The Canberra Nara Candle Festival has been held annually in Canberra Nara Park since 2003, when a delegation of citizens from Nara participated in an informal ceremony to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sister City relationship. The Canberra Nara Candle Festival is based upon a much larger candle festival, known as the Nara 'Tokae', first held in Nara in 1999.


Each year in August, Nara's parks and world heritage sites are bathed in the light of tens of thousands of candles. This spectacular event has grown in popularity each year. The name of the Festival comes from the Japanese word 'to-ka', describing a shape resembling flower petals which sometimes forms around the wick when a candle is lit. The occurrence of the 'to-ka' is believed to represent good fortune.


The Canberra Nara Candle Festival promotes the values of peace and goodwill and is a celebration of the Canberra Nara Sister City relationship. The festival is held in Canberra around October each year and has grown in popularity showing the warm regard that Canberrans have for Nara and the genuine interest Australians have in all aspects of Japanese culture. Highlights of the festival include Japanese food and cultural activities such as calligraphy, origami, lantern-making, martial arts demonstrations, and entertainment.

The centrepiece of the festival is a display of 3,000 candles which are lit at dusk by festival volunteers.

The Canberra Nara Candle Festival will not run in its usual format in Lennox Gardens this year due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, however, we are still encouraging Canberrans to celebrate this relationship and to get involved with some of our Japanese inspired activities this October, culminating with a Foodie Weekend – Itadakimasu – on 22-25 October.


The Canberra Nara relationship has a long history, with the first of many exchanges occurring almost three decades ago. A grassroots movement involving a number of key individuals and organisations in Nara and Canberra evolved to become a formal sister city relationship between the ACT Government and the Nara Municipal Government in 1993.

The official proclamation was signed by Chief Minister Rosemary Follett, on 26 October 1993. The proclamation was formalised the following year when Yasunori Ohkawa, Mayor of Nara, led a delegation of 140 Nara officials and citizens to Canberra, to formally sign the agreement to twin the two cities.

The sister city relationship has seen several milestones in its seventeen years. One notable milestone was the creation of the Canberra-Nara Park in Lennox Gardens. The citizens of Nara raised $100,000 for the development of the park, as well as constructing and shipping over two of the largest stone lanterns ever made in Japan. These lanterns, together with a large wooden gate feature prominently in the park. The then ACT Chief Minister Ms Kate Carnell and Deputy Mayor of Nara Mr Hiromu Kiriki officially opened Canberra Nara Park on 9 October 1999.

Click here for more about the history of the Sister City Relationship.