The Yakou Festival is a sweaty, drunken, dangerous night of massive lantern-covered floats intentionally crashing into one another in a contest of maneuvering and brute strength. When the sun goes down, the floats are lit up and paraded through the crowded streets of Tonami City. Festival goers enjoy food from a myriad of booths and drummers and flutists perform traditional songs. Finally, after the crews responsible for steering the floats are sufficiently drunk, the action begins.
Two at a time the floats are pushed towards one another as fast as the crews can run. On the front are giant wooden poles, similar to battering rams, used to inflict as much damage as possible to the opposing team. The floats come crashing together with a loud bang, sending chunks of debris, and crew members, flying. After the initial crash the crews jockey for position by trying to shove the enemy's float back as far as possible. Once one of the teams has been pushed sufficiently far, a winner is declared and the floats are dragged back to their starting positions to square off once more. They collide three times, and the crew with the most wins is declared the victor.
At the end of the night, after all the floats have faced each other, a grand champion is declared and the crews disperse to finish their night of partying. The Yakou Festival is a wild night of sights, sounds, and smells with more than a hint of danger in the air. The shouting of the crews, with rallying cries and instructions and chants, the aromas of the food vendors, and the lights of the floats all come together on the humid, steamy night to create an atmosphere that it truly, uniquely Japanese.
After teaching English in Toyama from 2004 - 2005 & visiting off & on again for the next 8 years, I decided to move here permanently in 2014. I love exploring the cities, festivals, countryside, & culture of this beautiful country.