Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Gion Matsuri - Yamahoko junko

You need to reserve a hot seat on the parade route early because they go fast. We got up as early as 7.30 am and headed for the Kawaramachi-Oike junction. We were dying for some good shots, although we know that we are still one class below Ai Ling. Our photos could not match hers. Is it because of our camera, or our skills ? What say you Eddie.
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The names of the floats are drawn to decide the order in which the floats should be placed for the parade. But the naginata hoko has been given the privilege as head float to lead the procession for some years back.
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In modern times, the naginata hoko is also the only float that has a living 'celestial' child, who has been chosen to represent the shrine god.
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Hoko are giant floats on large wooden wheels. Meanwhile the yama floats are smaller ones. The toro yama float is based on a Chinese fable story, an ancient idea of bravery which was inspired by a mantis - a mantis trying to stop a chariot.
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At each corner, the excitement heightened as huge hoko floats were pulled and pushed over green bamboos which have been split and watered down to enable the float to maneuver the corners. Once everything in proper order, the four men (in front carrying fans) chanted loudly 'yoi yoi yoi to sei' and the rest prepared to pull and steer the gigantic float. The process is repeated 3 - 5 times to make a 90-degree turn.
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We were betting against each other on how many times of maneuvering were needed and the crowds were fascinated when this group of men managed to corner the huge 12-tons hoko by just two maneuvers. They were applauded for their great effort.
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In other hoko floats, puppets were used to represent the shrine god.
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There were several people on the roof of the float. Not sure what task were they required to accomplish, perhaps to maintain the balance of the shingi pole, which can be as high as 22 meters.
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This is the jyomyo yama float. This float depicts a scene during the civil war in 1180. On the Uji river, a warrior monk Ichirai Hoshi jumped over his fellow monk Jyomyo to lead the vanguard during the Uji River Battle. These smaller floats were carried by men on their shoulders when steering the corner. Nevertheless, they did not fail to impress the crowd. Instead of just making a 90-degree maneuver, they turned for several times. Again, the crowd applauded.
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Here comes the funaboko - my favorite float of the festival.
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Policemen on duty had their hands full trying to control the crowd. But I think they did a good job.
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Together we celebrate and share the rich cultural heritage of the Gion festival. In addition, let us all pray in hope for good health and happiness.

More about each yama-hoko floats, click here: http://www.kyoto-np.co.jp/kp/koto/gion/2005/jyunban/jyunban_e.html

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliment Patrick, but I think I had the advantage of a good spot. The photos of the Yamahoko junko were taken last year, I did not go last Sunday. Eddie will testify to the madness of the crowd at last year's Yamahoko junko, how we were pushed about and crammed like a pack of sardines! We went very early to get that spot last year!
Ai Ling

emotionalistic said...

Your photos are not bad too. I like the funaboko too...wonder how heavy is it?? Must be fun being carried around in the funaboko ;P.

Acrix said...

Have seen something like this before in Discovery channeL~ The sharp turn is breath taking :P Like wat emotionalistic said, ur photo is nice as well~ The Mr Kentucky look fresh with the japanese costume, i wonder when will the M'sia KFc dressed the Mr Kentucky in malay costume~

zbjernak said...

is very nice..
very very educating leh...

love all the cultures...despite being so technoligically advanced...is amazing that the traditional culture is still being practiced...is SUCH A BIG SCALE...

japanese is really fascinating
good one

Patrick Leong said...

ai ling : in fact, we did manage to secure a nice spot, although the smell from the drain was a little stinky. we were quite comfortable this time and eddie is quite happy with his pictures. there is nothing similar to iphoto that we can use ? the slideshow tool is quite cool and i am actually quite jealous of flatmate's new computer.

emotionalistic : the weight of a hoko is between 5 to 12 tons. the funaboko can accommodate upto 40 people.

acrix : thanks. i will look into improving my pictures. a few of us have deep interest in photography. i am learning more and more about camera and lenses. eyeing for a Canon EOS Kiss but no money now. maybe next year.

zbjernak : such festivals are celebrated in order to continue the age-old customs among modern people. and as mentioned earlier, gion festival is one of the biggest and most important festivals in japan. and for additional information, it takes several days to assemble a hoko float. and there are no nails holding them together, just ropes and some sort of 'lego' technique. it is amazing, right ?

Acrix said...

Canon Eos Kiss refers to 300d? The latest one is 350d rite? I think i;m pretty happy with just point and shoot :) I;m not really into photography but just use it as a tool showing people the things happening around me :P

Patrick Leong said...

acrix : yea. i think so. here the models are named EOS Kiss Digital and EOS Kiss Digital N (new model). wonder how much is the price in malaysia ?

Acrix said...

Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT/ Kiss n Digital is selling for rm 4299 with free battery grip BG-E3 (worth rm 800 till 31 july)