Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (July 17th) Gion Matsuri

Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Gion Matsuri Festival)

The information of Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade) is presented here. Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko is the highlight of Gion Matsuri Festival. Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko is held every year on July 17th. Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko route starts at Shijo-Karasuma, and goes along Shijo-dori, Kawaramachi-dori, and Oike-dori in that order. During Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko, shimenawa-kiri is held at Shijo-Fuyacho, kuji-aratame is held at Shijo-Sakaimachi, and tsuji-mawashi is held at Shijo-Kawaramachi and Kawaramachi-Oike.

【Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko 2024 Schedule】

Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko 2024 will depart from Shijo-Karasuma at 9:00, on Wednesday, July 17th, 2024. By the way, Gion Matsuri Festival 2024 will start on July 1st, 2024 and end on July 31st, 2024.
Gion Matsuri Festival Schedule (July 1st-31st)

【Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko route & map】

Timetable : Departure from Shijo-Karasuma (9:00) → Shijo-Kawaramachi (around 9:45) → Kawaramachi-Oike (around 10:30) → Arrival at Shinmachi-Oike (around 11:20)
★Nearest station to Shijo-Karasuma : Subway Shijo Station (about 2 minutes on foot)

【Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko brief overview】

Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade, 山鉾巡行(前祭)) of Gion Matsuri Festival (祇園祭) has been permanently held on July 14th since 1877, along with Shinko-sai (神幸祭, Oide, おいで). During Shinko-sai, three mikoshi (portable shrines) are driven from Yasaka Shrine through the ujiko district to Shijo Otabisho, where they are housed until Kanko-sai (Okaeri). The route of Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko was changed to the current route in 1961.
Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko is held before Shinko-sai which is held on the evening of July 17th, to purify the city and streets. In Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko, 23 Yamahoko floats, led by Nagina Hoko, depart from Shijo-Karasuma in the order determined by Kujitori-shiki on July 2nd, and proceed in the order of Shijo-dori, Kawaramachi-dori and Oike-dori.
Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko begins with a chigo, the only ikichigo (living child) and messenger of God, climbing a ladder to Nagina Hoko, carried on the shoulders of Goriki (man). Nagina Hoko moves along Shijo-dori toward Yasaka Shrine, and at Shijo-Fuyacho, the chigo of Nagina Hoko cuts the shimenawa (sacred rope) on the bamboo with a sword to open the boundary of sanctuary. Yamahoko floats with hayashi-kata (music group) play gion-bayashi (gion matsuri music), and the chigo of Nagina Hoko perform chigo-mai (taihei-no-mai) every time shimenawa-kiri or the name of the town changes, to purify the route and pray for the eradication of epidemics. Afterwards, kuji-aratame is held at Shijo-Sakaimachi, and tsuji-mawashi with large Yamahoko floats is held at the intersection of Shijo-Kawaramachi and Kawaramachi-Oike. On Kawaramachi-dori, maiko receive chimaki to ward off bad luck from Yamahoko-cho officials, and sometimes offering sake in exchange.

●Order in 2023: 1-Nagina Hoko, 2-Yamabushi Yama, 3-Hakurakuten Yama, 4-Ashikari Yama, 5-Kanko Hoko, 6-Kakkyo Yama, 7-Shijo Kasahoko, 8-Tokusa Yama, 9-Niwatori Hoko, 10-Abura Tenjin Yama, 11-Moso Yama, 12-Arare Tenjin Yama, 13-Kikusui Hoko, 14-Hosho Yama, 15-Aya Gasahoko, 16-Taishi Yama, 17-Tsuki Hoko, 18-Hakuga Yama, 19-Toro Yama, 20-Urade Yama, 21-Hohka Hoko, 22-Iwato Yama, 23-Fune Hoko

★Yamahoko floats are classified by shape as hoko (鉾), hikiyama (曳山), funehoko (船鉾), kasahoko (傘鉾), and kakiyama (舁山), with the larger hoko, hikiyama, and funahoko having wheels. Hoko floats stand shingi (pillar) and a hokogashira at the top, and are about 25 meters high. Hikiyama floats stand shinmatsu (pine tree or cedar tree) and are about 15 meters high. Funehoko is shaped like a ship and, unlike hoko, does not have a shingi (pillar).
★Yamahoko floats are decorated with kesohin and other accessories, and are said to be “Ugoku Bijutsukan (moving museums). Large-sized Hoko floats are decorated with maekake (decoration on the front), dokake (decoration on the both sides) and miorikuri (decoration on the back) between the hayashidai and the wheels. There are also uwa-mizuhiki (upper part of the hayashidai), shimo-mizuhiki (lower part of the hayashidai) and suso-maku (near the wheel).
★Nagina Hoko is geographically closest to Yasaka Shrine and is said to be the oldest of the current Yamahoko floats, and therefore, Nagina Hoko leads Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko. Incidentally, Nagina Hoko is said to have been founded in 1441, or even earlier. Also, Kujitori-shiki began in 1500, and Nagina Hoko has been leading the procession ever since.
★Large Yamahoko floats such as Nagina Hoko, Kanko Hoko, Kikusui Hoko, Tsuki Hoko, Hohka Hoko, Iwato Yama, and Fune Hoko are controlled by ondo-tori, kuruma-kata and hiki-kata. Ondo-tori directs hiki-kata with uchiwa (fan) and ondo to the float parade and tsuji-mawashi. Kuruma-kata uses burateko and kakeya to change the direction of the procession and to apply the brakes. In tsuji-mawashi, kuruma-kata places sasara (green bamboo) or other materials on the road and pours water over them. Hiki-kata pulls Yamahoko floats.
★Gion-bayashi (Gion Matsuri music, 祇園囃子) is played by Nagina Hoko, Kanko Hoko, Tsuki Hoko, Fune Hoko, Niwatori Hoko, Hohka Hoko, Kikusui Hoko, Iwato Yama, Shijo Kasahoko and Aya Gasahoko. Gion-bayashi is composed of kane (gong), fue (flute), and taiko (drum). Some parts of gion-bayashi are common to all yamahoko floats, but most of gion-bayashi is unique to each Yamahoko float. Gion-bayashi is broadly divided into songs played from the departure (Shijo Karasuma) to Shijo Kawaramachi, and songs played at other times. The former is a majestic and solemn song, while the latter is a fast-paced, light and beautiful song.
★Shimenawa-kiri (注連縄切り) is performed by Nagina Hoko which lead the procession. Shimenawa-kiri, which is based on old documents, began in 1956. Imidake is set up early in the morning of July 15th, and shimenawa is strung just before shimenawa-kiri.
★Chigo-mai (稚児舞, taihei-no-mai, 太平の舞) is performed by chigo of Nagina Hoko that lead the procession. Chigo-mai involves crossing the bachi (drumstick) held in both hands, turning the body in a large, graceful circle, and beating the drum attached close to the chest. Sankomaru, Hohka Hoko’s chigo doll, is also made to perform chigo-mai. Chigo wears makeup, a hana-tenkan (flower crown) on his head made of a phoenix beautifully colored with gold, silver, etc., and a costume decorated with gold brocade of clouds and dragons on a red brocade background.
★Kuji-aratame (くじ改め) is carried out with Tsuki Hoko, Niwatori Hoko, Kikusui Hoko and etc., except for Yamahoko floats which do not take the kuji (lottery). During kuji-aratame, the machi-gyoji (town magistrate) of Yamahoko Town uses a folding fan to open the letter box containing the kuji (lottery), opens the lid, and presents the kuji (lottery) to the bugyo (magistrate, mayor of Kyoto City). The bugyo (magistrate, mayor of Kyoto City) reads out and confirms the order of the jyji (lottery), and the machi-gyoji (town magistrate) steps back and invites the floats with a folding fan. Yamahoko floats that do not take the kuji (lottery), only greet the bugyo (magistrate, mayor of Kyoto City), and Kakiyama floats rotate.
★Tsuji-mawashi (辻回し) is carried out with large Nagina Hoko, Kanko Hoko, Niwatori Hoko, Kikusui Hoko, Tsuki Hoko, Hohka Hoko, Iwato Yama, and Fune Hoko. At tsuji-mawashi, green bamboo is spread on the road, water is sprinkled on it, a rope is pulled from the side several times, and Yamahoko floats is turned 90 degrees.

【Gion Matsuri Festival remarks】
*Events may be rescheduled or cancelled. Also, the content of the event may have changed.


  1. 錦市場(Nishiki Market)
  2. 竹林の道(Bamboo Forest Path)
  3. 嵐山