Kyoto Shimbun 2014.7.17 News

Newest Beauty in 49 Years
Float Procession in the "Saki-matsuri" of Gion Festival

The float procession of the "Saki-matsuri," or former festival, of the Gion Festival, one of Japan's three major festivals, paraded through Nakagyo and Shimogyo Wards, Kyoto, on July 17. As the procession was divided into two days this year due to the revival of the "Ato-matsuri," or latter festival, after a 49-year interval, 23 of the total 33 "moving museums" floats proceeded through the avenues of Kyoto.

At 9:00 a.m., it was a sunny day with temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, according to Kyoto Local Meteorological Office. Upon the signal shout of "Enyaraya" by the float leader, the Naginata-hoko float, which is traditionally exempted from the ticket-drawing and fixed to the lead position of the parade, started from Shijo-dori Karasuma. Its huge rocking body, weighing about 11 tons and about 25 meters in height, was followed by the Urade Yama float, which occupies this year's first "Yama" float position.

As the floats passed Shijo-dori Fuyacho, the "Chigo," or sacred child, on the Naginata-hoko float cut the sacred rope with a glittering sword. At that moment, huge cheers went up from the roadside.

In Shijo-dori Sakaimachi, the "Kuji Aratame" ceremony was held to confirm the procession order that was determined in the "Kujitori-shiki," or ticket-drawing ceremony. At each intersection, the "Tsuji mawashi," in which the floats were dynamically turned around with a roar on bamboo logs on the street, was performed.

According to the Kyoto Prefecture Police, as of 1:00 p.m., approximately 110,000 people, about 30,000 less than last year, were watching from the street side as the procession of floats decorated with gorgeous ornaments and accompanied by the "kon kon chiki chin " festival music melody passed by.

The Gion festival is a festival of the Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward with 1,100 years of history, and has its origin in "Goryo-e," or a religious service to drive away epidemics. The floats serve as heralds of portable shrines, gather gods of plague, and purify the parishes. On July 24, the "Ato-matsuri," or the latter festival, will be held by the remaining ten floats.

(translated by Galileo, Inc.)

Photo= The Naginata-hoko float performing "Tsuji mawashi" at the head of the procession (July 17, the intersection of Shijo-dori and Kawaramachi, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto)