An overview of the main events
The “Oshioitori” (お汐井取り: ceasing of the tide spring) is held twice a year both at the 1st and 9th of July at the beginning and end of the “quiet period”. At the 1st of July only the district of Hakata (流: Nagare), thats turn it is to host the event, participates in the “Oshioitori”. And at the 9th of July all districts join in to hold it. The process is the same on both days.
The more impressive day to watch is probably the 9th of July since the number of participants is much higher. This is the first occasion to which the participants wear the traditional white water-vest and loin cloth. After the participants from each district are gathered together they all head along a certain path through Hakata to the beach Hakozaki-hama.
On their way to Hakozaki-hama and the shinto shrine Hakozaki-gū the participating men follow a set path through Hakata which leads over the Ishido-Bridge over the river Mikasa-gawa, that Hakatas inhabitants call Ishido-gawa. Between their starting point in each of their districts and the beach they will be joined by a large number of people of all ages, which is why the procession isn’t very fast and easy to follow. However the followed road is not very large and doesn’t have sidewalks, which, combined with the cars, that still drive along this road, is cause for a safety hazard each time. We ask to join in with sufficient care.
The main event of the Oshioitori is at the beach Hakozaki-hama. here you can now actually see the ceasing of the Oshioi (お汐井: tide spring). The site of seeing all the men going to the sea shore to pray for the safety of the Hakata-Gion-Yamakasa festival is one of the most famous sites of the festival.
Even before the group of participants arrive at the beach a lot of litte boys in yamakasa-costumes can be seen there. These are mostly the sons of participating parents, waiting at the beach to join the ceremony when their dads arrive. Since the roughly 10 kilometer walk would be a bit much for the toddlers, they came to the beach in advance.
Dressed in the traditional Yamakasa-costumes these children quickly steal the show with their adorableness.
Since the beach itself is often crowded with photographers, who sometimes in their struggle for the perfect shot will even risk a wet walk through the water, you might want to go atop the bridge that is a bit further in the direction of the sea.
Newsreports and other great photos of the event are mostly taken from that bridge. Sadly however the newly built high speed bridge overhead can come in the way of the perfect foto. (view pictures)
To take the perfect foto you will probably need a telephoto lens and maybe want to bring a pare of binoculars since the bridge is a little over 300 meters away from the beach. Also please be cautious about the traffic along the bridge.
After the ceasing of the Shioi at the beach, the participants return along the way they came to the Kushida shrine, where a group from each district arrives carrying a paper lantern and shouting “Osshoi, Osshoi”. Because of the fantastic atmosphere this creates, photographers often aren’t careful about the traffic, that still goes on around the shrines precincts. We ask to keep this in mind.