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Snow Hinders Spectacular Grass-Burning Festival in Nara

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Orange fire dots the slopes of Mt. Wakakusa in this 90-second exposure, with the five-story pagoda of Kofukuji Temple in the foreground on Saturday night in Nara.

NARA — The traditional Yamayaki (grass-burning) festival was held Saturday night at Mt. Wakakusa in Nara. However, due to snow, only about 10% of the usual area was able to burn.

Burning grassland on the mountain is a New Year’s tradition meant to wish for many things, including peace and the comfort of the souls of one’s ancestors. About 33 hectares of grassland were scheduled to be burned as usual, but intermittent snowfall prevented this. Organizers said they will not try again this year to burn the grassland.

This year’s festival was held on a normal scale for the first time since 2020 as spectators had been restricted from entering Nara Park in 2021 and 2022 due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. After about 600 fireworks were set off, 300 local volunteer firefighters lit fires at the foot of the mountain. However, they tried several times in vain to make the flames spread.

“I’m disappointed, as I was expecting to see the mountainside engulfed in flames,” said a 66-year-old woman from Tenri, Nara Prefecture. “But Mt. Wakakusa amazed me with its beauty when it was lit up by the fireworks.”