Let's Take a Look at the Spectacular Scenes of Nara’s Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival!

Photo courtesy of Nara Prefecture Visitors Bureau

Wakakusa Yamayaki is a typical winter event held at Mt. Wakakusa in Nara. We can light up Mt. Wakakusa, which is covered in grass, and see a scene where the whole mountain is covered in flames. The burning flames dye the winter sky red, and it is amazing to see the whole mountain emerge above the ground. 

The History of Wakakusa Yamayaki

Photo courtesy of Nara Prefecture Visitors Bureau

Wakakusa Yamayaki is a traditional event that takes place on the rolling grassy Mt. Wakakusa. The entire mountain is lit up and covered in flames. There are various theories in the origin of Wakakusa Yamayaki, but according to one theory there is a large old burial mound on the summit of the mountain, and in the old days the mountain was allegedly burnt to chase ghosts away from the tomb. There is a superstition that misfortune would come if the mountain was not burned by the first month of the following year, and people passing by would burn the mountain themselves. These burnings presented a fire hazard to the nearby temples and shrines, as the flames would spread. It is said that Todaiji, Kofukuji, and the Naramachi Magistrate’s Office, adjacent to Mt. Wakakusa, had boundary disputes and had set the mountain ablaze during the Edo Period. In addition, according to the accounts of Todai-ji, Kofuku-ji, and Kasuga Taisha Shrine, the burning of the mountain is both a festival and a memorial service held in order to appease the souls of those who rest in the ancient burial mounds. 

Highlights of Wakakusa Yamayaki

Photo courtesy of Nara Prefecture Visitors Bureau

The Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival starts during Kasuga Taisha’s festivals. A ceremonial torch procession makes its way to Mt. Wakakusa. In the evening, powerful fireworks are then launched on the grassland of the mountain (about 33ha, 3800m circumference) all at once. From the foot of Mt. Wakakusa you can enjoy a powerful view of the burning flames close by, and from Ukigumoenchi in Nara Park you can see the beautiful scenery of the Yamayaki Festival A popular photography spot is from the Heijou Palace Site, from which the whole mountain wrapped in flames and burning red can be seen clearly.

The date of the Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival

Photo courtesy of Nara Prefecture Visitors Bureau

Wakakusa Yamayaki is held on the fourth Saturday of January every year. On the day of the event, the festival begins at 16:45 on Kasuga Taisha’s temple grounds. After that, a torch procession to bring fire to Wakakusa mountain pass begins. Fireworks will be launched starting from 18:15, and simultaneous ignition starts at 18:30 on the mountain. It is postponed in the event of stormy weather, but will usually continue in the case of light rain. The entrance fee is free only on the day of the Yamayaki Festival. 

Access to Mt. Wakakusa

Photo courtesy of Nara Prefecture Visitors Bureau

To access Mt. Wakusa from within Tokyo, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station and get off at Kyoto Station. From Kyoto Station, take a train bound for Kintetsu Kyoto Line for Nara and get off at Kintetsu Nara Station. Take the city bus (outer route) of the Nara Public Bus and get off at Todaiji Daibutsuden and Kasugataishamae. From there it is about a 15-minute walk. It is also possible to take a 30-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station. 

Spot Information

  • Spot name:Wakakusa Yamayaki
  • Street Adress:Zoshi-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
  • Access:Take the Nara Public Bus from Kintetsu Nara Station and get off at Todaiji Daibutsuden/Kasuga Taishamae. From there it is about a 15-minute walk.
  • Wi-Fi: Unavailable
  • Language:Japanese Only
  • Ticket:Free
  • Credit cards:Not accepted