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Monday, 27th January 2014
In Events In Japan,

Nara holds Wakakusa Yamayaki

The hillside of Nara's Mount Wakakusayama glowed orange on the night of Friday January 24th  as firefighters ignited the dry grass on the mountain as part of the annual Wakakusa Yamayaki

Each year, this ceremony is carried out in conjunction with the Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and Kasuga Shrine, all of which host celebrations in order to commemorate the event.

Despite the fact Wakakusa Yamayaki has been taking place for hundreds of years, its precise origins and reasons are unclear, with one theory suggesting Wakakusayama was first set alight over a boundary dispute between local temples.

Others speculate that the conflagration was used to frighten away wild boars and animals that might threaten the crops of the Nara people.

Firefighters handled the actual burning on Friday, with 300 of them on hand to torch the dry grass up in the mountain.

Priests offered prayer at 6:30pm, with the festivities getting underway shortly after sundown with a spectacular firework display involving more than 600 pyrotechnics.

During the day, Nara locals carried out a number of ancient rituals, including the throwing of giant rice crackers from 1pm until 3pm, and a great procession being led through the streets of the prefecture capital.

Tourists wishing to catch the ancient ritual next year are advised that there are plenty of places throughout the city to watch the burning, as well as the accompanying firework display, because the mountain looms very close to the metropolis.

Suggested viewing points include the Heijo Palace, which once served as the Emperor's residence and quarters during Nara's stint as the Japanese capital during the Nara period.

The ceremony generally takes place on the 24th of January every year, but be advised that it may be delayed by a week in the case of bad weather.

Written by Graham McPherson