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Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival

Fukuoka, Japan

What to see in Fukuoka, Japan Travel
5 ton float in the Kawabata shopping Arcade

Every year on July 15, the Gion Yamakasa Festival is held in Fukuoka in the early morning hours, where several teams from different districts of the city compete against each other with a gigantic float. There are 2 different types of floats: a 5-ton float with tons of decorations, which is displayed in each district, and a 1-ton float with fewer decorations, which is used during the race.

The first team starts at exactly 4:59 am, and it usually takes the winning teams about 30 minutes to cover the 5km course.

Unfortunately, my accommodation was outside the city and I didn't have the option of taking public transportation so early in the morning. So I arrived the night before and passed the time by visiting a few yatai (food stalls) and bars.


An hour before the race started, I found a good spot on the course, ate some melon buns and waited for the first team to arrive.

What to see in Fukuoka, Japan Travel
First team arrives, near the 7-Eleven at 4-24 Komondomachi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka

The first runners in yukata and traditional loincloths arrived almost at the same time as the sunrise. Over the next few minutes, the call "Oi-sa" can be heard from afar, slowly getting louder and louder. Finally, the first one-ton float becomes visible, carried by around 30 men, running down the street and around the corner at an incredible speed. The street quickly filled with participants and spectators, all clapping and singing in unison.

Fukuoka Japan
After the race, near Gofukumachi Station, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka

It was an incredible experience and I enjoyed this unique festival.

For those who don't want to get up so early: Between the 1st and the 14th, there are several practice runs where you can watch the racers carry the floats.


Gaman Liang

A Berlin software developer passionate about Japanese language and culture, traveling, climbing, and live concerts.

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