Yamahoko Junko Procession Brushes off Wind and RainGion Festival's Saki Matsuri in Kyoto17 July 2015 - Sightseeing/Events
The first float procession, "Saki Matsuri," of the Gion Festival, one of Japan's three major festivals, took place around the center of Kyoto City on July 17.Though there were fears that the procession would be suspended due to Typhoon No. 11, 23 floats decorated with gorgeous ornaments paraded through the avenues of Kyoto again this summer, fascinating visitors who lined up along the route.
A heavy rain warning had been issued since the morning of that day in Kyoto City. While the rain and the wind were strengthening at intervals, the "Yamahoko Junko" procession started.
At 9:00 a.m., the floats set off from Shijo-dori Karasuma with the signal shout of "En-yara-ya," The parade proceeded through the urban valley created by the tall buildings accompanied with the sounds of creaking wheels and the "Gion-bayashi" festival music. In Shijo-dori Fuyacho, the "Chigo," or sacred child, participated in the "Shimenawa-giri-Gi," or ritual of cutting of the sacred plaited rope. That was followed by the Moso Yama float, in the position of this year's "Yama Ichiban," or initial float, and other floats parading past.
The body of each float was covered with a sheet to protect it from rain. Townspeople attended holding their umbrellas. There was a brief scene of the paper, on which the float order is written, dancing in the wind during the "Kuji Aratame," a ceremony confirming the order of the floats. The procession flowed from Shijo-dori Street, through Kawaramachi-dori Street, and then to Oike-dori Street. At the intersections, "Tsuji Mawashi," or the massive floats' ninety-degree turns, were performed, drawing a clamor and applause from the spectators.
Currently, Shijo-dori Street is under construction to widen the sidewalks. In places, the extended sidewalks shortened the distance between the floats and spectators, so people could watch the procession more easily than usual. On the other hand, the road has been narrowed from two lanes in each direction into one lane each. With the addition of the overlap of bad weather, the sight of "Kurumakata," or festival staff, carefully handling the floats was observed.
According to the Kyoto Prefectural Police announcement at 10:00 a.m., approximately 32,000 people filled the streets, 18,000 less than last year.
The Gion Festival is held to pray for the elimination of epidemics by Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto. On July 24, the remaining ten floats will parade in the "Ato Matsuri" procession.(translated by Galileo, Inc.)