Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Karatsu Kunchi

It was a bleak skied day, overcast but epic as the train snaked south west clinging to the coastline heading to Karatsu. The annual Karatsu Kunchi festival featuring towering hikiyama floats, lacquered and decorated with gold & silver leaf falls on the first weekend in Novemeber. The sublime floats depict lions, samurai helmets, hiryo dragons and sea bream. The first ever created, a red lion, in 1819 remains beautifully in tact. Drums set the rhythm while wooden flutes tunefully salute the parade as they are carried through the narrow streets and whizzed around each corner of the processions route. The tinniest local children are positioned at the front of each float, increasing in age and height as the procession is pulled past. Lanters bob, and young men chant while balanced atop the washi (papier mache) made structures. Emerald greens, China reds, Imperial blues, decedent golds flood the eyes and raise the heart in a sweeping celebratory vision. 

Fuelled by smoking stalls of yakitori pork , slat and pepper squid tempura and icy Yebisu beer. We made a wish at the 400 year old shrine, watched the foggy sunset out to sea, held tight and warmed ourselves on the masses of smiles lining the streets.