Yamahoko, the float ceremony of the Kyoto Gion festival

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On July 17 every year, the Gion Festival in Kyoto in central Japan culminates in a grand procession of yamahoko, floats known as ‘moving museums’ because of their elaborate decoration with tapestries and wooden and metal ornaments. The festival is held by the Yasaka Shrine in the neighbourhood of Gion and the thirty-two floats are built by the residents of the city’s self-governing districts, who have transmitted the tradition for many years. Each district works with musicians to play in the orchestras that accompany the parade as well as diverse artisans to assemble, decorate and disassemble the floats, which proceed in an order determined each year by lottery. The floats come in two varieties: yama floats with platforms decorated to resemble mountains and hoko floats dominated by tall wooden poles originally intended to summon the Plague God so that he could be transformed into a protective spirit through music, dance and worship. Today, the yamahoko parade is a representative urban summer festival showcasing the creative spirit and artistry of the float-building districts and providing entertainment for the entire city.

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On July 17 every year, the Gion Festival in Kyoto in central Japan culminates in a grand procession of yamahoko, floats known as ‘moving museums’ because of their elaborate decoration with tapestries and wooden and metal ornaments. The festival is held by the Yasaka Shrine in the neighbourhood of...

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