Summer Returns to Kitakyushu with UNESCO-listed Floats Festival

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants gather for the Tobata Gion Oyamagasa festival in Tobata Ward, Kitakyushu, on Saturday.

KITAKYUSHU — The Tobata Gion Oyamagasa festival, a 220-year-old event inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, was held in Tobata Ward, Kitakyushu, on Saturday, for the first time in four years due to cancellations during the COVID-19 crisis.

In the festival’s main event, the lantern-covered floats, called Pyramids of Light, were lined up in a procession, as spectators flocked to the venue filled with excitement.

Four 10-meter-tall floats decorated with 309 lanterns in a 12-tiered pyramid shape, along with four smaller floats carried by junior high school students, gathered in front of the Tobata ward office.

With gongs ringing, a group of men in traditional happi coats paraded around carrying the floats, shouting “Yoitosa, yoitosa!”

“Summer has returned to Tobata,” said a 55-year-old man carrying one of the bigger floats.