Hashibenkei Yama of Gion Matsuri Festival

Hashibenkei Yama of Gion Matsuri Festival

The information of Hashibenkei Yama is presented here. Hashibenkei Yama is a small-sized Yamahoko float (Kakiyama float, Yatai float), and its symbol is the Goshintai (deity figure) of Benkei and Ushiwakamaru (Minamoto no Yoshitsune). Unlike other Kakiyama floats that use a pine tree as the shinmatsu, Hashibenkei Yama has no pine tree and can be classified as a Yatai float. Hashibenkei Yama is a Yama float without a lottery, and is the 1st float to go in Latter Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade), leading 10 Yamahoko floats.

【Hashibenkei Yama Location Map & Directions】

Address: Hashibenkei-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Access (How to get there): Subway Shijo Station (about 7 minutes on foot), Hankyu Karasuma Station (about 5 minutes on foot)
Location: Hashibenkei Yama is located on Takoyakushi-dori, about 40 meters west of the intersection of Karasuma-dori (north-south) and Takoyakushi-dori (east-west).

【Hashibenkei Yama and Brief Overview】

The origin of Hashibenkei Yama (橋弁慶山) is not clear. In the “Gionshaki”, which describes the names of Yamahoko floats and places in the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573) before the Onin War (1467-1477), it is written as “Ushiwaka Benkei Yama うし若辨慶山 (between Shijo Bomon Karasuma and Muromachi)”, and Hashibenkei Yama is said to have already been founded before the Onin War. It is also said that Hashibenkei Yama was already founded in the Muromachi period, as it appears along with Koi Yama in the Kyogen play “Kujizainin”, in which townspeople discuss Gion Matsuri Festival. Later, in 1500 during the Sengoku period (1493-1590), when the order of Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade) was decided, the reason is not clear, but Hashibenkei Yama was the only small Yamahoko float (Yama float) that secured the privilege of being at the front of Yamahoko-Junko without a lottery. It was also a special treatment not to turn Yama float in front of the bugyo (magistrate) during the kujiaratame. In 1872, when Kitakannon Yama was returned to Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade), Hashibenkei Yama became the 2nd to be follow by Kitakannon Yama for float formation reasons, and was designated as an Important Tangible Folk Cultural Property in 1962. In 2012, when Ofune Hoko was returned to Yamahoko-Junko as a karabitsu for the first time in 142 years, Hashibenkei Yama returned to the front for the first time in 140 years.

★Hashibenkei Yama is derived from the yokyoku “Hashibenkei”, where Benkei and Ushiwakamaru (Minamoto no Yoshitsune) met at the Gojo Bridge (Gojo-bashi, Gojo-hashi). Since Benkei had made a ushinokokumode (pilgrimage) to Tenjin Shrine in Gojo, he planned to go out on the night of the full prayer.
However, last night on the Gojo Bridge, a boy with a kodachi (small sword) was slashing at passersby, his strength was like that of a monster, his servant stopped him, saying it was dangerous. Benkei hesitated at first, but when he became a laughing stock, he set out to destroy the monster. Ushiwakamaru had tested his skills at the Gojo Bridge and would return to Kurama tomorrow. On his last night, he met Benkei. Benkei and Ushiwakamaru engaged in a swordfight, but even Benkei, a man of unparalleled bravery, was no match for Ushiwakamaru, and Benkei asked Ushiwakamaru his name and surrendered, thus completing their agreement as master and follower.
★Minamoto no Yoshitsune (Ushiwakamaru) was born as the 9th son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo and became the half-brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo, the 1st shogun of the Kamakura shogunate. When his father was defeated and killed in the Heiji-no-ran (Heiji Rebellion), he fled with his mother and two brothers to Yamato (Nara), and when his mother remarried, Minamoto no Yoshitsune was entrusted to Kurama-dera Temple. After that, Minamoto no Yoshitsune went down to Oshu Hiraizumi (Iwate) and received the protection of Fujiwara no Hidehira, the 3rd head of the Oshu Fujiwara clan. In 1180, when Minamoto no Yoritomo raised an army to overthrow the Heike family (Heishi family), Minamoto no Yoshitsune rushed to Kamakura (Kanagawa) and was sent to the Kinai (Kansai) region as a daikan (deputy). After the Battle of Ichinotani (Hyogo) and the Battle of Yashima (Kagawa), Minamoto no Yoshitsune destroyed the Heike family (Heishi family) at the Battle of Dannoura (Yamaguchi) in 1185. Minamoto no Yoshitsune was at odds with Minamoto no Yoritomo due to his arbitrary actions against the Heike family (Heishi family) and his acceptance of an official rank from the imperial court without permission, and Minamoto no Yoshitsune escaped by relying on Fujiwara no Hidehira, but was killed by Fujiwara no Hidehira in 1189 at Koromogawanotate and committed suicide.
★It is also said that Benkei was born as the son of Kumano Betto in Kii Province (Wakayama). It is said that his father tried to kill Benkei because he was a demon child, but his aunt took him in and raised him in Kyoto. Benkei was entrusted to Sakuramoto-sojo (monk) of the Saito of Mt. Hiei, but Benkei was kicked out because Benkei was violent without training, and Benkei repeatedly went on a rampage. Finally, Benkei made a desperate wish to take 1,000 swords from the musha (warriors), and Benkei took 999 swords, and in an attempt to take the last one, Benkei met Minamoto no Yoshitsune and dueled, but Benkei was defeated and signed a master-servant agreement. Benkei later devoted himself to Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s defeat of the Heike family (Heishi family), and always followed Minamoto no Yoshitsune when Minamoto no Yoshitsune confronted Minamoto no Yoritomo, the 1st Shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate. It is said that Benkei fought a lone battle with a naginata (sword), at the entrance to Jibutsudo (hall), where Minamoto no Yoshitsune was holed up, but Benkei was hit like rain by countless arrows and died while standing.
*reference・・・Hashibenkei Yama website

【Features (subject to change)】

★Hashibenkei Yama weighs about 0.80 tons. (2008 Data) There is no pine tree stretching into the sky to be seen on Hashibenkei Yama.
★The Goshintai (deity figure) of Benkei and Ushiwakamaru (Minamoto no Yoshitsune) have an inscription written by the Great Buddhist sculptor Koun in 1563 during the Sengoku period (1493-1590). In addition, the iron skewer of Ushiwakamaru’s foot also has an inscription dated 1537 during the Sengoku period. The heads of Benkei and Ushiwakamaru are made of cypress. Ushiwakamaru is about 1.2 meters tall, and Benkei’s onaginata (large long sword) is about 1.8 meters long. Benkei is dressed in yoroi (armor) and holds an ohaginata (large long sword) at an angle, while Ushiwakamaru stands on a giboshi of bridge with a geta of his left foot, his right foot raised behind him, and holds a tachi (sword) in his right hand. Ushiwakamaru is supported on the black lacquered bridge by a single geta metal fitting. Ushiwakamaru’s old tachi (sword) was 74.8 cm long and is said to have been made by Iga-no-kami Kinmichi, or Omi-no-kami Hisamichi. The tachi (sword) is now in the collection of the Kyoto National Museum. Benkei’s hands and feet are wrapped with ropes, and it is called “chikaranawa”. It is said that the “chikaranawa” contains the wish that the mind and body will be strong like Benkei.
★The mae-kake (front) was originally a tsudurenishiki with a cloud dragon and wave design from the Shin dynasty in China, but in 1983 it was replaced by a tsudurenishiki with a camellia stone design by Tomioka Tessai, based on his original painting. The tsudurenishiki with the “Kamo Saire-zu (Kamo Festival)” of the do-kake (side) was said to be a preliminary drawing by Maruyama Okyo, but in recent years it has been replaced by a replica. The mizuhiki is a tsudurenishiki with the “Karako Kiyu-zu”, and the ato-kake is embroidered with a cloud dragon design. The armor owned by Hashibenkei Yama, “Kurokawa Odoshikata Shirodomaru Osodetsuki”, is designated as an Important Cultural Property.

【Events (confirmation required)】

★In Hashibenkei Yama Kakizome on July 21st, newly assembled Hashibenkei Yama is carried a short distance, just as in the actual Latter Festival Yamahoko-Junko on July 24th.
★In Latter Festival Yoiyama from July 21st to July 23rd, Komagata-chochin lanterns of Hashibenkei Yama are lit and Gion-bayashi (Gion Matsuri music) is played in the evening.
★In Latter Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade) on July 24th, Yamahoko floats, including Hashibenkei Yama depart from Karasuma-Oike and parade along Oike-dori, Kawaramachi-dori, and Shijo-dori. Hashibenkei Yama is kuji-torazu (without drawing lots), and the 1st in the procession of Latter Festival Yamahoko-Junko.
★Chimaki, hand towels, sensu (fans), T-shirts, etc., are available for purchase.

【Hakurakuten Yama of Gion Matsuri 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