Mount Wakusa

Hike Mount Wakusa, grass-covered mountain located within Nara Park and offers unforgettable views of the ancient capital, Heijokyo. The mountain is also home to an array of historical sites, cultural significance, and diverse flora and fauna.

About Mount Wakakusa

Mount Wakakusa(若草山, Wakakusa-yama), also known as Mount Mikasa, is a 342-meter-high hill located to the east of Nara Park in Nara, Japan. It is a grass-covered mountain that offers scenic views of the surrounding area.


Useful Information

mount wakusa location map

Information Details
Address Zoshicho, Nara, 630-8211
Official Website Mount Wakusa (japanese only)
Location Nara, Japan
Prefecture Nara Prefecture
  • The mountain is popular for its annual Yamayaki festival, where the slopes are set ablaze.
  • Visitors can hike to the summit to enjoy the stunning vistas and explore the surrounding nature trails.
  • It is recommended to wear comfortable shoes, carry water, and be mindful of weather conditions.
  • The mountain can be reached by public transportation or a short walk from Nara Park and Todaiji Temple.

History and Cultural Significance of Mount Wakakusa

Why not take a trip back in time as you uncover the rich historical background of Mount Wakakusa? Its name (meaning “young grass mountain”) stems from the vibrant, grass-covered mountain slopes, while the original name “Mikasayama” represents three terraced levels built on the gentle mountain slopes.

The peak of Mount Wakakusa served as a crucial vantage point for ancient warriors and is now a renowned spot for enjoying breathtaking city views. Mount Wakakusa is also famous for its annual Fire Festival, known as Yamayaki. This event typically takes place on the fourth Saturday of January and involves the ceremonial burning of the mountain’s slopes. This dramatic sight, combined with a spectacular fireworks display, attracts thousands of visitors annually.

Geographical Features and Natural Beauty

Located on the eastern edge of Nara city, Mount Wakakusa is nestled between two other famous landmarks, Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha. The mountain stands at 342 meters high and boasts striking, grass-covered slopes that offer an undeniably unique and enchanting landscape.

Feeling adventurous? While climbing Mount Wakakusa, you’ll encounter walking trails enveloped in picturesque scenery, which make for an enjoyable hike. The hike generally takes about 30 minutes and allows you to fully appreciate the mountain’s natural beauty.

Flora and Fauna of Mount Wakakusa

Embark on a delightful exploration of Mount Wakakusa to uncover its diverse plant life. In addition to the prominent grasslands, the mountain also boasts a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers, making for a captivating spectrum of colors throughout the year.

Yakushiji-temple and Wakakusayama-hill which was seen from Oike pond.
Yakushiji-temple and Wakakusayama-hill which was seen from Oike pond.

While exploring the mountain’s slopes, it’s likely you’ll encounter native wildlife, particularly the adored Nara Deer Park. These friendly creatures can often be spotted grazing and resting amidst the picturesque landscape. Bird enthusiasts will also appreciate the presence of various bird species, adding to the serene atmosphere of this charming destination.

Hiking Trails and Outdoor Activities

Mount Wakakusa offers a range of hiking trails suitable for various skill levels and interests. The primary trail, a gentle climb with minimal incline, begins near the Nara National Museum and takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the summit. For those seeking a more challenging route, a steeper trail is accessible from the Kasuga Taisha shrine.

While hiking, take your time to appreciate the natural beauty and serenity of the mountain. The trails are well-maintained, making them suitable for visitors of all ages. In addition to hiking, Mount Wakakusa is an ideal location for picnics, nature photography, and leisurely walks. Pack a delicious lunch, grab your camera, and immerse yourself in this tranquil setting.

Scenic Views and Photo Opportunities

The summit of Mount Wakakusa offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding city and landmarks. Capture stunning photographs of Todai-ji Temple, Heijokyo, and the distant mountains, as well as the charming urban landscape of Nara. The interplay of ancient structures, modern cityscapes, and natural scenery makes for truly spectacular photo opportunities.

As you admire the view, watch for notable landmarks such as Kofuku-ji Temple and the Great Buddha Hall, distinguishable by their unique architecture and historical significance. For a truly unforgettable vista, visit Mount Wakakusa during sunrise or sunset as the soft light casts an ethereal glow over the landscape.

Festivals and Events on Mount Wakakusa

The most famous event held on Mount Wakakusa is the Wakakusa Yamayaki festival. This captivating spectacle, comprising the ceremonial burning of the mountainside, has a rich history and attracts many visitors to witness the fiery display.

Wakakusayama yamayaki
Mountain-burning Wakakusayama seen from the Heijo Palace site. Nara city, Japan. Shooting with extended exposure.

Traditional event heralding the arrival of early spring in the ancient capital city of Nara, the presentation of the blazing night sky is breathtaking. It takes place every year on the 4th Saturday of January.

On the day of the event, activities and ceremonies will take place at the foot of the mountain from the afternoon onwards. A grand fireworks display, shortly before the mountain is set ablaze, will paint the clear winter night sky with vibrant lights and colors, starting with a magnificent signal pistol.

In addition to Wakakusa Yamayaki, the mountain also hosts a variety of cultural and seasonal events throughout the year. These celebrations often showcase traditional music, dance, and local craftsmanship.

Practical Information and Visitor Tips

Before setting off on your adventure, take note of the following essential information:

  • Entry Fee: Mount Wakakusa is free to access, but a small fee is required to enter Nara Park.
  • Opening Hours: The mountain is open to the public all year round, with the exception of the annual Yamayaki festival preparation period.
  • Access: Mount Wakakusa is easily accessed on foot from central Nara, via Kintetsu Nara Station or JR Nara Station.
  • Wear comfortable footwear suitable for hiking and bring adequate sun protection, such as hats or sunscreen.
  • Light layers of clothing are also recommended, as temperatures may vary depending on the season and time of day.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Mount Wakakusa?

Mount Wakakusa, also known as Mount Mikasa, is a 342-meter-high hill located to the east of Nara Park in Nara, Japan. It is a grass-covered mountain that offers scenic views of the surrounding area.

Where is Mount Wakakusa located?

Mount Wakakusa is located in Nara, Japan, specifically to the east of Nara Park. It is situated between Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Shrine.

How high is Mount Wakakusa?

Mount Wakakusa stands at a height of 342 meters (1,122 feet) above sea level. It is not an extremely challenging climb and is accessible to visitors of various fitness levels.

What can I see from the top of Mount Wakakusa?

From the top of Mount Wakakusa, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding area. On clear days, you can see as far as the Former Site of Heijokyo, which adds historical significance to the experience.

How long does it take to hike Mount Wakakusa?

The duration of the hike up Mount Wakakusa can vary depending on your pace and fitness level. On average, it takes about 2-3 hours to complete the hike, considering a relaxed pace and occasional stops. It takes about 30 minutes to hike to the summit of Mount Wakakusa on the primary trail. The steeper trail starting near Kasuga Taisha may take slightly longer to reach the summit.

How do I get to Mount Wakakusa?

From JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station, board the Nara Kotsu bus heading towards Kasuga Taisha Honden and alight at the last stop. From there, it's a 5-minute walk to the base of the mountain. Alternatively, you can take the Nara Kotsu bus City Junction Outer Loop and get off at the Todaiji Daibutsuden/Kasuga Taisha Mae stop, then walk for approximately 10 minutes to reach the base of the mountain. To reach Mount Wakakusa, you can start your hike from behind Todaiji Temple in Nara. The paths leading to the mountain are easily accessible, making it convenient for visitors to embark on the hike.

Is the hike up Mount Wakakusa difficult?

The hike up Mount Wakakusa is generally not considered challenging. With a height of 342 meters, it offers a moderate climb suitable for most age groups and fitness levels. It is a great opportunity to enjoy nature and beautiful views.

What is the meaning of Wakakusa Yamayaki?

Wakakusa Yamayaki is a traditional festival held on the fourth Saturday of January each year. It translates to Burning Mount Wakakusa and involves setting fire to the grass-covered slopes of Mount Wakakusa, creating a spectacular sight.

Are there any other attractions near Mount Wakakusa?

Yes, there are several attractions near Mount Wakakusa. Some notable ones include Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, and the Former Site of Heijokyo. Nara Park itself is also a popular destination with its resident sika deer.

Can I see deers on Mount Wakakusa?

While Mount Wakakusa is known for its grass-covered slopes, it is not particularly known for its deer population. However, Nara Park, which is nearby, is famous for its friendly and abundant sika deer that roam freely and can be spotted in the area.

Are there any accommodations near Mount Wakakusa?

Yes, there are accommodations available near Mount Wakakusa. Nara offers a range of hotels and guesthouses for visitors to choose from. Some hotels even provide a view of Mount Wakakusa, allowing guests to enjoy its beauty from their rooms.

Can I visit Mount Wakakusa year-round?

Yes, Mount Wakakusa can be visited throughout the year. Each season offers a unique experience, from cherry blossoms in spring to colorful foliage in autumn. However, it's worth noting that the Wakakusa Yamayaki festival takes place in January.

What is the best time to visit Mount Wakakusa?

The best time to visit Mount Wakakusa is during spring (April to June) and autumn (October to November). During these periods, you can experience comfortable temperatures and colorful foliage.

Can I visit Mount Wakakusa during the winter season?

Yes, you can visit Mount Wakakusa during the winter season, but note that the Yamayaki festival in January may close the mountain temporarily for preparation. Ensure you are prepared for colder temperatures and check weather forecasts before your hike.

Is it suitable for beginners to hike Mount Wakakusa?

Hiking Mount Wakakusa is suitable for beginners, as the primary trail is gentle with minimal incline. Ensure you wear comfortable footwear and follow the designated walking trails.

Are there any restrictions or safety precautions for hiking on the mountain?

Restrictions and safety precautions for hiking on Mount Wakakusa include staying on designated trails, refraining from feeding wildlife, and avoiding smoking or starting fires. Additionally, follow any posted signage or guidelines while exploring the mountain.