An overview of the main events
The Hakata-Gion-Yamakasa festival begins at the 1st of July. From the very start of the festival all 7 Kazariyama (飾り山: decoration mountain) are out on display in the center of Hakata.
The time between the 1st and the 9th is called the “quiet period” since the Yamakasa aren’t run around the city yet. During this period it is a good idea to explore Hakata and look at the all of the pompously decorated Karaziyama. The Kazariyama among Hakatas many business centres and busy shopping centres with the portable mini-restaurants, that open along most major public places, give the, even more lively than usual, Hakata a festive aura.
Also many shops in Hakata hold special events and offers during this time, so cease the opportunity and go shopping by the festive atmosphere!
It is generally said, that a Kazariyama is best viewed from the distance equivalent to its own height (around 10 meters).
So when arriving at the Kazariyama, position yourself around 10 meters away from it an try to take it all in.
The puppet maker, that is in charge of building it, also gives his instructions from that angle, fine-tuning everything to look good from that point of view.
Usually the signs explaning the Kazariyama are important to jundging their quality, but the signs are only available in Japanese. So if possible, get a Japanese friend to translate. Or maybe translations can be found online a few days after their reveal.
Since the Kazariyama are dedicated to the Kushida-shrine, they are mostly placed in public places near by. The locations are usually not too far away from the shrine.
However it can happen, that one or two Karaziyama are built at a more remote location, or that you would like to visit some other sites all over Fukuoka. For this case Fukuokas very diverse and useful traffic system comes in handy. The trains, subway and busses arrive in short intervals and the subway system is easy to understand making it easy to traverse the city.
Having your own map and marking the places you want to go is still advised.