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Uneme Festival

Though rooted in sorrow, it's a stunning summer festival.

  • Happening yearly in September.
Legend tells that during the Nara period, a court maid (uneme in Japanese) fell in love with an Emperor. After falling out of favor with him and in a deep sorrow, she drowned herself in Sarusawa Pond. To commemorate her and comfort her soul, the Uneme Festival is held in Nara city every September during the harvest moon.

Despite this bittersweet premise, the culmination of the festival is a brilliant sight.

Photo by: Patrick Vierthaler Beautiful night view of Sarusawa pond.

Festival happenings

The festivities begin at 5 p.m., when a procession of locals in period attire set off from Nara station towards Sarusawa Pond, alongside dancers and traditional musicians. A memorial is then held at Uneme Shrine, on the banks of the lake. The shrine is said to have been originally built facing the pond. However, unable to bear looking at the location of the court maid’s suicide, it turned itself around overnight into its current position looking north.

What burning Mt is nearby?

At 7 p.m., the festival reaches its finale on the pond itself (seen above). Lanterns line the edge of the water in front of the willow trees, bathing the area in an otherworldly glow. Two dragon-shaped boats float across the lake, one carrying a girl dressed in a traditional uneme costume, with offerings to the court maid. Space is limited so be sure to arrive early if you want a good view!

Photo by: Dennis Crabtree

Nearby attractions

Even if you can’t make it on the day of the festival, Sarusawa Pond is worth a visit if you’re traveling to Nara. A man-made lake created in 749, its tranquil atmosphere and central location make it a popular stop on a day of sightseeing. There are benches where you can sit and relax while watching the resident ducks and turtles, and enjoy the view of the five-storied pagoda at the nearby Kōfuku-ji Temple.

Sarusawa Pond is just a few minutes’ walk from Kōfukuji Temple, and Todaiji Temple is a 20-minute walk through Nara’s famous deer-filled park.

Mount Wakakusa is also worth visiting for an easy hike and fantastic view out over the city.

Take the time to head to this beautiful festival in Nara during your autumn travels in Japan.


Mount Wakakusa

Burn, baby burn. Mountain inferno.


How To Get There


Sanjo Dori, Nara-shi, Nara-ken, Japan

By train

The nearest station to Sarusawa Pond is Kintetsu Nara, which is about a 5-minute walk away. From JR Nara station it’s about a 10-minute walk east along Sanjo Dori, one of Nara’s main shopping streets.

The parade begins at JR Nara station, which is 45 minutes from Kyoto station and half an hour from Osaka’s Tennoji station.

Where To Stay

Hotel Tenpyo Naramachi
  • 1-1 Taruicho, Nara-shi, Nara, 630-8218 Japan
  • ¥16,450 - ¥41,930
  • 4.45/5 (155 reviews)
  • 0.1 km
Hotel Obana
  • 1110 Takabatakecho, Nara-shi, Nara, 630-8301 Japan
  • ¥9,130 - ¥28,160
  • 4.48/5 (627 reviews)
  • 0.3 km
Bnb+ Sarasa Nara
  • 26 Tsunofuricho, Nara-shi, Nara, 630-8224 Japan
  • ¥2,700 - ¥10,400
  • 1.67/5 (18 reviews)
  • 0.4 km
Iroha Grand Hotel Kintetsu Nara Station
  • 30-1 Konishicho, Nara-shi, Nara, 630-8226 Japan
  • ¥10,400 - ¥65,500
  • 4.65/5 (596 reviews)
  • 0.4 km
APA Hotel Kintetsu Nara-Ekimae
  • 29-1 Kamisanjocho, Nara-shi, Nara, 630-8228 Japan
  • ¥5,800 - ¥40,400
  • 0.5 km

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