Annual Events in Fukuoka & Japan
Representative festivals and annual events in Japan (asterisk marks festivals in Fukuoka).
1st New Year’s Day (Gantan)
The most important day during the New Year’s Holiday (until the 3rd or 7th); people go to see the first sunrise of the year or visit shrines/temples to receive the new year’s blessings.
Hosted at Hakozaki Shrine, men wearing loincloths scramble for a large wooden ball which is said to ensure good harvest and sound health for the year.
3rd (usually) Setsubun
The day before the beginning of spring in which people scatter beans to drive away evil spirits (i.e. bad luck) in the current year.
3rd Hinamatsuri Doll’s Festival
A festival to celebrate and wish for the healthy growth of girls. Traditional dolls wearing royal costumes are generally displayed from approximately half a month prior to the day. Some regions celebrate it on April 3rd.
3rd – 4th Hakata Dontaku Port Festival*
A Fukuoka citizen’s event that is said to have evolved from the late 12th century’s Mastubayashi Festival. Several entertainment stages are set up throughout the city and a grand parade is also held.
5th Children’s Day
This is the day wishes are expressed for children’s sound growth and happiness whilst expressing thanks to mothers. It originated from a Boy’s Festival called Tango no sekku in which people celebrated the healthy growth of boys. Carp streamers are hoisted outside.
1st-15th Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival*
Festival held at Kushida Shrine. It is said to have originated from the event in the mid-13th century when a high priest, in an attempt to secure protection from a plague, purified the town by sprinkling holy water from a platform held by people. During the festival, decorated floats are erected in Hakata district and around. On the 10th, kakiyama, the racing floats, begin preparing for the climax race of oiyama, which occurs early in the morning on the 15th. Seven dedicated teams representing a distinct kakiyama compete for the best time on an approximately 5km race.
This is an event that is derived from a Chinese legend and a Japanese myth. Two stars in love are separated by a milky way, but they reunite once a year on this day. People write their wish on a strip of paper and tie it on a bamboo branch. Some regions celebrate it on August 7th.
One’s ancestral spirits or deceased family members are remembered in this Buddhist ceremony. The souls of the dead are said to return home during the Bon period, and families living in distant areas gather to visit their ancestral graves; bon-odori is also held in each region. Some regions commemorate this day in July.
September – October Asian Party*
In order to further deepen the ties of exchange cultivated through the Asian-Pacific Exposition: Fukuoka ’89 “Yokatopia,” Asian Month (where events are held across the city to allow citizens to easily come into contact with Asian culture and arts; major events are the Fukuoka Prize, the Fukuoka International Film Festival and the Asia-Pacific Festival), which began in 1990, will be expanded as Asian Party beginning in 2013. In September and October, Fukuoka’s city brand “Create with Asia” is established with the goal to promote creative industry, and in addition to the three major events of Asian Month, new creative industry-related events will also be taken place.
This Shinto ritual held in Hakozaki Shrine celebrates all living creatures in the universe and serves to admonish needless killings. People come to give thanks to the bounty of autumn and pray for the prosperity of businesses and safety of families. During this festive period, the shrine is crowded with over 700 food stalls.
People visit shrines or temples to celebrate children’s growth and to receive God’s blessing. (This event is celebrated when boys are 5 years old, and girls are 3 and 7 years old.)
31st Oomisoka (New Year’s Eve)
The final day of the year. This is a day to wrap up the current year and prepare for the upcoming year. People eat toshikoshi soba (year-end noodles) to wish for longevity, and at midnight, the New Year’s gongs at Buddhist temples are sounded 108 times to clear away the previous year’s earthly desires.