Everything happened more than 770 years ago. At this time, Hakata was facing a serious plague epidemic!
Enni (円爾), a monk founder of Jotenji temple, made a tour of the city standing on a float carried by men. He was throwing sacred water to people and soon after that the epidemic was gone. Today Hakata people are still celebrating this legend!
About Enni san : https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/EnniBenen.html
HAKATA GION YAMAKASA is the most important festival of Fukuoka! The 2 first weeks of July, 7 teams are getting ready for the race of their life. The first 10 days, floats over 10 meters high, made by many artists are exposed around Kushida shrine, the related shrine of the festival. After that the different teams practice for the big race that stand on the last day of the festival 15th of July. On this day, each team (hundreds of men) wearing old fashion strings is carrying a 1 ton mini shrine. The name of this race is "Oiyama" and the race is 5km long. the first totem shrine start at 4:59 in the morning.
Many people gave up going to Yamakasa because it is so early. I asked many Japanese people if they went to the festival and many of them answered me “I couldn’t wake up” or “I went last year”. To make sure not to miss it, I decided not to sleep. With many friends we gathered in Kego Park the night before and then joined the festival. Everyone was nice, a 45 years old couple brought me to the best viewing place, a small street behind Toshoji temple. They event paid me a beer.
Usually, one side of the float is very traditional and the other more modern like this one with Star wars design.
So many people are coming to the festival, there is over 1 million people along the 5km race waiting to see the show at 5 in the morning, it is very impressive. The race is supposed to represent the monk Enni, that why people also throw water to each other! Also it is very funny cause the runners are repeatedly saying "Oisa, Oisa,Oisa..." all the time to motivate themselves !
The week before the race you can enjoy the tallest floats at Hakata station, Canal city and many other places.
Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival is a UNESCO world heritage ! Kushida Shrine converted like a mini stadium and is the starting point of the race.
One of our previous staff Vanessa, made an interesting Youtube video about Yamakasa : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cb3KZLA16SY
you can feel the strong Japanese mood. So authentic.
If you want to be sure not to miss anything, I highly recommend Fukuoka Now magazine.
On their website, you can find all the information about the festival !
I wish I can run the 5 km with all of them next year, maybe with the special outfit ! who wants to see that ?
Other festivals in Fukuoka ? : https://yokanavi.com/en/festival/