Karatsu Kunchi Festival
Karatsu Kunchi designated as part of Japan's important intangible ethnic and cultural heritage.
Huge hikiyama floats are artistic masterpieces of Japan's wonderful festival culture. This is an autumn festival held at Karatsu-jinja Shrine which has a history of about 400 years. The Karatsu Kunchi is one of the major festivals of Kyushu.
Karatsu Kunchi is an autumn festival that takes place annually over 3 days from November 2 to 4 in Karatsu City, located in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu in the south western part of Japan. In 1980 the festival was designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Karatsu Kunchi is an epic event in which local people, in time with rhythmical music, pull large floats through the town, to sound of flutes and drums, shouting the traditional prompting, "Enya! Enya!". Huge helmets or lions decorate the base of the floats, known as Hikiyama, which are 5 to 6 m (6 yd.) high and weigh from 2 to 5 tons.
* The basic structure of each Hikiyama is made from wood, and topped with a large decoration made from clay or wood over which, along with hundreds of sheets of washi paper, linen and other materials are laid. The surface is covered with different types of lacquer and finished with gold and silver leaf. It is said that each neighborhood spent enormous sums of money on the floats that took 2 to 3 years to complete. The 14 Hikiyama that are still used today were offered to Karatsu Shrine between 1819 and 1876.