Home
Back

The Hakata Gion Yamakasa (_R}) is one of the most interesting festivals in Japan. It 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.

The festival features two different types of floats:

The larger kazariyama floats stand over ten meters tall and weigh over two tons. In the past they used to be raced through the streets, however, with the introduction of power lines in the Meiji Period (1868-1912), this became problematic, and today they only serve as decorative floats. 14 of them stand spread out across the city from July 1 to 14, including two at Hakata Station and Canal City Hakata.

For the race, smaller-sized kakiyama floats - about five meters tall and one ton heavy - are used today. There are seven of them, one for each of the neighborhoods participating in the race. The floats do not have wheels and are dragged through the streets, while water is spread in front of the float in order to reduce friction between the float and the road surface (and to cool down the participants).

From July 10 to 14, the seven teams hold several practice runs and parades in preparation for the main race. A good English booklet is available with detailed maps and time schedules for these events which are interesting to watch. On July 15 just after 1am, all teams line up behind the start line, which is located in front of Kushida Shrine, the festival's host shrine.

On July 15 at 4:59am, just before sunrise, the first team starts into the race, followed by the other teams in five minute intervals. Despite the early time of the day, thousands of spectators line the five kilometer long course, which includes several tight turns and long stretches along both narrow lanes and broad streets. It takes each team roughly 30 minutes of intense effort to complete the course.

There is ample of space to see the race along its long course, except around some of the more spectacular sections, e.g. the start area, where people show up hours in advance to reserve good viewing spots. Paid seating is available in the small court yard of Kushida Shrine, where each team has to push its float around a pole, but high competition makes these seats virtually impossible to get.

Getting there and around

The festival takes place in the Hakata district of Fukuoka. Kushida Shrine is located a short walk from Kushida Shrine Station (1 minutes, 210 yen from Hakata by Nanakuma Subway Line) and Canal City Hakata or a 15-20 minute walk from Hakata Station.

How to get to and around Fukuoka

Hotels around Fukuoka

Top rated in Fukuoka
Budget:
    • Hotel Great Morning
      Luxury
      Conveniently located in Fukuoka, Hotel Great Morning offers a gluten-free breakfast and free WiFi throughout the property. This 4-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The property is non-smoking and is set 400 metres from Reisen Park. At the hotel, all rooms have a desk, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels. The rooms come with a kettle, while some rooms also offer a kitchen with a dishwasher, a microwave and a stovetop. All guest rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Popular points of interest near Hotel Great Morning include Tsunashiki Temman-gu Shrine, Hakata Traditional Craft and Design Museum and Kawabata Shopping Arcade. The nearest airport is Fukuoka Airport, 4 km from the accommodation.
      View on Booking.com
      9.2Booking.com
    • A.T. Hotel Hakata
      Mid-range
      Conveniently situated in the centre of Fukuoka, A.T. Hotel Hakata provides 3-star accommodation close to Higashisumiyoshi Park and Otowa Park. The property is around 1.9 km from Konko Church - Minami Ward, 2.1 km from Kamimuta Park and 2.1 km from Nakahie Park. Free WiFi is available and private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. Certain rooms include a kitchen with a fridge, a microwave and a stovetop. The hotel offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub and terrace. Popular points of interest near A.T. Hotel Hakata include Mizuho Park, Ninjin Park and Hie Park. The nearest airport is Fukuoka Airport, 2 km from the accommodation.
      View on Booking.com
      9.1Booking.com
    • Yagura Hostel
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring 1-star accommodation, Yagura Hostel is set in Fukuoka, 1.1 km from Maizuru Park and less than 1 km from Terumo Jinja Shrine. Featuring a shared lounge, the 1-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and luggage storage space for guests. All rooms in the guest house are fitted with a kettle. All rooms include a safety deposit box, while selected rooms also offer a balcony. All guest rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Yagura Hostel offers a sun terrace. The accommodation provides a laundry service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near Yagura Hostel include Fukuoka Castle, Ohori Park and Nagahama Park. The nearest airport is Fukuoka Airport, 8 km from the guest house.
      View on Booking.com
      9.1Booking.com
    • Hotel Marinoa Resort Fukuoka
      Luxury
      Looking over Hakata Bay and a yacht harbor, Hotel Marinoa Resort Fukuoka features spacious guest rooms with an ocean view, a relaxation spa and a stylish French restaurant. This hotel is located right next to Marinoa City Fukuoka outlet shopping mall. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property. Each room is fitted with a comfortable sofa and a balcony, and in-room facilities include a flat-screen TV, a fridge and an electric kettle. Some rooms feature a DVD player or a coffee machine. Guests can enjoy an ocean view from the balcony or while soaking in a bath. Two complimentary bottles of mineral water are provided daily. Fukuoka Marinoa Resort Hotel offers a 24-hour front desk, car rentals and laundry services. Drinks and snacks vending machines are available on site. Free parking is available. The hotel is a 40-minute bus ride from JR Hakata Shinkansen (bullet train) Station. Fukuoka Tower and Momochi Bayside Park can both be reached within a 15-minute bus ride. On-site Bleu Ciel restaurant serves original French dishes prepared with local seafood and other seasonal ingredients.
      View on Booking.com
      9.0Booking.com
    • Guest House Nakaima
      Budget-friendly
      Conveniently located 5 minutes away on foot from Gion Station, Guest House Nakaima is located in Hakata District of Fukuoka. Free WiFi is available in all guest rooms. Touchouji Temple is 500 m from Guest House Nakaima. The nearest airport is Fukuoka Airport, 4 km from Guest House Nakaima.
      View on Booking.com
      9.0Booking.com
    • GRAND BASE Hakata Naraya
      Mid-range
      Featuring 3-star accommodation, GRAND BASE Hakata Naraya is situated in Fukuoka, 400 metres from Tsunashiki Temman-gu Shrine and 700 metres from Nakajima Park. The 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The property is 4 km from the city centre and 400 metres from Okihamainari Shrine. All units at the hotel are fitted with a seating area. All rooms in GRAND BASE Hakata Naraya are fitted with a flat-screen TV and free toiletries. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kagami Temmangu Shrine, Zendo-ji Temple and Honko-ji Temple. The nearest airport is Fukuoka Airport, 4 km from GRAND BASE Hakata Naraya.
      View on Booking.com
      9.0Booking.com
    • Miyako Hotel Hakata
      Luxury
      Open from September 2019, only 150 metres from JR Hakata Train Station, Miyako Hotel Hakata offers stylish rooms with a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. The famous Nanzoin Temple is a 30-minute train ride away. The air-conditioned rooms at Miyako Hotel Hakata come with pyjamas and slippers. Guests can relax in the bathtub or watch a pay TV programme. Miyako Hotel Hakata is a 3-minute walk from the popular electronic megastore Yodobashi Hakata, and it is a 15-minute walk from Tocho-ji Temple. The Tenjin area is a 5-minute subway ride from nearby Hakata Station, and Fukuoka Airport is just a 5-minute subway ride away. Fukuoka Castle is 5.5 km away, and the lively Nakasu area is 2.5 km from the property. A bar and cafe lounge are also on site.
      View on Booking.com
      8.9Booking.com
    • GRAND BASE Hakata Sumiyoshi
      Mid-range
      Situated in the centre of Fukuoka, within 600 metres of Fujifilm Photo Salon Fukuoka and less than 1 km of Ninjin Park, GRAND BASE Hakata Sumiyoshi features accommodation with free WiFi. Accommodation is fitted with air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchenette, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with shower, free toiletries and a hairdryer. A fridge and microwave are also available, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Sugawara Shrine, Higashisumiyoshi Park and Sumiyoshi Shrine. The nearest airport is Fukuoka Airport, 3 km from GRAND BASE Hakata Sumiyoshi.
      View on Booking.com
      8.9Booking.com
    • GRAND BASE Hakata Gofuku
      Mid-range
      Located in the centre of Fukuoka, GRAND BASE Hakata Gofuku has well-equipped accommodation featuring free WiFi, 50 metres from Saiko-ji Temple and 70 metres from Genjuan Temple. The accommodation features a hot tub. Accommodation is fitted with air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen with a dining area, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bidet, free toiletries and a hairdryer. A fridge and microwave are also provided, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Junshin-ji Temple, Shofuku-ji Temple and Sesshin-in Temple. The nearest airport is Fukuoka Airport, 3 km from GRAND BASE Hakata Gofuku.
      View on Booking.com
      8.9Booking.com
    • Dream Inn Hakata
      Mid-range
      Dream Inn Hakata is situated in the centre of Fukuoka, not far from Shofuku-ji Temple. Complimentary WiFi is available. The accommodation comes with a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave and kettle, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bath and bidet. A bicycle rental service is available at this property. Tocho-ji Temple is 1.5 km from the aparthotel, while Kego Shrine is 2.1 km from the property. Fukuoka Airport is 2 km away.
      View on Booking.com
      8.9Booking.com