Japan is famous for its spectacular festivals, which are essential parts of strong, well-rooted traditions. The Fire Festival was the main reason why we chose NARA as our very first destination. The mystery around this event mixed with the fine festive atmosphere gives the audience show and fun they came for.
Here is a bit of explanation I found:
The Wakakusa Yamayaki is an annual festival during which the grass on the hillside of Nara’s Mount Wakakusayama is set on fire. The mountain is located at the eastern end of Nara Park, and when it is set alight it can be seen throughout the city. The burning of the mountain itself is preceded by a fireworks display. The festival takes places every year on the fourth Saturday in January.
The Wakakusa Yamayaki has been taking place for hundreds of years and its precise origins are unclear. One theory claims that the burning of the mountainside began during boundary conflicts between Nara’s greattemples, while another claims the fires were used to drive away wild boars.
Mount Wakakusayama before and after the festival.Local Police and Fire fighters wait for the sunset (above).
Representatives of local monasteries take part in the procession, which precedes a really long prayer and setting the hill on fire (below).
15 minutes of fireworks are followed by setting the hill on fire, which lasts around half an hour. In the mean time the artistic program kicks off.
Most of all Nara is famous for its 1500 DEERS, which wonder around and pose for pictures. Local gift shops are full of objects, which either have something to do with horns or fur. Sweets, called ‘deer poop’, can be found in all different sizes and flavors. Enjoy ;) The local deers know their ways with girls ;)
My favorite afternoon snack- Matcha Latte (above) and Matcha cookies (below).
Many months ago we run across cheap tickets to Japan and without much thinking we booked the flights. Only later have we realized that we are going to spend 1.5 weeks in the area, which is not so close to the equator any more. At the end of January we packed our ridiculous winter jackets and off we went to a lifetime adventure!
Kansai Airport, the one close to Osaka, is only a 6 hours long flight from Singapore. From there we went straight to Nara, where an annual fire festival was taking place that same evening! More about that in the next post.
Nara was the first capital of Japan for only 74 years, before it was moved to Kyoto. This short period of time was, however, enough to turn a sleepy village into a significant spot on a cultural and architectural map of Japan. Among temples and shrines, which together are part of UNESCO Heritage Site, the Eastern Great Temple is definitely the most impressive. So called Tōdai-ji is a temple complex and one of the biggest wooden structures in the world. Its Great Buddha Hall houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha.
The columns in the Hall are massive! One of them has a hole at the bottom. Whoever manages to squeeze through will leave the temple with a lot of luck. The spot seem to be extremely popular among students, who line up in long queues to face the challenge. The smart ones start with the arms up and have their friends to pull them out- lets say it works as well ;)
In stead of real donations, one can buy a real roof tile, sign it and become a part of the temple for another few years.
The Great Hall, just like all the other historical places, were always full of Japanese school trips.
Nara was the coldest places of all we have visited. The monks in this particular monastery were kind enough to offer hot free tea in a warm and cosy room to weary travelers and local worshippers.
BANTEAY SREI- is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva built in 10th century.
The complex looks even more spectacular in the evening sun, for the reddish color of the sandstone walls gain on the intensity. I could not look enough on the decorative details of the temple- the carvings on the red sandstone walls are truly masterpieces! No wonder Banteay Srei is called the ‘jewel of Khmer art’.
Phnom Kulen Area.
The half day of cycling brought us to the remote off-the-beaten-tracks temples. Over 50km away to the North from Siem Reap, the Phnom Kulen National Park is located.
PHNOM KULEN TEMPLE.
Numerous terraces bracing the main core of the temple forced us to do some extra exercises in the unbearable heat. Nevertheless, it was worth climbing till the top point.
The site consists of a series of stone carvings in sandstone formations carved in the river bed and banks. The forest around it looks like enhanced with ‘hobbit caves’ and weirdly twisted roots and lianas.