Kyoto Shimbun 2014.7.17 News

Chigo Performs "Shimenawa-giri" Splendidly
Gion Festival's Naginata-hoko

In the midsummer sunlight, spectators' eyes filled with keen interest focused on the hands of the "Chigo," or sacred child. The "Shimenawa-giri" ritual of Gion Festival's Naginata-hoko Float, or cutting of the sacred plaited rope, which is the highlight of the Yamahoko Junko float procession, was held on July 17 in Fuyacho, Shijo-dori, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto. When Masato Hirai, this year's Chigo, powerfully cut the sacred straw, as if breaking a thread of tension, spectators roared with excitement and erupted into applause along the street.

"I want to feel the float really moving." It was just over a month ago that he was appointed this year's "Chigo" and innocently expressed his hopes along with his one-year-older "Kamuro," or assistants. Following that, a ritual of adoption to welcome this Year's "Chigo" into Naginata-hoko Town was held. From July, he has been fulfilling shrine rituals and other events in the town almost every day.

Though still a little boy, he has developed a sense of responsibility day by day as strong pressure presses on his small shoulders. "He gets tired. Sometimes he showed a little selfishness." said his father, Seiichi Hirai, president of Nishiri, a pickled vegetables company in Kyoto. Nevertheless, with an awareness of being a servant of the gods, he paid the closest attention to his movements in the rituals at the shrine and conducted himself bravely. His parents also felt this situation showed the solid growth of their child.

Under the benevolent watch of many people, he successfully met this day. After the "Shimenawa-giri" ritual finished, the Naginata-hoko float started to move again with its wheels squeaking. Kiyo Hirai, his mother, gazed at the float and proudly followed its lead with her eyes, saying, "He realizes that everybody is supporting him and will repay the obligation someday."

(translated by Galileo, Inc.)

Photo= Masato Hirai confidently performs his important duty, "Shimenawa-giri" (July 17, Fuyacho, Shijo-dori, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto)