' Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival ' : The ancient city of Nara, once Japan's capital, wards off the wintertime darkness with an unusual tradition : lighting a local mountain on fire.

In a tradition stretching back over 250 years, a brief, but impressive, fireworks show leads to the heralding of trumpets.

Then the dry grass of Nara Park's Mount Wakakusa is set alight by local firefighters. [ ''Yamayaki'' translates as '' mountain burning, '' and theories behind its origins are colourful as they are apocryphal, ranging from an internecine clan boundary dispute to attempts at confining ghosts to a mountain tomb.]

Depending on weather conditions, the flames can burn for up to an hour and are visible throughout the city during the festival, scheduled this year for Jan 27.

For an up-close experience, spectators can watch from viewing points at the base of the mountain, while others may prefer to see the spectacle from one of the city's temples or historical buildings, such as Heijo Palace, further away from the mountain.

Ahead of the fireworks display and grass burning, the former usually kicking off at 6.15 p.m., a number of smaller events also take place throughout the day, including a contest in which participants compete to see how far they can throw an oversize version of of the rice crackers many visitors feed to the city's ubiquitous deer.

Attendees can also enjoy live music performances and outdoor food stalls, as well as a procession of officials dressed in historical garb as they make their way to the mountain ahead of the burning.

The festival is a short bus ride from Nara Station, although the city's brisk, but not unduly cold, late-January weather makes for a pleasant walk and the chance to enjoy other festivities along the way to the park. [ Allan Richarz ].


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!