Hakata Dontaku Port Festival

The Hakata Dontaku Port Festival (previously known simply as Hakata Dontaku) is one of the largest festivals in Japan—certainly the largest during Golden Week, with over two million people visiting Fukuoka City during the festival dates of May 3rd and 4th. Dontaku is also a rather ancient festival, thought to date back to 1179. Like most festivals as old as this one, it has evolved through the centuries from a quasi-religious event (honoring a local lord) to more of a secular party in the streets.

Today, Dontaku is marked by bright, colorful parades with decorated floats and participants in unusual costumes, dancing and making music. But the lines between spectator and participant are somtimes blurred, with the latter encouraging people to join in the action. Unlike the more boisterous Yamakasa festival in Fukuoka in July, Dontaku is more family-oriented and evenly paced, with dozens of related events held throughout the city, especially in the port area.

One of the great things about Dontaku is that it’s a citizen’s festival, with hundreds of groups from neighborhood associations to schools participating. In more recent years, it has also adopted a more international character, with participants (and visitors) from Fukuoka’s sister cities overseas. The increasing international diversity of the festival is also reflected in the costumes, dances and music. This year, if you’re going to get caught in the Golden Week crowds, why not make it Fukuoka’s festive crowds?





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