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Crowds flock to Karatsu Kunchi festival after UNESCO listing recommendation

The first night of Karatsu Kunchi, an annual festival held at Karatsu Shrine in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, reaches fever pitch on Nov. 2, 2016, following the announcement of UNESCO's recommendation of the festival as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in late October. (Mainichi)

KARATSU, Saga -- This year's Karatsu Kunchi, a three-day autumn festival held annually at Karatsu Shrine, has attracted far more spectators than previous years, after the government was notified that the event -- which had already been on the Japanese government's list of Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties -- would be recommended as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

    Fireworks marked the start of the festival at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, and the first float began its procession down the street. Around 5,000 people pulled the floats, as they chanted along to taiko and flute music that echoed throughout the city.

    News that the festival had been recommended for the UNESCO listing drew a crowd of some 210,000 people, up by about 20,000 people from last year, to the streets to watch the floats go by. For three days between Nov. 2 and Nov. 4, 14 colorful floats modeled after traditional "shishi" lions and samurai "kabuto" helmets will be maneuvered through the city.

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