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Wakakusa Yamayaki (Grass Burning Ceremony）
The ceremony holds annually on the forth Saturday of January. Yamayaki is a ritual involving burning the grass covering Mt Wakakusa, a 342m high hill, which overlooks the city. It is one of Nara’s major events and marks the arrival of spring.
Kakinoha-sushi is a rectangular, bit-sized mackerel sushi wrapped in a persimmon leave. It has been served as a feast at a summer festival. It was originally made in Kishu Region (Wakayama Prefecture) in mid Edo period. Fishmen carried salt-marinated mackerels, caught in Kumanonada Sea, and sold them to the people in mountain villages along the Yoshino River in order to pay high taxes to the government. Summer festivals were held around the same period as the mackerel season. Therefore, the sushi became a feast at a summer festival.
Hatenashi Settlement is located along Kohechi Route, which is one of the pilgrimage routes to Kumano. These routes were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage as part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. It is also called ‘The Sky Village’ due to its high altitude location and has spectacular views of the Hatenashi Mountain Range. Hatenashi Settlement is chosen one of Japan’s top 100 villages. Visitors enjoy these views not only on clear days but also in mist and clouds on rainy days.
Mitarai Gorge is surrounded by beautiful trees and renowned for its scenic beauty created by large rocks and gushing waterfalls. The streams flow with emerald-green crystal clear water. Visitors enjoy seasonal vistas, from fresh greenery in spring to colorful red leaves in autumn.
Dorogawa Onsen is a hot spring town with many inns, souvenir shops, and restaurants. It has flourished around Ryusenji Temple, which is regarded as the first ascetic practice place of Shugendo on Mt Omine. The mountain reverberates with the sound of the conch shells blown by Yamabushi (mountain ascetics) during the practice season from May to September. The hot springs, at the inns or the public resort called ‘Dorogawa Onsen Center’, have attracted many visitors as their waters are said to benefit skin complexion.
Mt Yoshinoyama is regarded as Japan’s best cherry-blossom sight. It has about 30,000 cherry trees, mainly of the Shiroyamazakura variety. The trees burst into bloom from early to mid-April. Mt Yoshinoyama has long been worshipped as a sacred mountain and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site named the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”.
The history of Gojo Shinmachi went back to roughly 400 years ago, shortly after the Edo Bakufu was established following the Battle of Sekigahara. The Shimmachi Street retains historical buildings from the Edo period including the oldest existing private residence. Their architectural styles vary from each period. The area was designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
Soni Haighland is a grassland covered with Japanese pampas grass.The grass is burned in middle of March every year,and the area becomes like a large fresh-green carpet from spring to summer. Sivery and golden Jananese pampas grass glows reflecting sunlight in autumn,and a number of tourists visit this place every year. It is well-known for the most beautuful sunset in Japan.
Rice Terraces and Red Spider Lilies
Asuka Village is located in Inabuch District and a popular destination, selected one of the top 100 Japanese rice terraces and the top 100 beautiful Japanese villages. In mid-September, red spider lilies called ‘Higanbana’ or “Manjusage” in Japanese, blossom along the paddy fields and the river banks. These strikingly red flowers with mystical shapes attract visitors. Its highlight is a nostalgic view through the contrast between the green rice fields and the bright red lilies and the undulating contours of terraced paddy fields.
Freezing Fog on Mt Miune
Mt Miune is part of the Murou Akane Aoyama Quasi- National Park. Freezing fog can be seen in mid-winter, between January and February. That is one of the few places in the Kansai region. The summit of Mt Miune, at 1,235m above sea level, and the plateau called “Hachodaira” command a spectacular view. It trekking trail is about 10km long round trip and takes about 4 hours. Winter trekking gears such as crampons are needed in winter.
Nara Park extends 4km east to west and 2km north to south. The vast urban park covers the eastern part of Nara City, including the grounds of Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Kohfukuji Temple, as well as the primeval forest of Kasuga Okuyama protected as a sanctuary of Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The park provides beautiful lawns, pine groves over 100 years old, and approximately 1,100 wild dear roaming freely.