Saidaiji Eyo – One of the Most Massive Naked Festivals in Japan!
Every February in Yamaguchi prefecture the largest mountain-burning event in Japan takes place. Akiyoshidai Yamayaki is a traditional event that maintains a rich grassy plain. As the old grass burns, the soil can regain nourishment for the next season. This event attracts a lot of spectators and became a traditional celebration of spring in Mine city.
Akiyoshidai in Yamaguchi Prefecture is in the western part of the Honshu island. It is one of Japan’s geological wonders that has the largest area of karst plateaus in the country. The plateau is famous that it has been formed during the Paleozoic period (lasting ca 540-250 million years ago). The limestones formed from dead coral reefs and other marine organisms were gradually uplifted. And then, they thickened by repeated sedimentation and folding activities because of series of orogenic movements under the ground around the current Akiyoshidai plateau. Millions of years of exposure to the elements eroded the sediments and created the unique karst landscape. Currently, you can see many sinkholes and weathered rocks. Beneath the plateau, there are over 400 limestone caves, including Akiyoshido Cave. It is 100 meters wide and about 8.7 km long, which makes it Japan’s longest caves of this kind.
Yamayaki or Noyaki refers to a fire set for forest management or for agricultural use. This wasn’t a practice peculiar to the Akiyoshidai area. However, this was popular in forests and farmlands in many areas across the world. Especially in agriculture, burning fields used to be an effective way of clearing the crop field of any crop residue left and stimulating the process of seeds starting to grow healthier. This agricultural purpose has been based on the 650-year-old controlled fire event in Akiyoshidai. But this practice technique produces a lot of smoke and other substances inimical to human health and wildlife. So, it is becoming out of use in the environmentally conscious circumstances like we have in Japan.
The field burning event in Akiyoshidai takes place on the 3rd Sunday of February every year. During the snow-thawing season, this event has been an annual spring feature of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Resounding with fire siren at 9:30 AM, the karst field as vast as 1,500 ha is lit with several torches and covered with the spreading fire. About 800 residents and volunteers from other areas work together to control the fire. Thus, they keep it safe and protect the tradition of burning the grass.
There is a lot of smoke and ashes from the burning field even though they take all kinds of safety measures. Thus, you have to see the event from the observation deck. And also, you should put on your face a mask and avoid wearing luxurious clothes because the flaming field is very smoky.
The mountain-burning event takes place at night as well. They start the fire at 7:00 PM to the area of about 25 ha from the 1,500 ha karst for burning. Besides, the dynamic views of the flaming fire in the dark will astonish you. You can also notice some Chinese characters on the hilly side. (They are fantastic.) And if you visit the plateau again the next day, you will see the vast field that turned black with the ash which resembles a sight on another planet. Don’t wear white shoes and clothes because the remaining ash will smear it.
Beneath the southern end of Akiyoshidai plateau, there is the Akiyoshido Cave, which is up to 100 meters wide and has about 8.7 km-long passage. Now, a one-kilometer long section from the subterranean path is open to the public as an exploring course adorned with a variety of dripstones and flowstones. The mysterious appearance of the “Golden Column” stalactite (a pointed pendant of limestone hanging from the cave ceiling) is overwhelming. Akiyoshido Cave is a Special Natural Monument of Japan.
This traditional hot spring resort area was founded by a powerful samurai clan in the 1300s. Folklore tells us that a white fox once came to the onsen town to take refuge after being injured in the forest. Dipped into the therapeutic waters of the local onsen, the fox’s injured paw was healed instantly. This “magical power” from the hot spring waters attracts many onsen fans.
To get to the onsen town from Shin-Yamaguchi Station, you need to take a local train on the JR Yamaguchi Line and get off at Yuda-Onsen Station, just one stop before Yamaguchi Station. Take the street that goes right from the station and go straight ahead. On the way, you can find a park that offers a place where you can enjoy bathing your feet for free. Also, there are several inns and hotels around the station, so this hot spring resort area is a good place to stay and convenient for you to visit other tourist spots around Yamaguchi, including Akiyoshidai. For more information about Yuda Onsen visit the official homepage: http://www.yudaonsen.com/.
Dates: The 3rd Sunday of February. February 16th 2020
Time: 9:30 AM Torching (Dayhour event) 7:00 PM Torching (Nighthour event)
Place: Akiyoshidai Karst Plateau
Address: Shuhocho Aokage, Mine, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Official website (Japanese Only): http://www.karusuto.com/
Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Yamaguchi Station (about 4 hours), transfer to the JR Sanyo Main Line to go to Asa Station (about 30 minutes). Then get to Mine Station on the JR Mine Line from Asa (about 30 minutes).
One-and-a-half-hour flight from Haneda Airport to Yamaguchi Ube Airport and 30-minute bus ride to JR Shin-Yamaguchi Station. Then another 45-minute bus (Bocho Bus Service) ride from the station.
During the event, they closed all of the roads around the burning field. Park your car at a parking lot around Akiyoshido Cave Bus Terminal. From there, I recommend you to walk through the cave to the event site.
Sometime after the field burning, the ground remains scorched black, but sprouts push through in spring, and a beautiful “green carpet” comes covers the plateau again. This is what I call a real wonder of nature!
If you would like to see this beautiful mountain and explore Yamaguchi prefecture with a friendly local guide, please check the banner below!
All images are courtesy of Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation
Yamaguchi prefecture is one of the most beautiful prefectures to visit in Japan. This prefecture is blessed with the ocean and mountains. Also, there are many historical spots to explore in here, as it had been the center of the turning point in Japanese history due to its location. This territory features exciting local festivals and unforgettable scenes of provincial Japan. The following article assembled the best festivals and activities to enjoy in Yamaguchi Prefecture, which will make your trip to Japan even more rewarding!
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