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July 22, 2012

Fukuoka Culture Essential: Our First Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival

Last Sunday, we woke up at 3:00am and made our way to the city for the finale of one of Fukuoka's biggest annual festivals- Yamakasa. We met our friends Momoyo and Motoki in the city at 4:00am.

Yamakasa festival is spread across a few days, but the finale is the most exciting part. From the starting point at Kushida-jinja, teams of men race through the streets of Hakata carrying the huge 1-tonne yamakasa floats. The floats are elaborate and heavy, and the men wear special Yamakasa costumes that are quite...revealing (see above photo!)

As we walked around looking for a good viewing place, we passed through the very busy Kushida-jinja.

After a 4am roadside beer, we were ready for the festival. It's a strange feeling for the first thing you drink in the morning to be beer, but it suited the festival just fine...

After the first float passed, we ran down the block to a new vantage point, where we got much closer and much wetter. As the floats pass by, water is thrown onto the runners (and by default, the crowds watching).

We all got wet throughout the festival, but Kamil and I copped it the worst. Towards the end, I had what felt like a whole bucket thrown on my head. All in good fun, of course.

And by 7:30am, we were back home in our bed to finish the night's sleep.


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