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Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide 2024

Welcome to Yamakasa, welcome to Fukuoka!

It’s likely you’ve already seen men, dressed in traditional loincloths, sprinting through the streets. These energetic individuals are participating in Hakata Gion Yamakasa, the most eagerly awaited yearly festival in Fukuoka.

This festival’s most celebrated event starts sharply at 4:59 am on July 15, when thousands of men from seven different districts carry massive one-ton floats through the city streets in a spectacular display of strength and camaraderie. This is known as the “Oiyama,” the peak of the festival. Included within the festivities is the “Kushida-iri,” a ceremonial procession that winds around the sacred grounds of the Kushida Shrine.

However, the allure of Yamakasa extends far beyond just Oiyama. Our comprehensive guide offers more insights into this magnificent local festival, the grandest in all of Fukuoka. Please note that this guide will undergo several updates in the near future – revisit for the most current information.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

Yamakasa Schedule 2024
Special Train Service for Oiyama Viewing
Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival Map 2024
Watching the Festival
Festival Tips
Yamakasa Trivia
Kyushu Live – Hakata Gion Yamakasa Live 2024

Read a rundown of the festival by Jesse Kirkwood, Fukuoka Now’s reporter on the scene.
Fukuoka Topics “Hakata-Te-Ippon”, “Okushida san – Kushida Shrine

And what about those fabulous decorative floats displayed around town? Click on the link below for a full guide to this year’s displays.
Hakata Gion Yamakasa Kazariyama Guide 2024

Yamakasa Schedule 2024

July 1 (Early morning)

In this ceremony, each team purifies their district area. A small offering of decorated bamboo and purified rope is displayed on the main street corner of each team’s territory, praying for safety. Decorative kazariyama floats are showcased throughout the city.

July 1 (Morning)

In this event, the God of Yamakasa is welcomed. A priest visits each kazariyama (decorated Yamakasa float) to pray for safety. Portable kakiyama shrines are built and sanctified. In the evening, this year’s designated team heads to Hakozaki beach to retrieve purifying sand (oshioi) while wearing mizuhappi.
Fukuoka Now Kazariyama Guide 2024

Kazariyama Ritual - Goshinire, 博多祇園山笠 御神入れ

July 9 (Evening)
Oshioitori (Fetching the Sea Salt)

This ritual serves to pray for safety during the festival’s events. Participants from each team run from Hakata to the Hakozaki beach to collect purifying sand (oshioi). On their return, they visit two of Japan’s major Hachiman shrines: Hakozaki Shrine and Kushida Shrine, where they receive sacred sake. The sand is later sprinkled on runners’ feet as a blessing, marking one of the highlights of the Yamakasa Festival.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

July 10 (Evening)

This marks the first kakiyama practice run where teams rehearse carrying floats within their districts. As each team’s route changes yearly, the specific route information has to be obtained from a reliable source.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

July 11 (Early morning 5:00~6:00 / Afternoon)

At this event, each team, following their own schedule, performs an early morning practice run through their district. Here, children are allowed to ride on the Yamakasa. July 11 is the only day the teams run twice. In the afternoon, some teams practice running into Kushida Shrine.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

July 12 (15:59~)

This rehearsal for the Oiyama run involves participants running a slightly shortened 4 km course through the streets of Hakata from Kushida Shrine. The atmosphere is similar to that of the main event, albeit at a more convenient time.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

July 13 (15:30~)

The first float departs from Gofuku-machi crossing at 3:30 pm. After moving through Meiji-dori, the seven floats align in front of Fukuoka City Hall.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

July 14 (Evening)

Similar to the July 10th run, some teams perform a practice run through their own territory. This evening warm-up offers the last chance to practice and fine-tune technique before the Oiyama.

July 15 (Early morning 4:59~)

This is the culmination of the Hakata Yamakasa festival. Teams begin gathering at 1:30 am, with the first team departing from the starting line at Kushida Shrine at 4:59 am. Thousands of men from the seven districts run through the streets, carrying decorative, one-ton floats. Spectators cheer them on from the sidelines by shouting “Oisa, oisa” and splashing them with water to keep them cool. The course typically takes about 30 minutes to run. After the eighth team departs Kushida Shrine, a Noh farce is performed to appease the gods.

This year’s run order is:
4:59 Daikoku
5:05 Higashi
5:10 Nakasu
5:15 Nishi
5:20 Chiyo
5:25 Ebisu
5:30 Doi
5:35 Kamikawabata

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

Hashiru Kazariyama: Kazariyama floats are for display only, but on July 12 (at 4:35 pm) and July 15 (at 5:35 am), the Kawabata Arcade kazariyama is carried from Kushida Shrine along the blue route. (Click here for our detailed kazariyama guide!)

Special Train Service for Oiyama Viewing

The finale of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa, the “Oiyama” starts at 4:59 AM from Kushida Shrine. Major transportation services will operate special trains to accommodate viewers.

JR Kyushu (PDF Schedule for Special Trains)
Special Limited Express Train “Kirameki 91”
• From Mojiko Sta. to Hakata Sta.: 3:01 AM departure → 4:07 AM arrival

Special Local Train “Hakata Yamakasa”
• From Mojiko: 2:20 AM departure → 3:56 AM arrival at Hakata
• From Nogata: 3:10 AM departure → 4:11 AM arrival at Hakata
• From Kurume: 3:24 AM departure → 4:15 AM arrival at Hakata
• From Chikuzen Maebaru: 3:53 AM departure → 4:35 AM arrival at Hakata

Nishitetsu Train (PDF Schedule)
Tenjin Omuta Line
• Express: From Omuta to Fukuoka (Tenjin): 2:35 AM departure → 3:50 AM arrival
• Local: From Hanabatake to Fukuoka (Tenjin): 2:53 AM departure → 4:01 AM arrival

Kaizuka Line (Local Service) from Nishitetsu Shingu to Kaizuka
• 3:42 AM departure → 4:05 AM arrival
• 4:02 AM departure → 4:25 AM arrival

Fukuoka City Subway (PDF Schedule: Airport Line / Hakozaki Line / Nanakuma Line)
• Operates every 10-20 minutes from 3 AM to 5 AM

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival Map 2024

(recommended viewing points, locations of floats, courses)

>> View the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival Map on this larger map


Yamakasa can be traced back 781 years ago to a Buddhist priest named Shoichi Kokushi. Faced with a devastating epidemic, Kokushi was transported on a platform, praying and scattering holy water to cleanse the city. This solemn religious ritual was conducted annually as a measure to stave off the epidemic, gradually evolving into the vibrant festival it is today.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

In the Edo era, the festival followed the lunar calendar, occurring during the first two weeks of June. This later shifted to July. The festival has been a constant occurrence, except for a few brief interruptions during the Meiji era and the world wars.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイドPhoto from Pontafon

Traditionally, the tall kazariyama, floats now designated for display, were used for the running event. However, the advent of power lines necessitated a modification of the floats; they were reduced in size in 1883 and again in 1910 to fit under the electric streetcar lines. The practice of placing dolls on the running floats is relatively new. Post-World War II, due to a scarcity of decorating materials, a large painted wooden plank was used in place of dolls. Floats were also adorned with old kimono sashes, fashioned from Hakata textiles.

Check out our illustrated route map. It offers invaluable tips on the best vantage points to witness Oiyama, the festival’s main event!


The extensive effort and meticulous preparation needed for the Yamakasa festival often go unnoticed by many Fukuokans. Numerous meetings and ceremonies are held at Kushida Shrine throughout the year, with significant preparations kicking into gear from the first of June. Members from each participating district, or nagare, start by selecting a theme and crafting their run float, often with the guidance of renowned doll makers. Some individuals work towards soliciting donations from local individuals and businesses. Towards the end of June, others get involved by erecting tents and setting up tables in their respective districts.

Each of the seven nagare encompasses a large area, further subdivided into smaller units or ku. These divisions form the basis of a broad hierarchy. The tents in each ku become a hub of activities for the festival’s duration. They house meetings, planning sessions, meals, social gatherings, and even provide a place to sleep, nurturing a close-knit, familial atmosphere.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

As July 1 rolls around, the festival activities start in earnest (refer to the event schedule below). On this day, and again on July 9, the Oshioitori ritual takes place. During this ritual, participants from each nagare run from their homes to the beginning of the pathway leading to Hakozaki Shrine. Here, they purify themselves in seawater and collect sand in small baskets. They then scatter this sand at their home entrances as a purification ritual. Practice sessions continue until July 14, all leading up to the grand climax on the morning of July 15. Each event serves to prime the runners and afford the teams time to practice running smoothly and switching positions while lugging the hefty one-ton floats.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

For the final Oiyama run, every team brings their float to the entrance of Kushida Shrine at 3:00 am. The first nagare commences the run at exactly 4:59 am, earning the privilege of halting midway through their lap around Kushida Shrine grounds to sing the song “Iwaimedeta.” After that, the following six teams start at five-minute intervals.

Watching the Festival

The vibrant flurry of activity that unfolds as a run float whizzes by is what imbues this festival with such a thrilling aura. At any given moment, about 30 runners hoist the float, while others run ahead, behind, or flank the sides. By observing the different roles and the way runners switch positions, one can truly appreciate the synergy at play. Those trailing the float play a crucial part as well, serving as “ato-oshi” or “pushers” who drive the float from behind.

This year’s run order is: Daikoku, Higashi, Nakasu, Nishi, Chiyo, Ebisu, Doi and Kamikawabata.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

The four individuals perched atop the float, known as “dai-agari,” bear the responsibility of directing the runners when to change positions. They utilize a red baton (teppo) to signal individual runners to make way for the incoming fresh runners. If a runner doesn’t notice the baton, they may receive a light tap on the head or shoulder as a cue. Carrying the float requires such an immense exertion that even the fittest runners typically cannot endure more than three or four minutes at a time. Usually, they rotate in three or four times over the course of the run.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

The runners’ ranks are distinguished by colored headbands or tenugui. Across the seven nagare, three colors are standardized: red denotes strong, young runners responsible for carrying the float; red and white are worn by the elders responsible for planning and logistics; blue and white represent elders in charge of health and safety.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

Furthermore, each nagare employs additional colors to distinguish other ranks among runners. There are also four types of runners who don woven-colored cloth ropes across their chests to signify their special roles: red indicates those who have the privilege to ride on the float; blue is for the hanadori (steerers) who manipulate the float using ropes tied to each corner; green represents runners who direct traffic; yellow is worn by runners who clear the way for their float. They are also tasked with ensuring the safety of the children, some of whom carry itamanekibata, banners displaying the name of their nagare.


One consistent element throughout the festival is the unmistakable importance of teamwork. The festival operates on such a grand scale that the entire local population of each nagare must come together to ensure its success.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

The essence of team spirit also manifests in the lack of formal record-keeping. You won’t find published statistics on the strongest teams, rankings from previous years, or course records. These are not the primary focus. Instead, the vital elements are to participate cooperatively, function as a team, and, most importantly, demonstrate this collective effort to the gods enshrined in Kushida Shrine.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

Festival Tips

• Photography: Bring along a camera to capture the excitement. Remember, the run begins while it’s still dark, so adjust your settings accordingly. Also, don’t forget to bring some protective cover (a plastic bag or jacket) to shield your camera from splashes of water.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

• Best Viewing Spots: Although the final Oiyama run is spread over a 5 km route, offering no bad places to watch, here are some top tips to get the best views:

1. Catch a Panoramic View:
Try Higashimachi-suji, the street running parallel to Taihaku-dori. As it slopes down towards the port, a spot near the bottom intersection with Meiji-dori offers a fantastic view of the floats approaching from a good distance. But be mindful as the street is quite narrow!

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

2. Enjoy a Double Feature:
The intersection of Showa-dori and Taihaku-dori is ideal to see the floats more than once. After the first pass, you can catch them a second time as they run down parallel streets.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

3. Witness the Starting Line:
For a front-row experience at the starting line, secure a spot in front of Kushida Shrine no later than 4 am (the earlier, the better). After watching three or four starts, consider relocating to a different spot along the route for a change of perspective.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

4. Keep it Comfortable:
If you prefer avoiding crowds or waking up extremely early, consider attending one of the pre-Oiyama run events. Usually held in the late afternoon, these events are less crowded than Oiyama. The stronger afternoon light also makes it easier to capture the action with your camera. (See festival schedule above for details)

Hakata Gion Yamakasa, 博多祇園山笠

Yamakasa Trivia

• The Cucumber Taboo: Participants are traditionally prohibited from consuming cucumbers from July 1 to 14, as a cross-section of a cucumber is said to resemble the symbol of Kushida Shrine. An associated legend tells of a priest from Kushida Shrine who injured himself in a cucumber patch, reinforcing this prohibition.

• Sleepy Scholars: Some teachers in Hakata-area schools, understanding the physical demands of the Oiyama run, permit students who participated in the event to sleep during class.

• Festival Leave: Participating in the Yamakasa Festival is considered a legitimate reason for male employees to take time off work during the festival period.

• Nail-less Construction: Yamakasa run floats are built entirely without the use of nails. Craftsmen utilize dowels, tongue and groove construction, and ropes instead, exemplifying traditional construction methods.

• Purification Rites: As part of the purification rites associated with the Yamakasa, male participants are traditionally expected to abstain from intimate contact with women.

• No Takeda Shingen: Doll figures of Takeda Shingen, a daimyo (feudal lord) from the Edo period, are never used to decorate the floats. This is due to a superstition that his figure brings bad luck, a belief stemming from incidents in the past when his doll was used and misfortune allegedly ensued.

• Traditional Meal: Though not strictly observed today, the traditional meal consumed after completing the Oiyama run typically includes umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum), kamaboko (fish cake), asari-jiru (clam soup), and sake.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Guide, 博多祇園山笠ガイド

Kyushu Live – Hakata Gion Yamakasa Live 2024

We’ll be livestreaming again from the festival several times this year, so subscribe now to our channel, Kyushu Live and never miss the action.

#1. Day 1- The Decorative Floats Unveiled! / 飾り山笠 (July 1, 2024)

#2. Day 10 of Yamakasa 2024 – NAGAREGAKI – the first run! / 流舁き (July 10, 2024)

#3. Day 11 of Yamakasa 2024 – ASAYAMA / 朝山笠 (July 11, 2024)

#4. Yamakasa Grand Finale 2024 / 追い山笠 (July 15, 2024)

Originally written in June 2016, updated in June 2024.
All rights reserved, including all text, photos, and illustrations, by Fukuoka Now. Reproduction in any form requires permission. However, you are welcome to link to this page.

NOTE: The information presented here was meticulously gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. We have strived for the highest degree of accuracy, but there may still be errors or details may have changed since the time of writing. If you notice any discrepancies or changes, please contact us. This report was first composed in June 2016.

Art & Culture
Seasonal Guide
Fukuoka City
Published: Jun 11, 2024 / Last Updated: Jul 4, 2024

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