Annual festivals in Nara

Nara festivals

Nara is home to some of Japan’s most impressive festivals and events, many of which are fire festivals that make them some of the most photogenic and dramatic events in Japanese history. This page provides an overview of Nara’s five biggest events. Keep in mind that this is just a start: there are many other events, special openings, museum exhibitions, and other happenings taking place throughout the year; check with the various tourist offices to find out what’s going on while you’re in town.



Yamayaki (Grass Burning Festival)

The largest and most spectacular festival in Nara, the Wakakusa Yamayaki, is held on the fourth Saturday of January or on the following day in case of inclement weather. At around 5:30 pm, a fire is lit in the middle of Wakakusa-yama, the mountain that rises above the east side of Nara. At 6:00 pm, a fireworks display is held, and at 6:05 pm, the dry grass on the hill is set on fire, creating a bright glow on the entire slope. You will have to arrive very early to secure a spot at the foot of the hill, but you can see it from many parts of Nara-Koen Park and even Downtown Nara.

February and August:

Mantoro (Lantern Festival)

Twice a year, on the evenings of February 3 and August 14-15, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, the Kasuga-Taisha Lantern Festival takes place. This festival is a sight to behold. Around 3,000 lanterns are placed around Kasuga-Taisha Shrine and along the paths leading to it, creating a magical effect. If you are in the city on these dates, don’t miss it!


Omizutori (water fun ceremony)

Another dramatic fire festival, this event is held on the evenings of March 1-14, starting at varying times from 6:30 to 7:30 pm in the Nigatsu-do Hall of the Todai-ji Temple (this is the hall overlooking the square located to the east of the Daibutsu-den Hall). In this festival, the monks of the temple carry large burning torches around the veranda of the hall and then swing them over the edge, while the fire rains down on the crowd below (it’s not as dangerous as it sounds). The most spectacular performance takes place on the final evening of March 14, starting at 6:30 pm. By the way, the water-drawing ceremony, from which the event takes its name, is held later in the evening.


Takigi Ono (Firelight Noh)

Held at Kofuku-ji temple on the third Friday and Saturday of May, this is a mystical performance of a traditional Japanese musical drama known as Noh. Lit by fire, the effect is truly otherworldly. One-day tickets cost Y3500 (€30) and two-day tickets cost Y5000 (€45) and can be purchased at the tourist information centers in the city. Performances start around evening.


Shika-no-Tsunokiri (deer antler cutting ceremony)

This event takes place in the Roku-en deer park, near the Kasuga-Taisha, on Sundays and holidays in October. Here, those intimidating deer from all over Nara-Koen Park are collected and brought to the fence to have their antlers ritually sawn off. Of course, the deer are not too happy about it, but if you have ever seen how “aggressive” they can be when you hold a pack of shika sembei (deer crackers), you will be glad they are missing their antlers.





Nara Map