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Video introduction - "Hakata Gion Yamakasa" Fukuoka Prefecture

This video, titled "Hakata Gion Yamakasa 2022 Ichiban Yamakasa "Ebisu Nagare" (博多祇園山笠2022 一番山笠「恵比須流」), was uploaded by "KBC Kyushu Asahi broadcast."

Hakata Gion Yamakasa is a Japanese summer festival held mainly in the Hakata Ward of Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, in Japan's Kyushu region. 2022 marked the first time in three years that the festival floats, called Yamakasa, were paraded through the city of Fukuoka. This video shows the climax of the festival, called Oiyama.

The Yamakasa of the Ebisu Nagara district, the first Yamakasa of 2022, is swiftly carried to Kushida Shrine. After the gallant shouts of the men, a festive song, which is sung only by the first Yamakasa, can be heard throughout the area. You can feel the power of the Yamakasa and the excitement of the people in the video. Be sure to check it out to feel the passion of the people carrying the Yamakasa for yourself.

What is Hakata Gion Yamakasa? History and Facts About the Unique Summer Festival of Fukuoka, Japan

Image of Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Fukuoka
Photo:Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Fukuoka

Hakata Gion Yamakasa is a Shinto ritual dedicated to Kushida Shrine, the chief Shinto deity of Hakata. Along with the Hakata Dontaku Festival, it's one of the most popular festivals in Fukuoka.

The origin of the festival dates back to 1241. It's said to have originated when the Zen priest Seiichi Kokushi sprinkled water from a platform carried by the people and prayed for the eradication of an epidemic. (The theory according to the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Promotion Association)

Hakata Gion Yamakasa, which will be held for the 782nd time in 2023, was registered as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1979, and its history and traditions have been recognized by the government of Japan. Every year, the festival attracts many spectators, both foreign and domestic, and it's estimated that as many as 3 million people attend the festival.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa is characterized by the seven "nagare" that support the festival. A nagare is a regional organization comprised of several towns. The origin of these nagare dates back to when Toyotomi Hideyoshi called for the reconstruction of the war-torn Hakata area, and divided the area into districts nearly 500 years ago. Each Nagare carries its own Yamakasa (festival float), and the sight of them running through the town is truly impressive.

The costumes of the men who carry the Yamakasa are different for each nagare, and the unique mizu-happi coats (a special type of happi) and shimekomi (a type of loincloth) show off the unique culture of the festival while enhancing its atmosphere.

Women do not carry the Yamakasa, but they support their husbands participating in the festival from behind the scenes. Today, Yamakasa are also carried by children in order to allow them to experience the tradition and pass it on to the next generation.

There are two main ways to enjoy the festival: Watch the yamakasa floats being carried through the city as fast as the carriers can run, or enjoy the decorative floats parading through the towns.

The Highlights and Climax of Hakata Gion Yamakasa

Image of decorated yamakasa floats at Kushida Shrine
Photo:Decorated yamakasa floats at Kushida Shrine

Hakata Gion Yamakasa is a festival with a long history. Here, we'll introduce the different things to see and do at the festival.

●View the Gorgeously Decorated Yamakasa
During the festival, decorated floats are displayed at 14 locations throughout the city. The decorated Yamakasa are different from the yamakasa that are carried at high speed through the city and are beautifully decorated with dolls made by doll makers from Hakata.

While historical events and Japanese folktales are often used as themes for the floats, the back side of the Yamakasa floats are often inspired by anime and TV programs. Because of this, children can also enjoy the festival by seeing their favorite characters on the floats.

●The Group Yamakasa Run
The Group Yamakasa Run is an event in which the Yamakasa are carried from Hakata and into the center of Fukuoka City. The sight of the Yamakasa running one after another through the center of the city attracts many visitors, adding to the excitement, making it a popular attraction in Fukuoka.

Oiyama is the climax of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. Starting at 4:59 a.m. in the early morning, Yamakasa floats run a 5-km course from Kushida Shrine to the finish, competing for the best time. The area is crowded with visitors who come to see the powerful Yamakasa.

The tense atmosphere before the Yamakasa festival begins is quickly followed by a surge of excitement and shouts of encouragement. The momentum of the Yamakasa floats and the dynamic way they run through the streets will take your breath away. This is the best part of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check it out in the video.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa 2023: Festival Dates and Schedule

The official website has announced that the 2023 Hakata Gion Yamakasa will be held from July 1st to 15th as in previous years.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa starts on July 1st. Starting with an event to purify the area, decorated Yamakasa will be displayed, and visitors will be able to see Yamakasa being carried every day, starting with Nagaregaki on July 10th.

On the 11th, Asayama and Tanagaregaki are held, on the 12th, Oiyamanarashi, a rehearsal for Oiyama, and on the 13th, the group yamakasa event will be held in the center of Fukuoka City. On the 14th, the last Nagaregaki of the year, and at 4:59 am on the 15th, the Oiyama finale will take place, bringing Hakata Gion Yamakasa to a close.

What Is Hakata? A Brief Introduction to the Ward in Downtown Fukuoka

Hakata is a ward in Fukuoka, Japan with a population of 256,000. Extending from the port to the hills, Hakata is located directly in the center of Fukuoka and is rife with ancient temples and shrines, as well as various famous landmarks.

Besides Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Hakata Dontaku is another famous festival that takes place in Hakata, and there are also numerous events that are held throughout the year.

Hakata is also famous for its specialty Hakata Ramen which is characterized by its cloudy pork bone soup and super-thin noodles. If you're looking for things to eat in Hakata, this is a must- try!

Summary of Hakata Gion Yamakasa

Image of Kushida Shrine, Hakata, Fukuoka
Photo:Kushida Shrine, Hakata, Fukuoka

Hakata Gion Yamakasa is a summer festival in Fukuoka with many highlights. There are 7 districts that participate in carrying the yamakasa floats, all of which have their own unique characteristics and decorations.

If you're planning to go to the Oiyama finale or the group yamakasa event, be sure to prepare in advance as many residents and tourists are expected to attend the event. Be sure to check the schedule and course information on the official website before making your way to the event. And don't forget to take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself from the heat!

There's plenty of things to do in Fukuoka Prefecture, so if you're planning on traveling to Fukuoka, consider lining up your trip with the festival. It's sure to be an unforgettable experience!

【Official Website】Hakata Gion Yamakasa

Written By
Last Updated : Jun. 29, 2023
鈴木 正孝(Masataka Suzuki)
A writer born and raised in Asakusa, Tokyo who loves traveling and novels
Hakata Gion Yamakasa – See the Powerful Floats and Learn About History and Highlights of the Summer Festival in Fukuoka, Japan!
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