Hakata Gion Yamakasa is a 770-year old festival held in the Japanese city of Fukuoka. It is based around Kushida-jinja, a Shinto shrine established in 757, in what is now Hakata-Fu, a ward of present day Fukuoka. The original seven districts of Hakata celebrated a summer festival in which floats, called Yamakasa, would be on display.
The large floats are typically "double-sided". Here is the Star Wars side. A different theme is on the other side.
At some point in the 16th century, the floats from the seven districts ended up "racing" against each other. Later, towards the end of the 19th century, it was determined that all of the new-fangled power lines and lights that were crossing above the streets made it impossible for the tall floats to move down the course. So the Yamakasa were divided into 2 categories: Kakiyama, which were smaller and able to be carried and navigated down the streets, and the Kazariyama, which could exceed 40 feet in height and were kept stationary and on display. The Yamakasa depict historic or mythical events of Japanese culture.
The festival is for two weeks each July, and it culminates with the "racing" of the smaller Kakiyama, which are carried by men over a 3+ mile course that typically takes about 30 minutes. Speed is important, but the race must be completed by the men in a "graceful and heroic style," according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
So this year, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, a 42-foot The Force Awakens themed Kazariyama (large) float was built and put on display. This was a break with tradition in that it was apparently the first time such a float was built that did not represent something from Japanese culture. But the big surprise came when the huge Star Wars float was actually carried into the streets and then, after being partially folded down to make it "street legal", participated in the final practice race of the festival prior to the actual competition.
All that was pretty unusual for those familiar with the history of the festival. But for outsiders, the strangest part might be the men in traditional loincloth attire that handle the racing duties. Lots of bare-butted guys have the responsibility of racing gracefully and heroically. It's gotta be tough to pull that off!
The video below shows the Star Wars float in action. You've been warned about the butts!