There’s more to these giant Yamahoko floats than first meets the eye.
Our reporter Tasuku Egawa was visiting Kyoto the other day for only the second time in his life when he came across a police barricade blocking his walking route in Gion Shijo.

Being an out-of-towner who wasn’t sure whether this was a regular thing or something out of the ordinary, Tasuku asked one of the police officers what was going on and he replied:
“It’s Gion Matsuri”.
Egawa had heard of this famous annual summer festival, but he was in Kyoto for work and had no idea that it was going on while he was there. Having never attended the festival, Tasuku couldn’t believe his luck at the fortuitous timing of his visit, so he immediately followed the crowds to wherever it was that they were going.

Tasuku ended up walking for about a kilometre (0.6 miles), but as soon as he caught sight of where everyone was headed, he was glad he’d followed the crowds, because there were brightly lit, huge floats there to greet him.

As he got closer to one of the floats, Tasuku was surprised to see a large group of people gathered at the top playing instruments.

Overhearing a TV reporter who was broadcasting nearby, Tasuku learned that these giant floats were called “Yama” (slightly smaller floats are called “hoko”), and this was the “Yamahoko Parade”, a highlight of the festival that was causing a stir as it had been three years since it was last held, due to cancellations during the pandemic.
Standing at around 25 metres (82 feet) in height, these floats were towering displays of beauty, and Tasuku found it hard to tear his eyes away from them. When he eventually did, though, he found there was a stall nearby that looked to be extremely popular with customers.
▼ It was so popular that a sign out the front read “Chimaki Sales Have Finished.“

▼ They’d sold out of a few other things as well, like drawstring pouches and bookmarks.

Tasuku is a big fan of chimaki, a sweet that consists of mochi wrapped in bamboo grass, and because he’d seen lots of people around carrying them, he realised chimaki was the must-buy item at the festival.
▼ So he set about looking for a place where he could buy one, eventually settling on Yasaka Shrine, which had lots of chimaki in stock.

The festival is run by Yasaka Shrine, so Tasuku figured this would be a good place to buy some official chimaki.

▼ Tasuku handed over 1,000 yen (US$7.35) and was given this paper bag in return, which contained…

▼ …chimaki!

When Tasuk…

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