Canberra Nara Candle Festival



I have been a Canberran for 8 years and am a little embarrassed to admit that I have never been to a Canberra Nara Candle Festival.

Nara, once the capital of Japan, has been Canberra’s sister city for 22 years. The candle festival, held in Nara Peace Park in the city, celebrates our bond and offers a hands-on, tasty sampling of Japan’s culture. After the sun sets, 2000 candles are lit and from all the photos I have seen, it is stunning.

It took a little convincing to get the 10 year old out of the house. He had spent most of the weekend scrawling various calculations on scraps of paper, trying to nut out how much money he has to save to get his latest obsession. Moments earlier, he had discovered that the quoted price was actually in American dollars, which now not only required more savings, but also more calculations!

Eventually, we were off. I aimed to get there right on start time in order to score a carpark before the dinner crowd showed up. I was quite broke so the 10 year old ate a big bowl of spag bol on the way to fill him up.

As we walked over the bridge, I wondered if getting there early was actually poor decision, as the sun was bright and hot and I hadn’t thought to bring hats.

As I usually do to get him engaged in something new, I told him that, for the first part of our explorings, he was in charge. As usual, the smile of adventure crept over his face and we were off.

Here is what we got up to:

This kid loves origami.  I am so glad we went there first as later it became very popular.




We were shown the steaming hot rice before it was pounded into the famous sweet: mocha



The mochi pounding is something I have never heard of before.  In this process, sticky rice is pounded with mallets into a glutinous paste, then formed into shapes and served up as a dessert with a variety of fillings.  Note the third person here keeping the rice moistened.  I was sceptical of any delectable dessert emerging from this process.



The 10 year old was one of those who volunteered to take a turn of pounding mochi.  Look at this kid’s face.  He got such a kick out of doing it.  I love that people could get involved and participate in everything happening around us.

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The 10 year old decided that the mocha itself was an acquired taste, which meant I acquired both these samples.  Yay!  The one dusted with soy bean powder was my favourite.



Another hands-on activity was fishing for balloons.  The 10 year old’s hook fell off……

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….but they gave him one anyway.



He wrote a wish for the wishing tree.  As I recall, his wish was more along the theme of his new obsession and less about world peace.  I felt momentary pang about my poor parenting.


Hanging up his wish..



Some people wore costumes.  Recognize any of the characters?




My polycystic ovaries were still recovering from the previous week’s indulgences at the EatDrinkBlog conference, so I didn’t give in to the temptation to sample any of the many dishes being cooked fresh in front of us. The 10 year old, however,  enjoyed a few of the more safe items on the menu.



Chicken spring roll….


Chicken satay….



This cutie had a BYO dinner



We found a ring where the Kendo fighters went through their paces.



There was a ring of Sumo wrestlers too.  We didn’t see any sumo action as they were just finishing up a demonstration when we got there.



There was such a large crowd around the Taiko drummers, I actually couldn’t see them.  These two photos were taken by me standing on tippy-toes and holding the camera up as high as I could.

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Parting shot:  This kid loved the ‘showbag’ stand where he was able to choose from a range of Japanese tourism brochures to put in his bag.


Next year we are going to go later and stay for the lighting of the candles.

Want to know more:

When -Find out when the Nara Candle Festival is on in 2016 by double clicking here.

Where– Nara Peace Park (within Lennox Gardens on Flynn Drive)

Cost– free but either bring money to buy some of the delectable meals for purchase or bring along a picnic.


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