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In 2023, the Yamayaki is scheduled for January 28

The Wakakusa Yamayaki is an annual festival during which the grass on the hillside of Nara's Mount Wakakusayama is set on fire. The mountain is located at the eastern end of Nara Park, and when it is set alight it can be seen throughout the city. The burning of the mountain itself is preceded by a fireworks display. The festival takes place every year on the 4th Saturday of January, but is cancelled or postponed in case of bad weather.

Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and Kasuga Shrine are all involved with the ceremonies of the festival. The Wakakusa Yamayaki has been taking place for hundreds of years and its precise origins are unclear. One theory claims that the burning of the mountainside began during boundary conflicts between Nara's great temples, while another claims the fires were used to drive away wild boars.

The festival officially begins at noon, after which a variety of minor events take place around the base of Wakakusayama. The most interesting minor attraction is a throwing competition of giant rice crackers (sembei) that takes place from 12:30 to 15:00. Travelers will recognize the sembei as giant versions of the rice crackers that are on sale throughout Nara Park as food for the wild deer.

Around 17:00, a procession of people involved in lighting the mountain on fire departs from the Tobino area of Kasuga Taisha towards the mountain, making a stop at the Mizuya Shrine along the way in order to light the torches. Around 17:30, the procession arrives at the base of Wakakusayama where several hundred spectators have already gathered, and a large bonfire is lit part way up the mountainside, just past the barrier restricting access to the public.

At 18:15, a firework display is held for about 15 minutes. Afterwards, the fire from the bonfire is used to set the grass on the mountainside alight, and the fire gradually spreads all across the mountain. It usually takes 30 minutes to one hour for the entire area to burn, depending on the conditions of the grass each year. When the grass is dry, the entire mountain is burnt relatively quickly, while wet conditions can result in only slow and partial burning of the grass.

Because of Wakakusayama's elevation over Nara, both the fireworks and the fire are visible throughout the city. In addition to the view from the base of the mountain, there are several other good vantage points throughout Nara Park and the city. The view can also be enjoyed from further away, for example from the former Heijo Palace site.

Getting there and around

Wakakusayama is located about a 10-15 minute walk from both Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha. The mountain can also be reached on foot from Kintetsu Nara Station in about 35 minutes or from JR Nara Station in about 50 minutes. Buses run from either station as far as Kasuga Taisha (220 yen).

How to get to and around Nara

Hotels around Nara

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    • Hilo Hostel
      Mid-range
      Located 1.5 km from Kofuku-ji Temple, Hilo Hostel provides rooms with air conditioning in Nara. With free WiFi, this 3-star hostel offers a shared kitchen and luggage storage space. Local points of interest like Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha are reachable within 2.4 km and 2.6 km, respectively. Popular points of interest near the hostel include Naramachi, Nara Prefectural Art Museum and Gangoji Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 46 km from Hilo Hostel.
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    • Guesthouse Naramachi
      Budget-friendly
      The 100-year old Guesthouse Naramachi offers simple Japanese-style accommodation just a 5-minute walk from JR Kyobate Train Station. The property is completely non-smoking. It offers massages, bicycle rental and free Wi-Fi throughout. The World Heritage registered Nara Park is a 10-minute walk away. Guests at Naramachi can choose a private room with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon beds. All rooms are air-conditioned, and bathrooms and toilets are shared. Bath towels, washclothes and Yukata robes can be rented. JR Nara Train Station is a 20-minute walk, and Kofuku-ji Temple is a pleasant 10-minute walk away through the traditional streets of Nara. Gangoji Temple and three public baths are available within a 5-minute walk. Various types of bicycles can be rented. A free-use kitchenette is provided, with a microwave, fridge and electric kettle. At time of booking, you must inform the hotel what time you plan to check in. If your check-in time changes, please update the hotel. Guests who require parking must inform the hotel at time of booking.
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    • Yuzan Guesthouse
      Budget-friendly
      Conveniently located a 5-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station and a 8-minute walk from JR Nara Station, Yuzan Guest House Annex offers cosy accommodation with a shared kitchen. Free WiFi access is available throughout the property. Each room is simply decorated and comes with air conditioning and heating facilities. Guests can choose to stay in Japanese-style rooms featuring tatami (woven-straw) floor and futon bedding. Bathroom facilities are shared. At Guest House Yuzan Annex you will find a small garden, a terrace and a shared lounge. Free luggage storage is also available upon request. Guests can make a 10-minute stroll to the Nara Park, located in the city central area. Todaiji Temple and Heijo Palace are both a 10-minute drive away while Kansai International Airport can be reached with a 80-minute drive. Meals are not served on site.
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    • Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park
      Budget-friendly
      Situated in Nara, near Nara Park, Kasuga Taisha and Kofuku-ji Temple, Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park features free WiFi. Each unit is fitted with air conditioning, private bathroom and a kitchen including a microwave, fridge, stovetop and a toaster. If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible in the surroundings. Todai-ji Temple is 2.4 km from the lodge, while Heijo Palace Ruins is 6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 49 km from Mountain Home Lodge in Deer Park.
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    • NARA Visitor Center and Inn
      Budget-friendly
      The Nara Visitor Center and Inn is situated in the heart of Nara, just a 3-minute walk from Kofuku-ji Temple and Naramachi. The Todai-ji Temple and Deer Park are a 10-minute stroll away, while Nara Station on the Kintetsu Line is a 7-minute walk. JR Nara Station is 14-minutes away on foot. All guest rooms feature air conditioning and heating, and are equipped with a fridge and flat-screen TV. Japanese samue nightwear are available to all staying guests. Some units come equipped with an en suite bathroom with a shower, while some Japanese-style rooms come with an en suite shower. Japanese-style rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. The property offers free WiFi access and a 24-hour front desk. Luggage storage is available. There is a public bath on site, where guests will find free toiletries and hairdryers. A coin launderette, a shared kitchen and free-use internet PCs are offered on site. The on-site tourist information desk offers information in English, Chinese and Korean. Services offered at the desk include transport and meal tickets at a discount, currency exchange, bike hire at a charge, cultural activities at an additional charge, such as Japanese calligraphy lessons, and tour arrangements. Some cultural activities such as origami folding are offered free of charge.
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    • Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring
      Luxury
      Featuring natural hot spring baths on site, Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring is set in Nara, just a 3-minute walk from JR Nara Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property, and private parking is available on site. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Kofuku-ji Temple is 15 minutes on foot. All rooms include a flat-screen TV and electric kettle in the room. Rooms have a private bathroom fitted with a bath or shower and bidet. For your comfort, you will find slippers, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Extras include a fridge and toothbrushes. There is a 24-hour front desk at the property. Free luggage storage service is provided. Todaiji Temple is 10 minutes by car from Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring, while Nara Park is a 20-minute stroll from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 37 km away.
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    • SLOW HOUSE NARA
      Budget-friendly
      Located within 2.1 km of Todai-ji Temple and 2.3 km of Kasuga Taisha, SLOW HOUSE NARA offers rooms in Nara. The 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen and luggage storage space for guests. At the guest house, each room comes with a desk. At SLOW HOUSE NARA every room is equipped with bed linen and towels. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kofuku-ji Temple, Naramachi and Gangoji Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from SLOW HOUSE NARA.
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    • Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi
      Budget-friendly
      Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi has a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge and garden in Nara. Popular points of interest nearby include Naramachi, Nara National Museum and Shin Yakushiji. Free WiFi is available and private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. Complete with a shared bathroom, all guest rooms at the guest house come with air conditioning, and some rooms also feature a seating area. The rooms feature a safety deposit box. Continental and American breakfast options are available every morning at Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi. Guests at the accommodation will be able to enjoy activities in and around Nara, like cycling. Popular points of interest near Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi include Kofuku-ji Temple, Todai-ji Temple and Gangoji Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the guest house.
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    • Hotel Naranohamori
      Mid-range
      Set in Nara, 700 metres from Kofuku-ji Temple, Hotel Naranohamori offers rooms with air conditioning and free WiFi. The property is around 2 km from Nara Park, 4.3 km from Heijo Palace Ruins and less than 1 km from Nara National Museum. The hotel features family rooms. All rooms in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. The units feature a private bathroom, slippers and bed linen. Popular points of interest near Hotel Naranohamori include Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga Taisha and Nara Prefectural Art Museum. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from the accommodation.
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    • Hotel Rokune
      Mid-range
      Located in Nara, Hotel Rokune provides 3-star accommodation with private balconies. Located around 1.4 km from Kofuku-ji Temple, the hotel with free WiFi is also 2.3 km away from Heijo Palace Ruins. The property is 2.3 km from Todai-ji Temple and 2.5 km from Nara Park. At the hotel, every room is equipped with a desk, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels. All units at Hotel Rokune include air conditioning and a wardrobe. The accommodation offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub and terrace. Popular points of interest near Hotel Rokune include Naramachi, Gangoji Temple and Nara Prefectural Art Museum. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 36 km from the hotel.
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