U.S. Consulate Fukuoka Celebrates "Independence-Yamakasa Day"

Posted by Mike Chadwick
July 3, 2010
Yamakasa Festival in Fukuoka, Japan

About the Author: Mike Chadwick serves as Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Consulate Fukuoka in Japan.

July 4, America's Independence Day, falls in the middle of Fukuoka's Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, the city's premiere celebration, which runs July 1-15. Yamakasa, an annual event in this great western Japanese city for over 700 years, is emblematic of both the rich cultural heritage of Japan and the warmth and exuberance of Fukuokans. To take advantage of this synchronicity, and to highlight our shared values and the cultural distinctiveness of the United States and Japan, American Consulate Fukuoka decided to bring a Yamakasa theme to this year's Independence Day reception, which we held on June 30.

Yamakasa is colorful, joyous and raucous, much like celebrations of July 4 in the United States. On the last day of the festival, seven teams of men and kids (no adult women allowed) race while carrying elaborate portable shrines weighing over a ton each on a five-kilometer course through the heart of the city at dawn. No sedate parade here! Hundreds of thousands of spectators cheer on the loincloth- and happi-coat clad runners and throw buckets of water to cool them in the summer heat. This year, Management & Consular Officer Jay Avecilla is racing for the Ebisu Nagara team, but he refused to allow us to post a photo of him in his loincloth.

Although no water was thrown at our Independence Day reception, we did have many leaders of the Yamakasa festivities among the more than 300 guests in attendance. Principal Officer Margot Carrington emphasized in her greeting just how important festivals and traditions such as Yamakasa and July 4 are in uniting communities and showcasing our vibrant cultures -- not to mention having fun! Fukuoka Governor Wataru Aso linked our Independence Day celebration, bringing together American and Japanese customs, to the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, based on shared values and mutual respect. Secretary Clinton's video greeting, subtitled in Japanese, spoke to similar themes of cooperation, in saying "no nation can meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century alone -- all of us have to take responsibility and work together."

After Vice-Mayor Tsurukawa of Fukuoka City gave the kampai toast, guests enjoyed Noh Otsuzumi drums performed by Mr. Shonosuke Okura, and Ms. Nana Katsuki, an award-winning singer who hails from Fukuoka, sang "Hakata Yamakasa," a foot-stomping song of the festival (Hakata Ward, in the eastern part of the city, is where the Yamakasa race takes place).

By the bye, Yamakasa participants traditionally refrain from eating cucumbers during the Festival (the cross-section of a cucumber is said to resemble the symbol of Gion-sama, the patron deity of Yamakasa), so the Consulate was very careful to offer up a cucumber-free menu for the reception. We featured American Independence Day staples, including hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza along with local BBQ pork, fish and rice dishes, typical fare for a muggy summer night in Fukuoka.

The Nakasu Nagare Yamakasa team, joined by Jay Avecilla and standing next to a three-meter ice sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, closed the event by singing "Hakata Iwaimedeta" (Hakata Celebrates) and leading all 300 guests in ceremonial "Hakata Te-Ippon" rhythmic clapping. "Yo!" (clap, clap) "Mahitotsu!" (clap, clap) "I-o-ute, san do!" (clap clap, clap). I think that any party which ends in applause is a success, so our Independence-Yamakasa Day certainly qualified. We left with a little more understanding of each other's customs and traditions, and with plans to be out at dawn on July 15, cheering on our Yamakasa friends as they sprint through the streets of this beautiful city.

Related Entry: Secretary Clinton Delivers U.S. Independence Day Message

Comments

Comments

David
July 3, 2010

David S. writes:

Fukuoka is a wonderful city to vist -- my hosts arranged visits to historical sites and introduced me to wonderful Japanese food. It is very important that the United States continue to enrich our relationship with Japan. Secretary Clinton recognizes this and we applaud her for her wisdom.

BethMarkley
|
Virginia, USA
July 3, 2010

Beth M. in Virginia writes:

I have loved reading all the blogs about how 4th of july is shared & blended w/ the host countries of each consulate. it's been a fun read the past few days. Happy fourth!

palgye
|
South Korea
July 4, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

i`m game over in South-Korea

palgye
|
South Korea
July 4, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Novel in South-Korea.

I thought he was being ignored and want to have their gossip. I'm a coward who is the original. The problem in Korea, a small bacteria Opposition getting fast-growing and she's made an appointment to override the bigger litter, substantive ruling of illegal surveillance and the world public to do, maybe they Bacteria a complaint against the forces of support to By the bacteria is thought to trying to suppress fertility. If you ignore the political power struggle which is,

Physician or ideological issues such as justice and democracy, but - even though the bacteria have not run board and dictatorial.

Want to have added talent, if he ever gave us protection forces disappear situation stays the same thinking jeongchiseryeokman for the advancement investments. The opposition claim that the timing is good, but too awkward so I think.

and i lost all. i`m out.

palgye
|
South Korea
July 5, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Japan Prime Minster

and the Democratic Party of Japan will consider again the crisis. Although the issue of power and a little young, but now there's anything the Democratic Forces in cooperation with 11 days without a victory is hard to believe. It is already anticipated, I think. By the way, do you think will be even more difficult. I've been proven wrong is not difficult. Do not forget, if you help them do repay?

maybe......

(That's getting hard to memorize the name of .....)

p.s
South Korea started the re-election is taking. The characters were coming at me.

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