Karatsu Kunchi Festival

Karatsu Kunchi is some 400 years old Japanese festival in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture located on the island of Kyushu. The festival lasts three days. It is held from 2nd to 4th of November. The main attraction of this festival are special floats called “hikiyama”. Such a float can be almost 7 meters tall. It can weigh up to 3 tons. The hikiyama is made of wood, clay, sheets of traditional washi paper, linen and other materials. The surface of each float is lacquered and covered with some gold and silver leaves. It usually takes several years to finish a float. There are floats of different shapes – lions, samurai helmets, flying dragons (“hiryo”), grampuses and sea bream. 14 floats participate in the festival. The oldest one is the Akajishi or Red Lion which was built in 1819.

Karatsu Kunchi Festival
Karatsu Kunchi Festival

On the first day 14 floats decorated with lit paper lanterns are pulled through the town. On the second day the festival moves to the Nishinohama sandy beach. The floats led by portable version of the Karatsu Shrine are hauled through the sand. It is an amazing sight. On the third day teams wearing traditional firefighter uniforms of the Edo Period (1603-1868) pull their floats through neighbourhoods. Finally at the end that day all the floats are returned to the Hikiyama Float Exhibition Hall where they are stored.