Float Procession Parades through Kyoto's Summery Main StreetsGion Festival, Saki Matsuri
The first float procession, the highlight "Saki Matsuri," or former festival, of the Gion Festival, one of Japan's three major festivals, paraded through the main streets of the ancient capital in the central Kyoto City area on July 17. According to the Kyoto Prefecture Police, approximately 220,000 people, or 30,000 more than last year when the festival was on a Sunday, visited the festival as it fell in a three-day holiday weekend this year and watched the 23 magnificently splendid floats known as "moving museums." (Related articles on page 10) The Kyoto Local Meteorological Observatory announced that the temperature was 28.5 degrees Celsius under a cloudy sky. At 9:00 a.m., the leading Naginata-hoko float set off from Shijo-dori Karasumahigashi-iru, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, upon the signal shout of "En-yara-ya" by the parade tempo makers. In the Shijo-dori Fuyacho, Kento Hayashi, the 10-year-old "Chigo," or sacred child, riding on the second floor of the float, waved a real s
word side to side and then cut off the sacred rope stretched across the street with a single stroke.
The "Kuji Aratame" ceremony was held in Shijo-dori Sakaimachi. In order to confirm the procession order, representatives from each float dressed in "Kamishimo" ceremonial attire, including the "Yamaichiban" float which drew the ticket for this year's first "Yama" float position, untied the string of the lottery box with their folding fans and presented their "Kujifuda" tickets to the official. At each intersection, "Tsuji-mawashi," the ninety-degree turn made by the roughly ten-ton huge floats, were performed and spectators along the streets applauded.
The wind blew through the streets at intervals. The Yama and Hoko floats returned to each community after the float procession in the Oike-dori Shinmachi area, Nakagyo Ward, passing through Kawaramachi-dori Street, and their dismantlement was immediately begun.
The Gion Festival is held by Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, to pray for protection from epidemics. The float processions are designated as one of Japan's Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. The procession of the "Ato-matsuri," or latter festival, will take place on July 24, in which the other ten floats will parade.(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)