Just across the border of Fukuoka in Saga Prefecture on the coast lies Karatsu, a large coastal town. In addition to having a well-known castle, Karatsu is also one of three places in Japan that host a Kunchi festival. A Kunchi festival? What is that? It is one of Japan’s intangible folk cultural properties.
In addition to Nagasaki and Kurume, Karatsu is the place to see the Kunchi festival, which has been going on since the early Edo period. In essence, the festival is a harvest festival but it is so much more than that. Like the Hakata Gion festival in the summer, it features huge floats. However, the ones in Karatsu have wheels and are pulled by teams of local school students shouting “enya, enya”.
From 2 to 4 November, these teams drag around the floats around the main streets to the north of Karatsu station. Lining the streets are various food stalls, offering a variety of local and Japanese food. Here are some videos that I took of the festival:
Getting to Karatsu Kunchi Festival
There are a couple of ways to get to Karatsu. The most obvious way is by car. From Fukuoka, head east along the coast using E35/202 until you get to Karatsu. Alternatively, you can take a bus there from Hakata Sation that will follow the same route. The bus is called からつ号.
From Hakata Station, you can also take the Kuko subway line to Meinohama. If you take one of the Nishitetsu subway/JR trains, you can stay on it past Meinohama as it becomes the Chikuhi Line run by JR Kyushu. If you do not get one of those trains (large, white ones that say “Commuter Line”), you can change to that line at the Meinohama station in Fukuoka. This train goes directly to Karatsu and takes 1.5 hours from Hakata Station.
Because the route uses the Kuko subway line in Fukuoka, you can also get on this train in Tenjin and any other subway station in Fukuoka, making it very convenient to get to Karatsu.
The festival itself is free to see and attend. That being said, I recommend taking money with you for the street vendors. You will certainly find food and maybe other goods that you would like to enjoy. The parade starts around noon, so being there a bit early is helpful to get a good place along the road to watch from.
Want to explore more festivals in Japan? Explore my interactive travel map here!
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