Mount Mikasa was a volcanic mountain and is also known as Mount Wakakusa in the present day. Mount Mikasa was used in travel poems to express poets’ homesickness for their hometown. Kasuga Shrine was used by envoys who were sent abroad by an emperor, to pray for safe return (Mostow, 1996). An example of this can be seen in the following poem by Nakamaro.

I gaze across the
endless plains of the sky can
that moon be the one
that comes from the rim of Mount
Mikasa in Kasuga.
(Kokinshu, p. 164)

As Nakamaro was longing for his return to Japan after spending years in China, it was not surprising for him to have visions of Mount Mikasa and Kasuga Shrine before his return to Japan. The poem vividly expresses Nakamaro’s urgency of wanting to be back in Japan at the very moment.

Mount Wakakusa is located near the east of Nara Park in Nara, Japan, as indicated in Figures 1 and 2. Mount Wakakusa is well known for the Yamayaki Festival, or the Grass Burning Festival, that takes place at the end of every January. Legend has it that the tradition of the festival started from a dispute between two temples, Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji, in 1760 (Mount Wakakusa, 2015). Kasuga Shrine is where the sacred fire is be lit for the festival, which signifies the importance of Kasuga Shrine in the local culture (Mount Wakakusa, 2015). In addition, there are traditional Japanese art works that portrayed Mount Mikasa, such as the woodblock print, “Mount Mikasa in the Snow”, by Keisai Eisen in Figure 3.

Overall, Mount Mikasa has a significant importance in the history of Japan. On one hand, it has some literary associations, and on the other hand, it is important to political and cultural development.


Works Cited

Eisen, K. “Mount Mikasa in the Snow”. Retrieved March 7, 2016, from

“Kokinshu. Book IX: Travel Poems,” pp. 164-169. Class handout.

Mostow, J. S. (1996). Pictures of the Heart: the Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

“Mount Wakakusa.” (October 27, 2015). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 4, 2016, from

“Mount Wakakusa Map.” In Google Map. Retrieved March 6, 2016, from,+Zoshicho,+Nara,+Nara+Prefecture+630-8211,+Japan/@34.6210839,135.7988939,158889m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x600139bbcae1062f:0x3ffe7797efcbb75e!5m1!1e4

“Mount Wakakusa Earth.” In Google Map. Retrieved March 6, 2016, from,+Zoshicho,+Nara,+Nara+Prefecture+630-8211,+Japan/@34.6210839,135.7988939,6.02z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x600139bbcae1062f:0x3ffe7797efcbb75e!5m1!1e4

“Yamayaki. In Japan: The Official Guide, Japan National Tourism Organization.” Retrieved March 4, 2016, from

Contributor: Xin Zhao
(Edited by Elle Marsh)