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Wakakusa Yamayaki, Nara, Japan

On the fourth Saturday of every January, the slopes of Mt. Wakakusa near Nara are set alight, with the resulting flames so big and bright that they can be seen all over the city and from as far away as the former Heijo Palace .

This carefully planned and choreographed act of pyromania is known as Yamayaki (the burning mountain) and is part of a festival that has been carried out for centuries in Nara and involves several temples and shrines.The burning of the mountain itself is preceded by a fireworks display.

There is also a midday rice cracker-throwing competition with giant crackers. The festival’s main procession starts at 5 pm, with monks dressed in period costumes, some blowing conch shells, and musicians playing traditional court music. The sight of the white-robed torch carriers with their flaming torches hiking up the mountain and the fire slowly spreading across the grassy slopes is the highlight of the event. When the burning is finished, fire brigades from all over Nara help extinguish the flames.

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