Pictures of All 32 Yamaboko Floats on the Parade of Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri - Part. 1/3

(This article was originally posted in Japanese at 12:50 Jul. 17, 2009)

Gion Matsuri is the general name for festivals dedicated to Shinto god Susanoo, held during summer throughout Japan. Among them, the Gion Matsuri of Kyoto's Yasaka Shrine is undoubtedly the most well known with its history, grandeur and splendidness.

The festival spans the entire month of July and is crowned by a parade, the "Yamaboko Junko" on July 17. Following "Yoiyama" the night before, we took pictures of this parade with 32 floats called "Yamaboko" and marchers in traditional costumes.

Pics after the cut!

Around 6:45 am at Shijo Kawaramachi. We made a head start to secure a good viewpoint.

We took pictures of the Yamabokos taking a left turn form Shijo Street into Kawaramachi Street at this intersection.

Starting to get crowded.

Police and Fire Department preparing in case things get wild.

Around 9:30. He was distributing flyers with descriptions of the Yamabokos.

The parade came in view..

The procession consists of 32 floats, 9 Hoko(lit. long pole) and 23 Yama(mountain)

The first float is Naginata Hoko. The order of the floats is decided by drawing lots; however the Naginata Hoko float is an exception and has been privileged to head the procession for some years.

Crowned by Naginata.

Made by Sanjo-Kokaji-Munechika, a master of sword smithing during the Heian period.

Chigo, a young boy in Shinto robes crowned by a golden phoenix, chosen from among the Kyoto merchant families as the deity's sacred page.

Today, this is the only float to carry a Chigo.

Boys on the left and right performs the role of "Kamuro", the Chigo's servant.

Men on the roof.

Chinese character "長" on their back means long, stands for "Nagi" in "長刀(Naginata)"

These two seem to be signaling and conducting the team with the movement of their fan.

The axles are fixed to the Hoko's body, so the Hoko has to skid on slippery surface (bamboo plates and water) in order to make a turn. This elaborate process is called "Tsuji-Mawashi", considered one of the highlights of the parade.

Preparing the bamboo.


Completed the 90-degree turn.

So this is how it looks like from the side.

There seems to be forty or so people on the Hoko.

Next came Ashikari-yama.

Tapestry of lion must have come through the Silk Road.

Covered in plastic due to the rain this morning.

Yama floats are smaller than Hoko, carrying dolls of mythical or historical figures with miniature torii gates and pine trees.



It says "天神(Tenjin: God of Thunder)" on the torii.

The smaller Yama floats could be turned easily.

It looks like a little shrine.

A treasure box followed the Yama.

They started preparing for Tsuji-Mawashi. The next float must be a big one.

Kanko-hoko came in view.

Top of the pole.

It must feel real good on the roof.

Looks like another "Chigo"

But up close you can tell it's a doll.

The tapestry features a European-looking castle and balloons.



These guys on the side are hayashi musicians, ringing the bells attached to the strings hanging down.


Named after Meng Zong(Moso in Japanese), a man from The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars written in the Chinese Yuan dynasty.

Shijokasa-hoko came.

Led by little musicians.

"Shijo" is the name of a street in Kyoto, "kasa" means umbrella.

This hoko maintains the original shape of the umbrella-type hoko of the Ohnin era (1467-1469).


Named after Guo Ju (Kakkyo in Japanese), another figure from the Chinese book The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars.


Crowned by a tiny moon(tsuki).

Carries a "Chigo" doll.


Also called "Kamakiri-yama".

"Toro" is an older name for "Kamakiri(praying mantis)" and there literally is a figure of a mantis on the float's roof.


Toro-yama is the only float with clockwork feature, and the mantis's humorous movements are really loved by children.

Part 2 will cover the next ten floats, from Aburatenjin-yama to Yamabushi-yama.

Related Posts:
Unique and Peculiar Food Stalls at “Yoiyama” of Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri - GIGAZINE

Videos of Yamaboko Floats in Pre-Parade Event “Yoiyama” of Kyoto’s Summer Festival Gion Matsuri - GIGAZINE

Video of whole procession in Kyoto’s ancient “Aoi Matsuri” festival - GIGAZINE


in Note,   Coverage, Posted by darkhorse_log