Welcome to Yamakasa
– Welcome to Fukuoka!
You’ve probably already spotted some half-naked men running around town. These men in loincloths are participants in Fukuoka’s most anticipated annual festival, Hakata Gion Yamakasa. The highlight of the festival kicks off at exactly 4:59 am on July 15th when thousands of men from seven districts race through the streets carrying decorative, one-ton floats. Spectators line the streets cheering them on by shouting “oisa-oisa” and splashing them with water to keep them cool. Although the teams are timed, the event is not considered a race. The most successful team must exhibit cooperation and solidarity. This teamwork is not limited to just the runners. Local townspeople also participate by preparing for the festival and building floats almost a year in advance. We hope you’ll find this special map of use on the morning of the 15th. Don’t sleep in, and if you bring a camera, have a plastic bag handy because it gets really wet!
Yamakasa – What and where
July 1: Decorative kazariyama floats displayed around the city.
July 2~9: Nagare (team) meetings and training. Portable kakiyama shrines are constructed and blessed.
July 9: Oshioitori. All teams run to Hakozaki Shrine and beach for purification. Sand is collected and later thrown on runners’ feet as a blessing.
July 10: Nagaregaki. (16:00 to 18:00). Teams practice carrying floats in their own districts.
July 11: Asayama. (05:00 – 06:00) an early version of Nagaregaki.
July 12: Oiyamanarashi. 15:59 rehearsal race starting at Kushida Shrine.
July 13: Shudanyamamise. Floats are carried across the river from Hakata into Fukuoka to be greeted by dignitaries at City Hall.
July 14: Nagaregaki. Evening warm-up for the Oiyama race.
July 15: Oiyama. The main event! Teams begin leaving Kushida Shrine at 04:59.