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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Festivals & Events

Wakakusa 若草山の山焼き

A centuries-old ritual that sets a mountain on fire

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.

Don't Miss

  • The midday rice cracker-throwing competition with giant crackers
  • The fireworks display that precedes the burnoff
  • The flames visible from all over the city

How to Get There

While the area is quite far from Nara's major train stations, Mt. Wakakusa can easily be reached by bus or on foot.

It takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to walk to Mt. Wakakusa from Kintetsu-Nara Station, and 40 minutes from JR Nara Station. The streets will be crowded with onlookers.

Alternatively, as the torch bearers start their walk to the mountain near Kasuga Taisha, you can take one of the buses that run to Kasuga Taisha and follow the procession.

Traditional music in the early morning

The festival's main procession starts at 5 p.m., with monks dressed in period costumes, some blowing conch shells and musicians playing traditional court music. Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and Kasuga Shrine are all involved with the ceremonies of this event.

Picking up the torches

The festival itself begins at Kasuga Taisha, where holy men pick up torches lit with sacred fire and then proceed to Mizuya Temple before traveling up the mountain to light a large bonfire prepared for the festival. Just after dark, various fireworks are sent aloft.

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, however, is the highlight of the event.

When the burning is finished, fire brigades from all over Nara help extinguish the flames.