Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com

This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.

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2011/07/15 - Hakata Gion Yamakasa Report Trip

As a person with a disliking for big crowds, I have mixed feelings towards the reporting of festivals which often includes stressful competition for photo spots and hours of direct exposure to the summer heat. But some of Japan's festivals come with such deep traditions and intoxicating dynamics that they are worth overcoming these concerns. The Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival in Fukuoka is one such festival.

The Hakata Gion Yamakasa is held every year during the first half of July and climaxes with a spectacular time trial race in the early morning hours of July 15. In the race, seven neighborhoods of Fukuoka's Hakata district compete in pushing beautifully decorated festival floats along a five kilometer long course through the city.

We arrived in Fukuoka the afternoon before the race, when several of the neighborhoods were pushing their floats through the streets in a last practice run.

A festival participant blocks off a street during the practice run
Practice run on the grounds of Kushida Shrine, the festival's host shrine
Water is used to cool down the participants and reduce friction between the street surface and the wheel-less floats

After watching the practice runs in the afternoon, we rested until 1am in the night. This is when all the seven competing floats gathered around Kushida Shrine and line up behind the start. Food stands and a relaxed festival mood enhanced the atmosphere further.

Floats lined up in front of the start line
A foreign visitor enjoys the night's festival atmosphere

From 2am we rested for another two hours ahead of the start of the race, which took place at 4:59am. Despite the early time of the day, thousands of spectators lined the five kilometer long race course, which includes several tight turns and long stretches along both narrow lanes and broad streets. Many onlookers were reserving their spots hours in advance.

20 minutes ahead of sunrise - at 4:59am - the first float started into the time trial race
The remaining six competing floats followed in five minute intervals
It took each team about 30 minutes of intense efforts to complete the course
Temperatures in the early morning were already approaching 30 degrees
This year's times displayed at the festival headquarters

In the past, the race used to involve much bigger floats that stood over ten meters tall and weighted over two tons each, but due to the introduction of power lines in the Meiji Period, today's floats are "only" about five meters tall and one ton heavy. However, the taller floats have not disappeared from the festival, either. Known as "decorative floats", about a dozen of them are erected and exhibited in fixed spots across the city.

A decorative float exhibited in Canal City Hakata
Traditional design of a decorative float
And a less traditional design

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List of Posts:

2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
2018/10/15 - Toyosu Market Opens to the Public
2018/09/05 - New Skyscraper opens in Shibuya

2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/11/10 - Crossing Kyushu half a year after the Kumamoto Earthquake
2016/04/09 - Busta Shinjuku - a new bus terminal opened on top of Shinjuku Station

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takada
2015/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumagaya
2015/02/07 - Trial Run to Kanazawa

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2014/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2014/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Kurikoma
2014/09/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake
2014/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2014/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Uji

2013/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2013
2013/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2013/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2013/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2013/07/13 - Countdown to the Gion Matsuri
2013/07/10 - Nagoya Castle gets back its palace
2013/07/09 - Ise Shrine Rebuilding
2013/04/25 - New bath house opens in Kusatsu Onsen
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2013/03/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/02/28 - Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival
2013/01/27 - Winter Visit to Shirakawago

2012/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2012/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Sounkyo
2012/10/17 - Autumn Color Report: Shiretoko
2012/10/09 - Tokyo Station Renovation
2012/10/04 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2012/10/03 - Grapes and Wines at Katsunuma
2012/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/12 - Another Trip to Iwaki
2012/05/11 - Sneak Peek from Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Rainy visit to the Ise Shrines
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2012/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tottori
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2012/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/15 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2012/03/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/02/28 - Kumano half a year after Typhoon #12

2011/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2011
2011/12/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2011/11/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2011/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2011/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2011/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2011/11/02 - Autumn Color Report: Mitakesan
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Towadako
2011/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan
2011/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Fukushima
2011/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Zao
2011/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2011/10/13 - Tokyo Fall Colors?
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2011/10/04 - Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/10/03 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/09/27 - Two mountains in central Japan
2011/09/15 - Furano in September
2011/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2011/09/13 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2011/09/12 - Failed Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/07/15 - Hakata Gion Yamakasa Report Trip
2011/06/29 - Eastern Hokkaido Report Trip
2011/06/01 - Ogasawara Report Trip
2011/05/18 - Kagoshima Report Trip
2011/04/29 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Hiraizumi
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Matsushima
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/20 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2011/04/17 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Nikko
2011/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2011/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2011/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2011/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2011/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2011/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/02/11 - Shiretoko Fantasia 2011
2011/02/07 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011

2010/12/15 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/12/09 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/12/06 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2010/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2010/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Ise
2010/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2010/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2010/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Akita
2010/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Kurodake
2010/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2010/05/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2010/05/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2010/05/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2010/05/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2010/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2010/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2010/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Inuyama
2010/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima
2010/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2010/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2010/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/02/22 - Guu Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/19 - Zakkushi, Vancouver
2010/02/14 - Hapa Izakaya, Vancouver
2010/02/09 - Yuji's Japanese Tapas, Vancouver
2010/02/08 - Miku Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/07 - Shuraku Restaurant, Vancouver

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/12/08 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2009/11/24 - Research in Nara Prefecture
2009/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Onuma Park
2009/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu Onsen
2009/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Shikotsu-Toya National Park
2009/09/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kusatsu Onsen
2009/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake Onsen
2009/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2009/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2009/07/14 - Furano Lavender in full bloom
2009/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2009/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2009/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yokohama
2009/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/02/27 - Rainy Izu Peninsula
2009/02/26 - Cherry Blossoms in Kawazu

2008/11/20 - Miyajima
2008/11/18 - Mino Park
2008/11/12 - Fuji Five Lakes
2008/10/28 - Shirakami Sanchi (2)
2008/10/27 - Shirakami Sanchi
2008/10/16 - Nikko
2008/10/10 - Akagiyama
2008/10/08 - Shiretoko Peninsula
2008/09/26 - Sounkyo Onsen
2008/09/25 - Daisetsu Kogen Onsen
2008/09/24 - Mount Asahidake

2007/12/08 - Arashiyama Hanatoro
2007/04/12 - Kanazawa's wealth of attractions
2007/04/04 - Sanyo Coast in Full Bloom
2007/02/28 - Niseko and the Australian invasion
2007/02/27 - Cassiopeia Night Train
2007/01/31 - Cherry Blossoms in Okinawa
2007/01/26 - Skiing in Naeba

2006/12/03 - Chichibu Festival
2006/12/02 - Tanigawa Onsen (Minakami)
2006/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (11): Hotel Report
2006/11/25 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (10)
2006/11/24 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (9)
2006/11/23 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (8)
2006/11/22 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (7)
2006/11/21 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (6)
2006/11/20 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (5)
2006/11/19 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (4)
2006/11/18 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (3): Takao
2006/11/17 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (2): Hieizan
2006/11/16 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (1)
2006/11/08 - Shima Onsen
2006/10/25 - Autumn colors at Mount Tanigawa