The origins of Mt. Wakakusa Yamayaki

 

山上古墳

On the top of the third hill of Mt. Wakakusa is a keyhole-shaped tomb called Uguisuzuka Kofun.

In the past, people believed in superstitions telling that if you burn the mountain, you can repel ghosts that return from their tombs. Or, if you do not burn the mountain by the end of January in the new year period, you would suffer great misfortune. It is said that as a result, people passing the Mt. Wakakusa started to set the mountain on fire without permission.

Since then, accidents where fire from Mt. Wakakusa came close to the precincts of Todaiji Temple and Kohfukuji Temple occurred repeatedly. In December 1738, Nara Magistrate’s Office (Bugyosho) put up a notice board prohibiting people from setting fire to the mountain. However, arson by unknown people continued to occur, and the fire sometimes spread to nearby temples and shrines. To avoid such dangers, Nara city established a rule to allow people to burn the mountain with the attendance of representatives of Todaiji Temple, Kohfukuji Temple and Nara Bugyosho at the end of the Edo period.

The Yamayaki (mountain burning) festival is derived from superstitions to comfort the spirits of the dead at Uguisuzuka Kofun located at the top of mountain, so Yamayaki can also be regarded as a kind of memorial service.

Modern age to the present day

1900 The timing of Yamayaki changed from daytime to night, and the date was also changed to February 11 (Empire Day ).
1910 The organizers of Yamayaki changed from volunteers from Neiraku Club to Nara Prefecture.
  Due to the intensification of war (1939 to 1945), the Yamayaki festival was held during the afternoon, for reasons of air defence.
1945 The year the war ended, Yamayaki started from 9:30 a.m. on February 15.
1946 Yamayaki became a night event again. Beforehand, more than a hundred fireworks were set off. Various events also took place.
1950 The date of Yamayaki was changed to January 15, the ‘Coming-of-Age Day’.
1999 Due to implementation of the so-called ‘Happy Monday System Act’, Yamayaki took place on Sunday, the day before ‘Coming-of-Age Day
2009 Yamayaki took place on the fourth Saturday in January.
2010 During Yamayaki, about 600 fireworks were set off in celebration of the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo capital.

(Source: History of Nara Park)

Mt. Wakakusa

Mt. Wakakusa is covered with grass and has gentle slopes.
It consists of three gently-sloped hills covered with grass. The mountain is 342 meters high and 33 hectares wide. In this mountain area, you can see deer everywhere and enjoy viewing seasonal flowers and plants, such as cherry blossom in spring, and colorful leaves and pampas grasses in the fall.

山上古墳

From the observatory platform on the mountain top, you can enjoy wonderful scenic night views of Nara, a historic city.

* Please take note that the New Wakakusayama and Nara Okuyama Driveway is closed from 14:00 p.m. to around 20:00 p.m. on the day of Mt. Wakakusa Yamayaki.

[Access to observatory platform]
minute walk from Mt. Wakakusa parking lot, after driving along the New Wakakusayama and Nara Okuyama Driveway toll road