Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival
A resplendent and gallant summer festival with men racing through the streets while bearing 1-ton floats on their shoulders
Men carrying yamakasa, which are large 1-ton floats elaborately decorated for this festival, race through the streets of Hakata at full speed. The sight of the men concentrating all their energy into the floats captivates the hearts of the spectators who number as many as 1 million people.
The yamakasa floats come in two categories, namely, colorful floats for decorative purposes called kazariyama, and floats to be carried in the festival known as kakiyama. The decorated floats are set up on the street corners on July 1st for display, and you can take a look at them while strolling through the city. They are almost 10 meters tall, and are decorated with samurai or popular anime character dolls produced through the expertise of master Hakata Doll craftsmen. Formerly, men used to run about carrying these tall decorated floats, but because they would get stuck on electric cables and lights, it was decided that they were more suited for display purposes only. The floats exhibited at the Kushida-jinja Shrine can be viewed all year round.
The carried floats are borne by the men from the 10th and the festival culminates in excitement on the 15th. Early in the morning, at 4:59 on this final day of the festival, the first float sets off at the signal of beating drums. This is a contest in which men compete on the time taken to race along a 5 km course, over more or less 30 minutes; although speed is important, they are also required to maintain a graceful and heroic style as they run carrying the floats on their shoulders.
The interesting thing about this festival is that the citizens of Hakata refrain from eating cucumbers during the festival period. Even if they happen to find slices of cucumber in a bowl of salad, they will pick them out. This practice is said to derive from the fact that the pattern of the round cucumber slices resembles the emblem of the festive deity called Gion-sama enshrined in Kushida-jinja Shrine.
[Rail]10 minutes'walk from JR Hakata Station.Or, 5 minutes' walk from Nakasu-Kawabata Station on the Kuko (Airport) Line on the Fukuoka City Subway.
Place: Kushida-jinja Shrine
Dates: July 1st-15th
City: Kami-Kawabata-cho, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City