From the end of June, groups of men decked out in their finest Yamakasa happi start appearing around Hakata. Known as “Naga happi,” these navy and white coats are a formal attire that can be worn on any occasion, from weddings to funerals, and even in the best of hotels.
There are two things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of living in this city or, more importantly, want to work for a company with roots in the region. Start familiarizing yourself with these two important local customs: the Hakata-Te-Ippon and the Hakata-Iwa-Uta. Te-Ippon is a ceremonial rhythmic hand-clapping performed at the end of gatherings to bring the occasion to a peaceful, lively close. Te-Ippon, also known as “tejime” or “teuchi” outside Hakata, embodies the tacit understanding that objections may no longer be raised. Te-Ippon is not only reserved for official meetings, but is performed at the end of all kinds of social gatherings, even after a drunken night in Daimyo!
Here’s an introductory lesson to Hakata-Te-Ippon: spread legs slightly, keep hands at about shoulder width, and follow along as the leader chants:
“Yo!” (clap, clap) “Mahitotsu!” (clap, clap) “Ioute, san do!” (clap, clap, clap)
This “ioute,” which sounds pretty much like “yoh to,” marks the end of a meeting.
The Hakata-Iwai-Uta is usually sung before the Hakata-Te- Ippon at most occasions, so it’s a good idea to also get it down pat.
At dawn on July 15, the first team of Yamakasa enters Kushida Shrine and chants “Iwai Uta.” You shouldn’t miss this! The timing and melody can be a bit tricky, so make sure you learn it from a pro. Better yet, why not just take part in Yamakasa, I guarantee you’ll get hooked!