Hakata Dontaku: japan‘s Largest Festival Celebrating Tradition and Culture
Hakata Dontaku is an annual festival held in Fukuoka, Japan, during the Golden Week holiday period in May. It is the largest festival in Japan and attracts over two million spectators and 30,000 participants. With a history dating back over 800 years, Hakata Dontaku is a celebration of tradition, culture, and community spirit. In this article, we will explore the origins of the festival, its significance, and the various events and attractions that make it a must-visit experience.
Origins and History:
The origins of Hakata Dontaku can be traced back to the Heian period in 1179. It is said to have originated as a festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year and honor the area’s feudal lord. During the Edo period, the festival evolved into a parade known as Torimon, led by people dressed as gods. However, the Meiji era government banned the parade due to its extravagance. Undeterred, the citizens of Hakata maintained the festival by changing the name of the parade to Dontaku, derived from the Dutch word for Sunday, “Zontag.” The Dutch were the only foreign nation permitted to trade with Japan during the Edo period, and their influence is evident in the festival’s name.
The Festival Experience:
Hakata Dontaku is a vibrant and colorful festival that spans two days, May 3 and 4. On the first day, the Matsubayashi Parade reenacts the original parade from 1179. Led by three gods of fortune riding on horseback and a group of dancing children, the parade showcases the rich history and traditions of the festival. The main Dontaku parades take place in the afternoon on both days and feature around 750 groups of performers from Fukuoka and Kyushu. These parades incorporate dancers, marching bands, and the iconic hana jidosha, or flower buses. The festival also includes stage performances, with around 30 stage areas set up across the city, hosting a variety of performances, food stalls, and game stalls.
Highlights and Attractions:
One of the highlights of Hakata Dontaku is the opportunity for spectators to join in the festivities and dance along with the participants. The festival encourages active participation, allowing everyone to experience the joy and energy of the event firsthand. Another attraction is the hana jidosha, decorated floats that cruise through the streets of Fukuoka. Originally adorned with brightly colored fresh flowers, the hana jidosha have evolved to incorporate electronic displays, creating a dazzling spectacle, especially at night. The festival also features groups of extravagantly costumed dancers, who parade through the streets clapping shamoji, rice scoopers. This tradition is said to have originated from a housewife who joined in the festival preparations by tapping the shamoji in her hand.
Location and Accessibility:
Hakata Dontaku takes place in Fukuoka City, specifically close to Tenjin Station, which is accessible by subway from Hakata Station. Dontaku events are held across the city, but the main parade runs from Gofuku-machi Station to Tenjin Central Park. A smaller parade also takes place just outside Hakata Station. The festival’s central location and accessibility make it convenient for both locals and visitors to participate and enjoy the festivities.
Hakata Dontaku is a celebration of tradition, culture, and community that has been cherished for over 800 years. As Japan’s largest festival, it attracts millions of spectators and participants each year. From the rich history and origins of the festival to the vibrant parades, stage performances, and traditional dances, Hakata Dontaku offers a unique and immersive experience. Whether you choose to be a spectator or an active participant, the festival promises to leave a lasting impression. Plan your visit to Fukuoka during the Golden Week holiday and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Hakata Dontaku.
Address And Maps Location:
Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken