26 January 2019

Formerly a volcano and rising 342 meters above sea level, Mount Wakakusayama, in the Japanese city of Nara, is the location for this annual event held on the fourth Saturday of January, which sees the entire hill fired-up in a controlled burn. Following a parade that includes a giant rice cracker tossing competition, a torch is lit with sacred fire at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Buddhist monks then carry the sacred fire down to a small shrine at the foot of the hill. First, interfaith members of Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji and Kasuga Taisha ignite the hill. Then hundreds of fireworks are launched, followed by the ritual burning of the hill, for roughly an hour, with the grasses on the slopes blazing as if a red hell is draped over the mountainside. When all of Mount Wakakusayama is eventually alight, like a gigantic flickering torch, unsurprisingly the fire can be seen across the entire metropolis.