The Hakata Gion Yamakasa is an annual festival held from July 1st to 15th in Fukuoka City, southern Japan, and it is said to dispel disasters and bring peace and prosperity to the region. This festival has an almost 800-year history and has been registered by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.
Fukuoka City's Hakata Gion Yamakasa concluded with the Oiyama competition early in the morning on July 15th, 2017. It had been the first festival since it had been designated as an intangible cultural heritage, and the approximately 5-kilometer road was enveloped in an air of excitement.
“Yaaa!” Deep-throated calls arose as the men of the Nakasu Nagare group rushed into the Shrine grounds with the first carried float, called kaki yamakasa. They circled the flag and performed a celebratory song called Hakata Iwaimedeta. The spectators joined in, their voices reverberating across the shrine, and then the men carried their float out into the streets of Hakata.
The remaining 6 groups followed, and then the 8th float, a decorated kazari yamakasa, made its grand entry into the Shrine. As each group continued along the course one after the other, spectators on the roadside poured water on them, in tribute to the “prayer water” that the 13th-century Zen monk prinkled as he prayed to drive off a plague in the Kamakura period.
“We pulled ourselves together for the festival this year because it was the first since our designation by UNESCO. We want to pass on this heritage to the children of the future,” vowed Kanya Toyoda, chairman of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Promotion Association.