Kasugano Park, 春日野園地) is a grassy open space located near the Daibutsuden Intersection. It's a spacious location where visitors can enjoy the fireworks and Wakakusa Yamayaki with an outstanding view.

For details on traffic regulations, etc., please check the official website for the latest information before you go.

Other viewing spots are as follows:

●Sarusawa Pond
Sarusawa Pond (猿沢池, Sarusawa-ike) is a good spot to enjoy fireworks under the five-story pagoda of Kofukuji Temple. Although you have to climb up the hill to the five-story pagoda of Kofukuji to see the fireworks, you can take pictures of the five-story pagoda illuminated by the fireworks and the flames from Wakakusa Yamayaki.

●Rooftop of Nara Prefectural Office
The rooftop of the Nara Prefectural Office Building (奈良県庁屋上, Nara Kencho Okujo) is open to the public on the day of Wakakusa Yamayaki. There is a lottery system in place to select viewers, so you need to apply in advance, but if you win, you can enjoy a relaxing view from the rooftop of the Nara Prefectural Office Building.

●Heijo Palace
At Heijo Palace, visitors can enjoy a fantastic collaboration of Suzakumon Gate, fireworks, and the burning mountainside. The romantic view from here is recommended for dates.

Wakakusa Yamayaki will be streamed live on YouTube, so if you're unable to make the event, consider watching it from the comfort of your own home!

Summary of Wakakusa Yamayaki

Image of Wakakusa Yamayaki, Nara Prefecture
Photo:Wakakusa Yamayaki, Nara Prefecture

The sight of the flames spreading over Mt. Wakakusa, a symbol of the ancient capital of Nara, is unforgettable. The night sky becomes colored by the flames from Wakakusa Yamayaki and the fireworks that are set off just before the event, and you'll be able to enjoy the divine sight of the mountain emerging in the darkness. Come to Nara this winter and experience a visit from spring with a trip to Wakakusa Yamayaki.

◆Mt. Wakakusa◆
【Address】469 Zoshi-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
【Mountain Opening Period】The Third Saturday in March - Second Sunday in December
【Hours】9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Excluding temporary openings of the mountain)
【Admission Fee】Adults (Junior high school, high school, and college students) ¥150, Elementary school students ¥80
【Access】A 12-minute walk from the Daibutsuden Kasuga Taisha-mae bus stop by city loop bus from JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station.
Car: Nara Okuyama Driveway's "Shin-Wakakusa Mountain Course" (新若草山コース, Shin-Wakakusa Yama Kosu)

【TripAdvisor】Mt. Wakakusa

Written By
Last Updated : Jan. 11, 2024
もりありさ(Arisa Mori)
Writer and blogger living in Germany. Former flight attendant who loves traveling and food.
Wakakusa Yamayaki is a winter feature of Nara!A thorough explanation of everything from viewing spots to history!
If this article interests you, be sure to leave a follow.

Recommended Articles