Festivals & Events in Fukuoka
Fukuoka is home to many festivals (matsuri) that are held throughout the year. Of these, the most famous are Hakata Dontaku and Hakata Gion Yamakasa.
Yamakasa , held for two weeks each July, is Fukuoka's oldest festival with a history of over 700 years. The festival dates back to 1241 when a priest called Shioichu Kokushi saved Hakata from a terrible plague by being carried around the city on a movable shrine and throwing water. Teams of men (no women, except small girls, are allowed), representing different districts in the city, commemorate the priest's route by racing against the clock around a set course carrying on their shoulders floats weighing several thousand pounds. Participants all wear shimekomi(called fundoshi in other parts of Japan), which are traditional loincloths.
Each day of the two-week festival is marked by special events and practice runs, culminating in the official race that takes place the last morning before dawn. Tens of thousands line the streets to cheer on the teams. During the festival, men can be seen walking around many parts of Fukuoka in long happi coats bearing the distinctive mark of their team affiliation and traditional geta sandals. The costumes are worn with pride and are considered appropriate wear for even formal occasions, such as weddings and cocktail parties, during the festival.
Hakata Dontaku (博多どんたく?) is held in Fukuoka City on May 3 and 4. Boasting over 800 years of history, Dontaku is attended by more than 2 million people, making it the festival with the highest attendance during Japan's Golden Week holidays. During the festival, stages are erected throughout downtown for traditional performances and a parade of floats is held. The full name is Hakata Dontaku Minato Matsuri.
The festival was stopped for seven years during the Meiji era. Since it was restarted in the 12th year of the Meiji era it has been known as Hakata Dontaku.
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