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Chasing Mountains in July 12

Yamakasa-NaviWhat is this Yamakasa?Chasing Mountains in July 12

Chasing Mountains in July 12

It’s begun! Fun Times at Oiyama Narashi~

The Kakiyama have been run around town twice now (3 times for the Visiting Kakiyama participants) and today is the day of the big practise, the Oiyama Narashi! 

Can you hear the little boys drumming everyone to attention through the Hakata streets? I sure can, they’re right outside our window… Excitement is in the air and from now, the people you’ll be encountering at the side of the road cheering participants on won’t just be locals and relatives, but more and more of the rumoured nearly-a-million tourists. Be aware that as the streets of little old Hakata get crowded you’ll have to be more and more strategic about your timing and getting a place to watch the events you wanna see.

Some reasons to watch the practise/exhibition runs:

– It’s daytime! The Oiyama will be run at the first lightening in the sky. It will be dead early and the streets will be packed; for a more comfortable, laid back viewing experience the exhibition runs are a much better bet. Also if your camera is like mine and allergic to low light, day runs will give you better photos.
– you get to see more Yama! As the Oiyama run is fast, and the course is long, there’s little chance of seeing the entire thing (unless you watch it on TV). The more runs you go and see the more different places you can see them at, and the more photos you can take (of course!)
– Time yourself & know the course! You need to know just how fast these things are running and think about the way that people move around them to plan the best viewing positions for the big day. Because it’ll all be over within an hour from the starting drums; if you’re not careful you’ll be looking at the backs of cheering people and not get to see anything for yourself, let alone take some nice photos home! Or in other words, if you plan your viewing out and know when to move spots, you can see the Yamakasa pass 3-4 times across Hakata town and enjoy a much more vibrant festival experience.
– You can see the turns at Kushida Shrine! I always wondered about this, and my suspicions were confirmed today: on the Oiyama Narashi (today, the 12th July) and the Oiyama, you NEED TICKETS to watch at Kushida Shrine. Not only do you need them, but they are worth 3,000 yen for the 12th and around 10,000 yen on the 15th.

Not only are they expensive, but you can ONLY PURCHASE ONE per person… and you can ONLY PURCHASE IT IN JUNE! when it is SOLD OUT WITHIN 15 MINUTES!!

So if you were planning on camping out at Kushida Shrine’s stadium seating, forget it. With tickets that much in demand, it’ll be hard work finding standing room too. You could get your tents ready at about 11-12 at night outside Kushida Check out Youtube for some videos of prior events and see just how packed they are.

Just so you know!

ALSO! Regardless of whether or not you believe that the Yamakasa being run through town brings rain (it’s been pretty spot on so far…), don’t forget that no matter how sunny it is there’s always a chance that rain showers will appear, as the rainy season isn’t quite over until the Oiyama finishes. Take your folded umbrella everywhere you go!


Practise Runs on 11th July

Right past our office window

Here we go, I tried to get photos as one of the Streams did a run past our office. The power lines get in the way though…

Boom! Kakiyama!

They look like they’re working pretty hard under there.


Front of the Kakiyama

The strongest and most experienced runners (at least in Higashi’s case) will be allowed under the Kakiyama on the final day. But it’s totally up to the Nagare in how they run things. I’m guessing these are the best and brightest though.

Back of the Kakiyama

What’s the cheering guy reaching for? And what’s the other guy pointing at? Maybe the camera, who knows…
I thought the guys on top had a cruisy job, but they work pretty hard leading the chant & waving their arms about.


Back 2

Retreating into the sunset

Can you see how tight of a squeeze this street is?

Ready & Waiting at the Kakiyama

Higashi has space issues, where they leave their Kakiyama they can’t stand it up with its stand. So they store it separately and attach it to the stand (kept under the Kazariyama) every time they do a run. Hardcore, right?


The Oldies & Goldies waiting around for some props

These guys will get greeted & bowed to by every subdivision of Higashi Nagare before the real run starts. Gee it’s tough being boss… this was quite a while before the run though so they were just chilling.


Troops running to greet the bosses

I liked these kids heading back.


Waiting in line for greetings

That’s probably… all of Higashi Nagare. That’s a lot of people… this stage took a good 20 more minutes than I thought it would.


Dudes waiting at the traffic lights

Even before the Kakiyama was running, people were spread out for about a block or two as the “pre-Kakiyama” party is pretty long, and travels quite a while ahead too. That’s where all the oldies and kids go.


And the run begins! Watching from his shop’s doorway

I think he’s an old sushi chef (or maybe I like to think…?) with a mysterious past. Lots of people stepped out of their shops/offices to watch this run. For the bigger events, people even brought out hoses from their own water taps to aid in the soaking effort.


Here comes the Kakiyama!!

They’re pretty into it.


Focus & concentration!

This otherwise blurry low-light day for my oldie camera brought out some interesting results. Maybe I had the settings on something funny? Anyway, let’s pretend it was artistic choice.


And then…. stop.

Higashi stopped outside Kushida Shrine for a while, reshuffled their people and prepared to do a practise run from the “real starting line” that’s marked on the shrine walls. They run in, do a loop around the flag in the stadium bit of the Shrine and then run on.



It was a free seating day. There weren’t many people, but as I had no umbrella I was relegated to a spot under a tree.



Part of their job is to flatten out the “tracks” that other Kakiyama make through the stadium as their bottoms touch the ground. That’s not on; Higashi wants to show us that they won’t be leaving any.



I don’t know why they’re this pink, but they’re very cute, especially when lit up.


Guard of Honour

I think they help guide the Kakiyama to the point at which it should be looping. They line up all the way from the entrance to the flag pole.


Here they come! Running and straining in all their blurry glory.

Is this a spectator sport? Or a religious ceremony? Or a local custom? Bit of everything really. Covers all the Orwellian bases if you’re talking about entertainment for the masses…

SPIN! These two I wanted in their full gloriousness.

I reckon this blur was pretty cool. It’s hard work maneouvering around this pole, but Higashi made it look easy. I gotta say if they’re not the best this year, it’s them and Chiyo. I’ve got some wonderful video evidence to back my assertions up with, but the lead Nishi just aren’t on the right foot…. anyway. Cool stuff!

Gone around!

You can click on these to see the full ones. But you already knew that, right?





And Flick!

And stop again.

Here Higashi stopped to change members, have a talk about strategy & that and do another practise loop (I think).


Smoko break!

I wanted to get these guys when they were smoking more obviously, but I was worried they’d be like, "crap we’ve been caught out!" or something.


Cool dude of the day

This kid totally has the spirit… according to my boss there’s a pretty big gap between the kids and adults where a bunch of 10 and 20-somethings just weren’t interested in participating.

It’s a pretty strict world, and it’s very stratified, so it’s not all that fun to start out with (what is in Japan?) until you work your way up.


Running across the road

I really like it when they cross the big streets… it’s very dramatic somehow.


Left behind…

I ran ahead of the Kakiyama 2 more times but the photos were pretty poor. After looping around that there pole in the distance they went on to Hakata station, and I stayed to take photos of when they came back.


Buckets in a row!


Kakiyama in the distance!

Can you see it?


In the distance 2

Bendy stretch in the road…


And here we are!

Suddenly everything is very blurry and fast…!


Check out the hand motions.

These are the key to the lead guy’s role… they seem to be doing breast stroke in the air quite actively the entire time the Kakiyama is moving, and leading the “Yoissha! Yoissha!” chant.



Meanwhile underneath the guys are holding up, and behind them the guys are pushing to produce forward motion.



And there’s a few steerers, and a bunch of people ahead and behind just strolling and jogging and stuff. A big loud confusing mess!



Run with all your might, people!!

Although everyone carries those ropes, for carrying the Kakiyama, I notice very few of these many many people actually carry it. I assume they switch in and out as the run goes along, but I don’t know if that’s even doable or not. Chances are, the same 30-40-50 guys are responsible for trucking this thing around for the WHOOOOLE week…. My boss tells me it’s seen as weak/lame if your shoulder blisters burst and you show blood. Means you won’t be able to carry the Kakiyama anymore, like a weakling loser, and just before the REAL run too. Team Higashi is HARDCORE!!


That’s it, it’s over!

The buckets have been flipped and left out, the Kakiyama has passed. It’s time to go home. Daikoku’s bucket is waiting for pickup.


Boy & Granddad behind the Kakiyama



I caught one more before they really reached the end point, because Higashi stopped to do a display song out on Taihaku Dori. Aren’t I the lucky one?

Can you see it? It’s the passing of 1 Kakiyama… Click for larger.

An animated gif of the action.

Some of the guys do look like they’re just strolling. What never makes sense to me is, how can they ALWAYS be strolling, but stay ahead of a Kakiyama being run at full speed? It always amazes me. How much of a head start to they get? It makes sense that the back people could be strolling but….


And now packing up…

The Kakiyama arrives at HQ.

People looking pretty tired by now, but they still turn it around carefully for the parking. An example to city drivers everywhere!


Words from the Wise Ones

Commentary, advice, honours, who knows.


Clapping & Bowing response

Check out the people on the bus staring. Heheheheh… once the claps are over the atmosphere is relaxed.



The Kakiyama is back at home, the base back under the Kazariyama… and it’s time for a smoke.

As it got darker and darker my photos got even more blurry… such is old camera technology. But it does pretty well regardless. Higashi are parked in a sort of wide, spacious outdoor cave like enclave inside of this big pink building. It’s a business centre, not 1 minute from where our office is. I come here to use the bathroom. Why is it big and pink and needlessly spacious? Apparently it used to be a department store.


That’s the practise run! Those Kakiyama things move pretty fast….

Some more tomorrow before we go out for the final, pre-Oiyama run.

Adios! Don’t forget, sunscreen AND umbrellas for the rainy season! I almost feel like I’m back in Melbourne…


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