【UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage】The Karatsu Kunchi, a festival celebrated for a rich harvest and prosperity in business, features large floats called Hikiyama that run through the city. Starting in 1819 with the offering of the Hikiyama known as Akajishi to the local deities as a way to cruise the city, the number of floats increased to fifteen within sixty years. The festival now enlivens the city with the fourteen that still remain to this day. There are many shapes and decorations to the Hikiyama, for instance, mythical lions, sea bream and armor of famous Japanese warriors. Witnessing them all lined up is truly a sight to see. The Hikiyama are set in certain locations throughout the city beautifully decorated in paper, hemp cloths, lacquer and golden flakes. They are pulled by a few hundred local men known as Hikiko that are dressed in the same traditional jacket called Happi.
The festival is held over three days and the Hikiyama lap the city once a day. On the second day the Hikikomi is held, a performance at the festival's sacred area of rest, the Otabisho, located in the local sandy region, as the festival reaches it's climax.
The festival gets heated up during the eve celebration, or Yoiyama, the floats' only night appearance. From 7:30pm on the first day, the Hikiyama depart from Oteguchi near the Karatsu Shrine. The colorful floats become even more mesmerizing when lit up by the chochin lanterns. If you would like to experience the fantasy-like atmosphere of the floats, then make sure you visit the night festival on this day.
From noon on the second day, the festival's most exciting part, the Hikikomi, is held. The route on this day leads the floats to the Otabisho by the beach in Nishonohama. The sight of the Hikiko maneuvering the floats in the soft sand in unison is very impressive.
On the last day of the festival, the last lap before the exhibiting of the floats is held known as the Machi-mawari. The Hikiko use their last remaining strength to dash through town cheered on by passionate festival-goers, while their voices grow with the sound of drums and flutes. Sharp curves prove to be no problem for these spectacular pilots. After cruising the town and fulfilling their duty, the floats return to their exhibition posts and silently wait for next years "Kunchi".
Picture provided by Karatsu Tourist Association
Please follow the directions of the local police and festival staff while viewing and make sure to be safe.
Turns in the road are known to be particularly dangerous to please watch from afar.
JR Karatsu Station
Line: JR Karatsu Line and JR Chikuhi Line
[Nearest Bus Stop]
The temporary bus stop: Karatsu shi Sakaemachi, Showa Jidosha
Line: Karatsu Go (The high-speed bus leaving Fukuoka Airport, Hakata Station and Tenjin)
12min walk to the festival from the nearest bus stop.
Centered around the Karatsu Shrine
3-13 Minami Jonai, Karatsu City