Karatsu Kunchi Festival
Huge hikiyama floats are artistic masterpieces of Japan's wonderful festival culture
This is an autumn festival held at Karatsu-jinja Shrine which has a history of about 400 years. The Karatsu Kunchi is one of the major festivals of Kyushu.
This festival features floats called hikiyama, the largest ones being 6.8 meters tall and 3 tons in weight. These gigantic floats, which are lacquered and finished with gold and silver leaf, are designed in the images of lions, grampuses, samurai helmets, sea bream, and flying dragons called hiryo, and deserve to be described as artistic masterpieces. The oldest surviving float is the Akajishi - Red Lion, which was produced back in 1819; it has since undergone major repairs 6 times, and still retains its original form to this day. The floats are normally displayed at the Hikiyama Float Exhibition Hall adjacent to Karatsu-jinja Shrine (admission charged). So, if you happen to be visiting this region, you might wish to have a good look at the designs of the floats.
The highlight of the festival is the Otabisho Shinko which takes place on the second day. The sight of people powerfully hauling 14 floats through the sand along Nishinohama Beach, with their wheels getting stuck in the sand from time to time, is an overwhelming spectacle. The festival scenes, together with the people parading with the floats to the unique shouts and the accompaniment of flutes and drums, are broadcast live on TV and on the Internet, captivating the hearts of festival fans not just in Japan but throughout the world.
It is also worth mentioning that this festival has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural property*. This refers to manners and customs related to food, clothing and shelter, vocation, faith, annual events, and folkloric performing arts, etc., which have been established by the people in daily life and passed down through generations, deemed especially valuable by the Japanese Government.
*An important intangible folk cultural property refers to manners and customs related to food, clothing and shelter, vocation, faith, annual events, and folkloric performing arts, etc., which have been established by the people in daily life and passed down through generations, deemed especially valuable by the State.
[Rail]JR Karatsu Station is about 80 minutes from Hakata Station on the Kuko (Airport) Line on the Fukuoka City Subway, or on the JR Chikuhi Line.
Place: The entire city of Karatsu
Dates: November 2nd-4th
City: 3-13, Minami-Jonai, Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture