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Hakata Dontaku Festival

Hakata Dontaku Festival

People dressed up in unique costumes parade through the streets while clapping shamoji spoons and dance on stages and in squares in various quarters of the town. A shamoji, which is a wooden utensil for serving rice, evokes the image of a woman, busy preparing a meal, dashing out to join the parade passing in front of her house. The parade of gorgeously decorated vehicles called hana jidosha is also entertaining. Of all the Japanese festivals held during the so-called Golden Week when there is a series of national holidays from the end of April to early May, the Hakata Dontaku boasts the greatest number of spectators, with some two million people turning out every year. Visitors are also welcome, so don' t hesitate to join in!

The name Dontaku is derived from the Dutch word Zondag meaning "Sunday" or "a holiday." It started in 1179 as a New Year performance known as matsubayashi. In the Edo Period, it evolved into a parade headed by people dressed up as auspicious gods when visits were paid to the Lord of Fukuoka Castle. This parade was called Torimon. Although the Meiji Government banned this parade because of its extravagance, the citizens preserved their traditions by changing the name of the parade to Dontaku. It was also suspended during World War II, but was revived soon after the war ended to bring back life to the town, and contributed to its rejuvenation. It is truly a citizens' festival. Today, it has changed its name to the Hakata Dontaku Port Festival (Hakata Dontaku Port Festival), with a number of events also held around Hakata Port.