Francois' Japan Blog
by Francois, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2010/01/23 - Wakakusa Yamayaki

Fireworks above Wakakusayama and the five story pagoda of Kofukuji Temple

This weekend the japan-guide staff attended Nara's Wakakusa Yamayaki event, during which the grass of the Wakakusayama mountainside was set afire and could be seen all through the city. We positioned ourselves in different locations so that we could get pictures from a variety of angles. I spent most of the day in Nara Park at the base of the mountain (where most of the activity took place), Scott was positioned on the rooftop of a hotel just below Kofukuji Temple, and Schauwecker was around the Heijo Palace.

There was a variety of minor events that preceded the burning of the hillside, starting from about noon. One of the most fun was a contest for throwing an extra large sembei cracker, which tourists will recognize as the deer food sold throughout Nara Park. The event seemed quite popular, as there was a long line of people eager to pay the 300 yen fee to participate. There was also a stage with some local dancers and other shows.

The sembei throwing contest at Wakakusayama, with a contestant and his cracker mid-flight

The burning ceremony began just before 5 o'clock, but there was no fire on the mountain until about 6 o'clock. The hour in between consisted of a procession from the Silk Road Exchange Hall in Nara Park to the mountain, with a couple of stops for performing rituals along the way. During the procession I was reminded of my visit to the Omizutori Festival last year, as both events had an interesting combination of Shinto ritual and burning torches. By the time the fire arrived at the mountain thousands of spectators had gathered, and a few hundred had walked along with the procession, myself included.

Torches are taken in a procession to Wakukusayama Mountain

At about 6pm a large fire was made just below the thick grass. But before the entire mountain was set on fire, an entertaining 15 minute fireworks show was held. I quite enjoyed the display, and was impressed by a few particular creative displays, such as the writing out of "1300" in celebration of Nara's 1300th anniversary. Scott was able to get some great photographs of the fireworks and Kofukuji's five story pagoda together.

Fireworks above Wakakusayama from up close
Fireworks above Wakakusayama and the five story pagoda of Kofukuji Temple

When the fireworks were finished, a line of people walked out to the edge of the thick grass and at the same time set the mountainside ablaze. The fireworks were very impressive, but I had a unique feeling seeing the glowing red mountain. I don't think I've ever seen such a large fire, and watching it gave me an impression of the destructive power that fires had in Japanese cities in earlier times. Schauwecker was able to get some really interesting pictures near Yamato-Saidaiji Station of the burning mountainside and the soon to be opened Imperial Audience Hall at Heijo Palace.

The view of Wakakusayama being set on fire from up close
The burning hillside of Wakakusayama and the Imperial Audience Hall of Heijo Palace

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List of Posts:
2011/09/01 - Final Post
2011/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sapporo
2011/05/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2011/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2011/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2011/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2011/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2011/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2011/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/02/11 - Shiretoko Fantasia 2011
2011/02/11 - Asahikawa Winter Festival - by night
2011/02/10 - Asahikawa Winter Festival - by day
2011/02/09 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011 - by night
2011/02/08 - Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi 2011
2011/02/07 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011 - by day

2010/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2010/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/24 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2010/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju
2010/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kirishima
2010/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2010/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2010/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2010/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagasaki
2010/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2010/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2010/01/23 - Wakakusa Yamayaki

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Light Up
2009/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2009/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Ohara
2009/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Higashiyama
2009/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Kurama
2009/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2009/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2009/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Akita-Komagatake
2009/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kamikochi
2009/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2009/06/18 - Biking the Shimanami Kaido
2009/06/01 - Gunkanjima
2009/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2009/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2009/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kobe
2009/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2009/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2009/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2009/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kobe
2009/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2009/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/01/19 - Bears in Hokkaido

2008/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2008/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Lake Akan
2008/08/18 - Miyajima Trip
2008/06/09 - Post Towns
2008/05/08 - Baseball Game
2008/04/14 - ASIMO and Aoyama Cemetery
2008/04/08 - Ninja Restaurant