Every year, on the fourth Saturday in January, a special festival is held in Japan: the hill called Wakakusa, 30 kilometers east of Osaka, or more precisely its winter-dried vegetation, is set on fire. This is called the Burning Mountain.
It is an exaggeration to call the place a mountain, the highest point of which is only 342 meters above sea level, but when you wear festive clothes, that is, tongues of flame illuminate your surroundings, it really seems huge. But why are the Japanese doing this with the hill? No one really knows the exact origin. According to the most accepted theory, a border dispute triggered the first hill burning back in the 18th century, although it is not known whether this solved the problem. According to another story, arson functioned as a purgatory to keep diseases and wild boars away from populated areas.
Nowadays, fire is mostly caused by sight. The festival begins with a food toss: as an introduction, the participants, who are blessed with a competitive spirit, try to throw huge, traditional Japanese puffed rice slices as far as possible, but the program begins around dark at 5pm. This is when they light a larger campfire or the torches that ignite the dry plants. When everyone is ready, the ignition and quarter-hour fireworks show can begin.
The attraction lasts 30-60 minutes depending on the amount and dryness of the plants. Best of all, you don’t have to be close to the fire: in the dark you can see for miles from the spectacle, and the terrain offers great views of the flaming hillside from several places. The nearest ones are separated from the fire by a special barrier, and hundreds of volunteer firefighters are on standby should something go wrong.
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