The Yamahoko Procession – a Parade of Moving Art Galleries
It is said that the Yamahoko Junko procession began when people walked floats through the streets of downtown Kyoto in an attempt to protect the city from disasters.
The procession is divided into two parts, the Saki Matsuri, and the Ato Matsuri, both of which feature the moving art galleries that are the magnificently decorated Yamahoko floats. The procession is also given an extremely lively background of Japanese “taiko” drum and flute performances.
Check out the article below for more information on both the Saki Matsuri and Ato Matsuri.
The procession kicks off at the intersection of Shijokarasuma and makes its way through the streets of Shijo-dori, Kawaramachi-dori, and Oike-dori.
“Tsuji-mawashi” is the operation of rotating the over 10-ton Yamahoko floats 90 degrees at the different intersections.
By laying bamboo on the road, dowsing it with water and using ropes to pull the float from the side, these absolute behemoths are made to turn 90 degrees. This is an exceedingly demanding operation, so each turn takes quite a bit of time.
The floats that can be seen making these Tsuji-mawashi turns during the Saki Matsuri are: Naginatahoko, Kankohoko, Niwatorihoko, Kikusuihoko, Tsukihoko, Hokahoko, Iwatoyama, and Funehoko
Reccomended Viewing Spots:
The Shijo-kawaramachi Intersection (Most crowded)
The Kawaramachi-oike Intersection
The Shinmachi-oike Intersection
There will be quite a large number of people on the day, so it is best to go early to ensure a quality spot.
Atop the lead-float, the Naginatahoko sits a small boy called the “Chigo” who is traditionally an attendant to the gods. The Chigo is tasked with initiating the procession by using a katana to cut the "Shimenawa" ceremonial ribbon and open the border between our world and the world of the gods.
Although an actual child takes the position of the Chigo on the Naginatahoko float, other floats use dolls in place of real Chigo.
At this event, the Chigo of the Naginatahoko float carries out the “Taihei-no-Mai” blessing to pray for the safety of the festival and expulsion of disease from the city.
The Chigo is a young boy, usually around ten years old and is generally chosen from families with long histories.
The Chigo’s sincere performance of their Chigo-mai dance is very cute as well.
The festive Ohayashi performances, which are made up of 20 people playing a mix of “Kane” bells, “Fue” flutes and “Taiko” drums, are the symbol of Gion Matsuri and a must see for anyone coming to the festival.
The arrangements of the Ohayashi change depending on the float, so you can enjoy going around the city and comparing each performance.
The float features an awesome looking figure of Benkei wielding a massive Naginata long-handled sword and has been designated an Important Tangible Folk Cultural Property.
This float was also designated an Important Cultural Property in Japan.
Regarding the Purchasing of Paid Seating
At the festival, there are paid seating options available where you can sit and relax while you watch the procession.
We recommend this option to anyone who would like to sit down and watch the procession. Together with normal seating, there are several other options, including seats which include English explanations.
For anyone interested, please check the details of the paid seating options below at the official Kyoto travel website.
The festival is often incredibly crowded and smoldering hot, but if you’re going to the effort of coming all the way to Kyoto, then don’t miss out on the opportunity to see one of city’s most popular and most worth while events!