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4 Festivals You Should Experience In Kyushu And Okinawa

4 Festivals You Should Experience In Kyushu And Okinawa

Translated by Allie

Written by MATCHA

2016.05.25 Bookmark

When visiting Kyushu or Okinawa don't miss the local festivals! Hakata Dontaku Port Festival, Hakata Gion Yamakasa, Nagasaki Kunchi and Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri are events worth seeing!

Unique and energetic festivals are held all over Japan. If you come and visit Japan, you should experience at least one festival during your stay. We introduce here four must-see festivals that take place in Kyushu and Okinawa, two areas which are famous for their dynamic, lively festivals.

1. Hakata Dontaku Port Festival


Photo by jpichon_net on Flickr

Hakata Dontaku Port Festival is held annually on May 3rd and 4th in Fukuoka city, Fukuoka prefecture. This is one of the largest festivals in Japan as around 2,000,000 people come and see it. More than 30 stages are prepared, while parades and events are held all over Fukuoka city during these two days.

The best site to enjoy this festival is on Meiji Dōri. A parade performed by groups of people dressed in traditional costumes walk and dance down the street, creating a really energetic, exciting festival atmosphere. The main activities are held at the Fukuoka City Office plaza, a four minute walk from Nishitetsu-Fukuoka Tenjin Station.

For more information
Address: Fukuoka, Hakata, Gofukumachi along Meiji Dōri
Official Website: Hakata Dontaku Port Festival (Japanese only)

2. Hakata Gion Yamakasa



Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival with its 700 years of history is also held annually from July 1st through the 15th in Fukuoka city. Men pull decorated floats called yamakasa (山笠) around. It's fascinating to see such beautiful floats going around the city pulled by teams of men.

Men shout "Osshoi!" when they pull the floats around. This shout itself, "Osshoi!", was selected as one of the 100 soundscapes of Japan in 1996.

For more information
Address: Fukuoka, Hakata, Kamikawabatamachi 1-41
Official Website: Hakata Gion Yamakasa (English available)

3. Nagasaki Kunchi


©Nagasaki City/©JNTO

This is the festival of Suwa Shrine (諏訪神社), the major Shinto shrine of Nagasaki prefecture, held annually from October 7th through the 9th in Nagasaki city. Nagasaki is the only city which had connections with other countries during the sakoku period (*1) in Japanese history, so Nagasaki's local culture was somewhat influenced by foreign cultures (Portugal, Netherlands and China specifically). You can get to see that influence in the Nagasaki Kunchi festival.

Nagasaki Kunchi festival has various activities like dancing shows, parades of mikoshi (*2) and dashi (*3) and other attractions. The most notable performance in the festival is the Ja-odori or dragon dance, where people move a dragon body with music. You will be amazed at this dynamic performance for sure. This Ja-odori is performed at four places: Suwa Shrine, O-tabisho, Kōkaidōmae and Yasaka Shrine.

The most popular place to see Ja-odori is Suwa Shrine where tickets can range in price from 2000 yen all the way up to 30,000 yen depending on the seating location, type of seat and so on. There are also standing tickets, which cost 1500 yen per person. Getting to Suwa Shrine is really easy: first take the tram to Suwajinjamae Station, then walk for five minutes and you will reach the shrine. Nagasaki Kunchi is the festival which represents all of Nagasaki's unique culture. If you are in Nagasaki in October, it's an event not to be missed.

For more information
Address: Nagasaki, Kaminishiyamamachi 18-15 (Suwa shrine)
Official Website: Nagasaki Kunchi (Japanese)

*1 Sakoku period: a time in the Edo period (1603-1868) when the Japanese government controlled and restricted international trade and the emigration of Japanese people.
*2 Mikoshi: a portable Shintō shrine carried on people's shoulders during a festival.
*3 Dashi: a portable Shintō shrines pulled by people during a festival.

4. Okinawa Zentō Eisā Matsuri



Okinawa Zentō Eisā Matsuri is held on the main island of Okinawa on the first Saturday and Sunday of September. Groups selected from the whole of Okinawa island play Okinawa's traditional instruments such as the sanshin (a three-stringed Japanese lute) and drums while singing and dancing. After all of the performances are done, the festival ends with Okinawa's traditional dance Kachāshī (*4), performed by all the participants of this festival.

You will feel the harmony within a whole event. The Kachāshī is held atthe  Okinawa city Koza Sports Park on the last day of the festival. To reach the park, first take the Yui Rail to Asahibashi station, then it is a three minute walk to the Naha Bus Terminal. Take Bus 21 and get off at the Okinawa-shi Undō Kōen Mae stop. An alternate route is to take the shuttle bus which runs every twenty minutes between eight places in Okinawa city and the festival site.

For more information
Address: Okinawa, Moromizato 2-1-1 (Last day of the festival site)
Official Website: Okinawa Zentō Eisā Matsuri (e-flyer in English & Japanese)

*4 Kachāshī: Okinawa's traditional dance; people waive their hands above their head and dance on the rhythm of Okinawan folk songs.

The map of festivals in Kyushu and Okinawa

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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