Kyoto Shimbun 2013.7.17 News

Engrave Chain of 33 Floats in Memory
Ato-Matsuri Procession Revival Scheduled Next Summer

"Yamahoko Junko," or the float procession of the Gion festival, one of Japan's three major festivals, stretched out through both Nakagyo and Shimogyo Wards on July 17. Referred to as "Ugoku Bijutsukan," or moving museums, a total of 32 floats with gorgeous drape decorations and the O-Fune Hoko float's "Karabitsu," or a kind of legged, covered chest carrying the "Shinmen" mask for a sacred Shinto dance, proceeded along the main streets of the ancient capital with the locals' spirit of prayer the elimination of epidemics.

The procession used to be divided into two parts, "Saki-Matsuri," or the early festival, and "Ato-Matsuri," or the latter festival, until 1965. If the conditions are right, the Ato-Matsuri Junko procession is scheduled to be revived from next summer. This year's procession might be the last time a total 33 floats parade all together.

According to the Kyoto Local Meteorological Observatory, the temperature was 27.3 degrees Celsius under a cloudy sky. Upon the energetic signal shout of "En-yara-ya," the parade's leading Naginata Hoko float, which is a "Kujitorazu" float with a traditionally fixed position weighing about 11 tons, headed east along the Shijo-Karasuma Street at 9:00 a.m. On the way, the "Chigo," or sacred child, swung a glittering, long sword down to cut the "Shimenawa" rope stretched along the road.

In Shijo-dori Sakaimachi, the "Kakkyo Yama" float, which held the first "Yama" float position for the second consecutive year, attended the "Kuji Aratame" ritual where the official confirmed its procession order. The "Tsuji Mawashi," or the floats' dynamic ninety-degree turning, was performed at an intersection. The floats were dynamically turned around, sliding with a roar over the watered bamboo logs laid upon the street.

According to the Kyoto Prefecture Police announcement, approximately 140,000 people filled the streets as of 1:00 p.m., about 20,000 less than last year.

The Gion festival has been held at Yasaka Shrine since the 9th century, originating from the "Goryo-e," or religious service to ward off sickness. The "Yamahoko Junko" procession is said to have started in the 14th century. It has been designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan.

(translated by Galileo, Inc.)

Photo= The Gion Festival floats parade through Oike-dori Street (July 17, Eastward view from Oike-dori Street Aburanokoji, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto)