Yamahoko float parade returns in Kyoto’s Gion festival

Jiji Press
Yamahoko floats parade through a Kyoto street on Sunday.

KYOTO (Jiji Press) — A procession of decorative “yamahoko” floats was held in Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri Festival on Sunday, for the first time in three years after a suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twenty-three yamahoko floats paraded on major streets in the western Japan city, a highlight of the traditional festival, which is said to be one of the country’s three largest festivals.

The annual festival of Yasaka Shrine in the city’s Higashiyama Ward originally started in the Heian period, in the eighth to 12th centuries, to pray for the end of an epidemic at the time.

The float parade was led by the “naginata hoko” float carrying a young child regarded as a divine messenger. Cheers and applause were raised from crowds when the floats staged “tsuji-mawashi” turns at crossings.

“The elegant scene appeared to represent Kyoto. It was worth watching,” a woman, 74, from the central prefecture of Niigata, said excitedly.

With a procession of 11 different floats scheduled for July 24, all 34 yamahoko floats will appear in this year’s festival, including the “takayama” float, which has been absent due to damage to its decorations since the Edo period around 200 years ago.

The festival’s organizers required participants to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and have coronavirus tests prior to the event. Wearing masks during the event was not required, meanwhile, considering heatstroke risks.