Hakata is a ward of Fukuoka City that is famous for its ramen. Back in June, The Gaijin Ghost reported for TDR Explorer on a 42-foot Star Wars float that was coming to the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival. Upon returning from a two-day trip to the festival last month, yours truly also posted a breaking news item to SlashFilm about the float’s appearance at the festival.
Some of the pictures in that article appear to have lost resolution, however. Here you can see better quality versions, along with some additional pics/video that were not included in the article.
The Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival ended on July 15th, but for Star Wars fans who could not make it to Fukuoka (of whom there are probably many), you can still vicariously experience the float here.
Below you can see the Yamakasa on display in the Kami Kawabata Shopping Arcade in Fukuoka. The unique Japanese design depicted the characters Kylo Ren, Rey, BB-8, C-3PO, and R2-D2.
Every year, seven other floats, representing the seven districts of Fukuoka City, participate in the festival’s lively street races. But those are all smaller, much more portable floats.
The sheer size of the eighth Yamakasa always makes it the highlight of the races. And this year the Star Wars Yamakasa served as the eighth one. As noted on SlashFilm, the sight of this thing being carried aloft provoked oohs and aahs from the mob of spectators gathered outside Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka.
Here you can see men in fundoshi (Japanese loincloths) hoisting the float as part of its procession through the city. A cool feature of the Star Wars Yamakasa was that it was capable of retracting its upper half, to avoid hitting street posts.
Actually, “Hakata ramen” is another name for tonkotsu ramen, meaning ramen topped with sliced pork (and in Ichiran’s case, spicy red powder). But since this dish originated in Fukuoka, and Hakata is the historical name for Fukuoka, the name stuck. Today it can be regarded as a sign of local pride.
At Ichiran, they are all about the experience of the food itself, and for this reason, they try to minimize your face-to-face interaction with the kitchen staff or other customers. Dividers are placed between each seat, and a shade is pulled down between you and the kitchen, keeping your eyes focused firmly on the bowl of noodles in front of you.
Speaking of food, for many, the symbol of Fukuoka is its food stalls, called yatai in Japanese. On the islet of Nakasu, along the water, there is one famous stretch where the food stalls are brought in on motorbike trailers and set up every evening, to begin doing business around 6pm.
Since the Ghost was there on a rainy weeknight (one that unfortunately came in the wake of a recent flooding disaster in Fukuoka), there were fewer yatai than normal. Still, there was some pretty delicious yakitori (chicken skewers) and motsu ni (innards stew) on offer.
The Nakasu yatai are also located very close to Canal City Hakata, a shopping center that is reminiscent of the San Antonio Riverwalk. This is one of the sites where a taller Yamakasa float is put up on display every year. If you stick around long enough, you can see the float juxtaposed with a water show on the canal.
Note that Canal City contains a branch of the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, Shanghai’s renowned xiaolongbao, or soup dumpling, haven. And for some reason (perhaps Fukuoka’s closer proximity to China?), the soup dumplings at this branch are much better than the ones at the branch in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. Here the Kagoshima beef xiaolongbao comes especially recommended.
Feel free to share or repost any of the pictures in this post, but if you do so, please give credit/link back to The Gaijin Ghost. After posting that article on SlashFilm, this writer had his first experience with someone plagiarizing his work on the Internet; they swiped photos and only made superficial changes to the wording of the article, before trying to pass it off under their own name on a different website.
Imitation is a form of flattery, sure, but when a person lifts content wholesale without giving credit, it feels like a violation.