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Fukuoka: Hakata Heats Up With Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival 2017

Fukuoka: Hakata Heats Up With Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival 2017

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Held in Hakata, Fukuoka city in July annually, Hakata Gion Yamakasa is the festival of Kushida Shrine. The floats called yamakasa run around the city and people race carrying the floats. Let's feel the heat of summer with this festival!

Translated by Kayoko Windle

Written by Mayu

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What is the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival?

博多祇園山笠

©︎JNTO

Held in Hakata, Fukuoka city, in July annually, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa is the festival of Kushida Shrine. Registered as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, it originated 800 years ago, when an epidemic was raging in Hakata. A monk prayed to disperse the epidemic while riding on a wooden float and spreading water around the area.

The festival lasts for eight days, during which hundred of energetic men run around Hakata carrying floats called yamakasa. You can see the best part of the festival on the last day, oi-yamakasa. Here, teams of men race over 5km with a yamakasa float starting at 4:59 am. You will surely be overwhelmed by the dynamic way they carry the float.

The passion of Hakata residents for Hakata Gion Yamakasa is so tremendous that some companies even let participants have the day off for the festival. You can truly feel summer has arrived with Hakata Gion Yamakasa this year - the festival 2017 schedule, access, and highlights are as below.

Schedule of Hakata Gion Yamakasa 2017

博多祇園山笠

©︎JNTO

Below is the schedule of Hakata Gion Yamakasa 2017. There are some unique words exclusive to this festival; carrying the floats around is 'kaku', and the people that carry the floats are called 'kakite'.

The 2017 festival starts on Saturday, July 1st before continuing on Sunday, July 9th through Saturday, July 15th. You can only see the moving yamakasa on 6 days from July 10th to 15th. Let's take a closer look at each day of the schedule.

Nagaregaki on Day 3 and Day 7 (July 10th and July 14th from 16:00)
These are display days where each team's yamakasa is toured around its own area.

Asayama on Day 4 (July 11th 5:00 - 6:00)
From the early morning, yamakasa is toured around its own area.

Tanagaregaki on Day 4 (July 11th 15:00-17:30)
Each yamakasa leaves its own area and is displayed to other areas as well.

Oiyama-narashi on Day 5 (July 12th from 15:59)
The rehearsal for oi-yamakasa on the last day. Kakite, or the people carrying the floats, run their fastest for 4km from Kushida Shine competing with other teams.

Shudan-yamamise on Day 6 (July 13th from 15:30)
All yamakasa floats get together in the central Fukuoka. They run the 1.3 km street from Gofukumachi crossing to Tenjin.

Nagaregaki on Day 7 (July 14th 16:00-17:00)
The second nagaregaki to prepare for oi-yamakasa on the last day.

Oi-yamakasa on Day 8 (July 15th 4:59)
By the sound of a big Japanese drum, each yamakasa float heads to Kushida Shrine. After they have arrived at Kushida Shrine, the kakite run their fastest through the 5km of oi-yamakasa course.

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