Gion Festival, Saki-MatsuriTwenty-three Floats Gorgeously Parade through Ancient Capital's Streets17 July 2016 - Sightseeing/Events
The float procession, highlight of the "Saki-matsuri," or former festival, of the Gion Festival, unfolded on July 17 in Shimogyo Ward and Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto. The festival is one of Japan's three major festivals. Decorated with brightly colored tapestries, exquisite metalwork and woodcarving, the 23 magnificently splendid floats are also referred to as "moving museums." They paraded through the main streets of the ancient capital, accompanied by festive music.
The festive music stared at 9:00 a.m. Upon the signal shout of "En-yara-ya" by the float's parade masters, the headmost Naginata-hoko float started from Shijo-dori Karasuma Higashi-iru. As the float reached Shijo-dori Fuyacho, Ryushin Kumeda, the 11-year-old "Chigo," or sacred child, cut off the sacred rope stretched across Shijo-dori Street with a single stroke of a glittering sword.
In Shijo-dori Sakaimachi, the Yamabushi-yama float, which won this year's first "Yama" float position for the first time in 24 years, underwent the "Kuji Aratame" ceremony to confirm the procession order, followed by the Hakurakuten-yama float, Moso-yama float, and so on. At each intersection, "Tsuji mawashi," or floats' 90-degree turns, were performed. Spectators delighted in watching the roughly ten-ton floats veer dynamically.
On Shijo-dori Street, slow-tempo festive music, such as "Hono-bayashi" and "Watari-bayashi" was played. Afterwards, the up-tempo "Modori-bayashi" was played along with the parade. Around 1:40 p.m., the tail end of the procession passed Shinmachi-dori Oike. As the festival date fell on Sunday for the first time in five years, approximately 190,000 spectators, or 125,000 more than last year, enjoyed the festival, according to the Kyoto Prefectural Police announcement. In the evening, the Shinko-sai ritual was held at Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward.
The Gion Festival is a festival of Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward. It consists mainly of Shinto rituals with portable shrines and the float processions. The float processions are one of Japan's Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. Its origin is said to date back to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, which was in the 14th Century. The procession of the "Ato-matsuri," or latter festival, will take place on July 24, in which the remaining ten floats will parade.(translated by Galileo, Inc.)