Report of Hakata-Gion Yamakasa Festival: Shudanyamamise by our residence artist!

Hello! I am Maya, a July resident at Studio Kura, and am also helping out as an intern artist.
With a couple of other residents, we left for Hakata to see one of the Yamakasa events! While the main event, “Oiyama” happens early on the 15th, we decided to watch an earlier event called Shudanyamamise on the 13th. The Yamakasa takes place over 15 days starting on July 1st, and involves seven districts of Hakata, each with their own elaborate floats.

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Yamakasa started around 750 years ago with a Buddhist priest, Shoichi Kokushi. In an attempt to eradicate a sickness, he was carried on a platform while throwing holy water. This ceremony continued annually, evolving into the Yamakasa festival of today.

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We arrived early and strolled along a long stretch of the course on Meiji Dori and eventually found a good stop to watch by the Fukuoka city hall, where the teams will stop and then loop back. Wave by wave the teams ran by, led by the sign and flag barers, usually a group of children. From small children to the elderly, everyone was dressed in the fundoshi!

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Shouting “Hoisa, hoisa”, each wave carried the “kakiyama” floats down the street as others sprayed water on them.

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Apart from the “kakiyama” floats that are carried, there are taller decorative floats called “kazariyama” which are displayed in the streets. We spotted a couple during our stroll afterwards, and were amazed at how tall and detailed the decorations were.

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It was so exciting to be so close to them rushing past, shouting while water was flying everywhere. We highly recommend checking out any of the events leading up to the 15th!

Thank you for reading,

Maya Cannon presents her solo exhibition “Kami” next weekend on July 22 & 23, the artist talk at 15:30 on Saturday, 22nd.

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