Kyoto Shimbun 2014.7.24 News

Gion Festival: First Ato-Matsuri Procession in 49 Years
10 Dignified Floats, including Ofune-hoko

The "Ato-matsuri," or latter festival, of the Gion Festival's float procession stretched out through central Kyoto City on July 24 for the first time in 49 years. Ten floats paraded magnificently through the streets of the ancient capital along with townspeople, and the huge Ofune-hoko float, weighing approximately 12 tons and revived after 150 years or the end of the Edo Period, rocked along in the final position. According to the Kyoto Prefecture Police, as of 12:00 p.m., there were approximately 60,000 people cheering along the streets.

At 9:30 a.m., it had already reached 31.3 degrees. Under the slightly cloudy sky and with a chorus of cicadas, the Hashibenkei-yama float, in the procession's lead position, gently set off at Oike-dori Karasuma, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto.

The procession stretched towards the deep green ridgeline of Higashiyama. The unfurled scene before one's eyes was a complete change from the "Joint Procession," with the floats following the Saki-matsuri procession, which was held until last year. Although the number of floats was fewer in comparison to the Saki-matsuri, the eyes of spectators along the roadside were riveted on the richly individual floats of the Ato-matsuri procession.

Following that, the Kita-Kannon Yama float in the second position played the "Gion-bayashi" festival music and the Hachiman Yama float in the position of "Yama Ichiban," or the initial float in the Ato-matsuri, fulfilled its role in the "Kuji Aratame," a ceremony confirming the order of the floats. Serving in the final position was the Ofune-hoko float, formerly known as "Gaisenfune-hoko," meaning a triumphal float. Its "triumph" after 150 years drew cheers from the roadside.

The Yamahoko float procession proceeded on the opposite course of the Saki-matsuri procession on July 17, tracing back from Oike-dori Street, through Kawaramachi-dori Street, and then to Shijo-dori Street. "Tsujimawashi," or the floats' dynamic ninety-degree turns, were performed at the intersections.

In Oike-dori Teramachi, the "Hanagasa Junko" procession gorgeously came into sight behind the Ofune-hoko float, and headed for Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto.

For a long time, the Yamahoko float procession was divided into two parts and paraded on both the Saki-matsuri and the Ato-matsuri, as heralds for the passage of the portable shrines of Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto. However, after a dispute over the issue of "religious faith or tourism," the Ato-matsuri was integrated into the Saki-matsuri and the "Joint Procession" was performed from 1966 to 2013. This year, the Ato-matsuri was revived with the goal of returning the festival to its original style. There were 23 and 10 floats, respectively, parading on July 17 and 24.

(translated by Galileo, Inc.)

Photo= The Ato-Matsuri procession heads west along Shijo-dori Street. The Ofune-hoko float is in the last position (July 24, eastward view from Shijo-dori Muromachi, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto)