Hakata Gion Yamakasa is now in full swing! Fourteen decorative Yamakasa floats are now set up around the city, heralding in the start of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa, one of the biggest traditional festivals of Hakata. These decorative floats will be on exhibit until July 15, when the festival climaxes with the Oiyama event. (For more info on the big day’s festivities, click here).
The kazariyama floats, also known as kazariyamakasa, are almost 10~15 meters tall. The float located at Kamikawabata-dori is the only kazariyama that will be carried through the street (also known as hashiru kazariyama) during Oiyama. You can also see it being carried through the streets of Hakata during the Oiyamanarashi practice (July 12 in the afternoon) and at the actual Oiyama (early morning on July 15). Don’t miss the experience of watching a giant kazariyama zipping through the city!
The design of each kazariyama changes each year, designed and made by master Hakata doll makers. Although the floats will be demolished after the festival, you can still see some kazariyama all-year-round at Kyushu National Museum, Kawabata Zenzai Square, Kushida Shrine and Fukuoka Airport International Terminal.
View the Yamakasa Map 2018 in a larger map
Photos: Madalina Iosub
Float description translations: Chan Lai Ming
NOTE REGARDING TEXT: Descriptions of the floats have been translated by us in hopes of providing non-Japanese with a better understanding of the displays. Considerable effort has been made to be accurate but there might be factual errors regarding and the spelling of proper nouns. If you notice any, please share your corrections with us and we will make amendments as soon as possible.
Float #2 Chiyo Nagare
On display at: Chiyo, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 鎮西三雄博多護（Chinzei no sanyu Hakata wo mamoru）
Joun Takahashi, Dosetsu Tachibana and their son Muneshige Tachibana defend Hakata during the latter Sengoku Period.
Back theme: 維新回天石堂橋（Ishin kaiten Ishido-bashi）
Shinsaku Takasugi is chased and exiled to Fukuoka. He needs to enter Hakata but he must devise a way to pass through the checkpoint at Ishido-bashi Bridge.
Float #6 Higashi Nagare
On display at: Kamigofuku-machi, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 桃太郎初陣（Momotaro first fight）
Momotaro subdues the devils on his island. The elimination of insolent people prevalent in modern society is the aspiration of this display.
Back theme: 太閤町割縁（Taiko Machiwari no Enishi）
Toyotomi Hideyoshi finished the conquest of Kyushu and planned to reconstruct Hakata in 1587. This reorganization project is called Taiko-cho Town which became a base for modern Hakata.
Float #7 Nakasu Nagare
On display at: Nakasu, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 長政関ヶ原武勲（Nagamasa Sekigahara no bukun）
The East Army of Ieyasu Tokugawa and the West Army of Ishida Mitsunari clash at the Battle of Sekigahara. General Nagamasa Kuroda distinguished himself by persuading Hideaki Kobayakawa to betray the West Army, leading to the victory of the East Army. Kuroda was then granted the area of Nagamasa Chikuzen. The next year, he began building another castle, naming the castle town Fukuoka.
Back theme: 壮烈岩屋城之戦（Souretsu Iwaya-jyo no tatakai）
The Siege of Iwaya Castle in the year 1586 when an army of the Shimazu clan attacks. The castle belonged to the Takahashi Clan who were vassals of the Otomo Clan. After two weeks of war, the Shimazu Clan emerges victorious.
Float #8 Kamikawabata-dori
On display at: Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 義経八艘飛（Yoshitsune Hassoutobi）
Yoshitsune jumps from one to another to reach the ship of an ally. This technique must have been learned from Tengu of Kuramayama in his childhood.
Back theme: 京鹿子娘道成寺（Kyougano Komusume Doujouji）
A gorgeous piece representing kabuki dance, demonstrating the love of a maiden from the ancient legend of Dojoji.
Float #9 Kawabata Chuogai
On display at: Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 先陣 宇治川（Senjin Ujigawa）
“Ujigawa no Senjin” in “the Tale of Heike”.
Back theme: 朝定番アサデス。KBC（Asanoteiban Asadesu. KBC）
“Asadesu KBC” television program on air Monday to Friday mornings at 6 o’clock.
Float #10 Solaria
On display at: Solaria Plaza, Tenjin, Chuo-ku
Front theme: 巴御前（Tomoe Gozen）
Tomoe Gozen is a female samurai warrior who served with her husband Yoshinaga Minamoto. She was known for her bravery and loyalty.
Back theme: 尾張名古屋保城（Owari Nagoya wa Shiro de motsu）
Nagoya Castle is where Tokugawa Ieyasu completed the unification of the nation.
Float #11 Shintencho
On display at: Shintencho, Tenjin, Chuo-ku
Front theme: 武士心薫立花城（Monono funo kokoro wa Kaoru Tachibanajyo）
Muneshige Tachibana is praised as a “man amongst men”, well-known for his unflinching courage and unshakable loyalty.
Back theme: サザエさん（Sazae-san）
A popular character in newspapers and television, Sazae’s family is a peaceful family loved by everyone.
Float #12 Hakata Riverain
On display at: Hakata Riverain, Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 蒙古襲来博多湾（Mouko syurai Hakata wan）
The Mongolian attack (Genko) on Japan during the Kamakura period. Hakata was protected by the walls of defense that still exist.
Back theme: 神話稲羽之白兎（Shinwa Inaba no shiro usagi）
Images of rabbits that appear in Japanese mythology Kojiki.
Float #13 Tenjin 1-Chome
On display at: Tenjin, Chuo-ku
Front theme: 黒田関ヶ原之陣（Kuroda Sekigahara no Jin）
Kuroda Nagamasa distinguished himself at this battle against Ishida Mitsunari’s Western army.
Back theme: 命運耳川の合戦（Meiun Mimikawa no Kassen）
The Battle of Mimigawa between the Otomo Clan and the Shimazu Clan in 1578. The Otomo Clan was led by Otomo Sorin’s brother-in-law Tawara Chikataka while the Shimazu Clan was led by Shimazu Yoshihisa. The Shimazu was advancing north from the Satsuma Province, when Otomo Sorin and his heir Yoshimune moved south to confront them.
Float #14 Watanabe-dori 1-Chome
On display at: Watanabe-dori, Chuo-ku
Front theme: 八俣遠呂智（Yamata no Orochi）
Yamata no Orochi is the “8-branched giant snake” (Japanese dragon). Susanoo-no-Mikoto, who came to Izumo, made Yamata no Orochi sleep with a strong drink before killing it.
Back theme: 愛と勇気のアンパンマン（Ai to Yuuki no Anpanman）
Love and Courage of Anpanman
Float #15 Fukuoka Yahuoku! Dome
On display at: Fukuoka Yahuoku! Dome, Jigyohama, Chuo-ku
Front theme: 躍進玄海鷹（Yakushin Genkai Taka）
Leap ahead, Genkai Hawks!
Back theme: 攻防千早城（Koubou Chihaya-jo）
Chihaya Castle was constructed in 1332 by Kusunoki Masashige. Consisting primarily of wooden and earthworks defenses, Chihaya is an example of fortress design in Japan’s Nanboku-cho period. Located on Mount Kongo in Kawachi Province, it survived a siege in 1333, but was later conquered by forces of the Ashikaga Shogunate in 1390 and then abandoned.
Float #16 Hakataeki Shoten Rengokai
On display at: Hakata Station, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 男西郷どん（Otoko Segodon）
Saigo Takamori was one of the most influential samurai in Japanese history and one of the three great nobles who led the Meiji Restoration.
Back theme: ゴリパラ見聞録（Goripara Kenbunroku）
A popular travel program on TNC-TV broadcast every Saturday.
Float #17 Canal City Hakata
On display at: Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku
Front theme: 激闘三太刀（Gekitou Mitachi）
The Battles of Kawanakajima in the Sengoku period between Takeda Shingen of Kai Province (Yamanashi) and Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo Province (Niigata) in the plain of Kawanakajima, Nagano, “the island between the rivers”, and in the north of Shinano Province.
Back theme: ゴジラ博多上陸（Godzilla Hakata Joriku）
Godzilla appears in Hakata Bay
Extra: Kushida Jinja Shrine
On display at: Kushida Jinja Shrine (Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku)
Front theme: 日本武尊征熊襲（Yamato Takeru no mikoto Kumasowo utsu）
Tells the story of a bear attack which is the origin of Yamato Takeru.
Back theme: 如水九州平定功（Josui Kyushu Heiteino Isaoshi）
In this scene in which Josui, who served with Tokugawa, wins against formidable enemies with only 200 soldiers.
Originally written in Jun. 2016, updated in Jul. 2018.
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NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy, there might be errors and details may have changed. If you notice any errors or changes, please contact us. This report was originally written in Jun. 2016.