Naginata Hoko of Gion Matsuri Festival

Naginata Hoko of Gion Matsuri Festival

The information of Naginata Hoko (Naginata Boko) is presented here. Naginata Hoko is a large-sized Yamahoko float (Hoko float), and its symbol is the great long sword (hoko-gashira) attached to the tip of the shingi (pillar), which extends vertically to the sky. The great long sword exorcises plague and evil. Chigo, the only Iki-Chigo (living child) in Gion Matsuri Festival, and two Kamuro, his servants of Chigo, board Naginata Hoko during Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade). Hayashi-kata (music group) playing Gion-bayashi (Gion Matsuri music) also board Naginata Hoko. Naginata Hoko is always the 1st in the procession of Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade) and is the representative Yamahoko float of Former Festival (Saki-no-Matsuri).

【Naginata Hoko Location Map & Directions】

Address: Naginatahoko-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Access (How to get there): Subway Shijo Station (about 5 minutes on foot), Hankyu Karasuma Station (about 3 minutes on foot)
Location: Naginata Hoko is located on Shijo-dori, about 90 meters east of the intersection of Karasuma-dori (north-south) and Shijo-dori (east-west).

【Naginata Hoko (Naginata Boko) History and Brief Overview】

The origin of Naginata Hoko (長刀鉾) is not clear. It is said that Naginata Hoko was founded in 1441 or earlier in the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573). It is also said that Naginata Hoko was founded by using the great long sword donated to Yasaka Shrine in 1225, in the early Kamakura period (1185-1333) as the hoko-gashira of Yamahoko float (Hoko float). The great long sword made by Sanjo Kokaji Munechika during the Jogan period (859-877) in the early Heian period (794-1185) when an epidemic broke out, and he made it to pray for the cure of his daughter’s illness and dedicated to Yasaka Shrine. Later, during the Shoji period (1199-1201) in the early Kamakura period (1185-1333), Izumi Kojiro Chikahira, a military commander of the Minamoto clan who was said to be a mighty warrior, asked Yasaka Shrine for the great long sword and received it, but it is said that he returned it to Yasaka Shrine after realizing the error of private ownership of the great long sword (sacred sword) due to something sinister. The doll of Izumi Kojiro Chikahira is enshrined in the tennoza of the shingi (pillar). Incidentally, when the returned great long sword was lent to the town during a plague outbreak, it was said that if the sword was lent to the town and Haitai-no-gi (ritual) was performed, it would be said to have a reputation for healing diseases. Naginata Hoko is said to be the oldest Yamahoko float of Gion Matsuri Festival in existence today. 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 “Naginata Hoku 長刀ほく (between Shijo Totoin and Karasuma)”.
In 1500 during the Sengoku period (1493-1590), Gion Matsuri Festival was revived for the first time in 33 years, and 36 Yamahoko floats were paraded, but at that time, Kujitori-shiki (lottery ceremony) was held for the first time, and Naginata Hoko leads Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade) as kuji-torazu (without drawing lots). In 1522, the great long sword of the hoko-gashira was replaced by a great long sword made by Sanjo Nagayoshi, and in 1675, in the early Edo period (1603-1868), it was replaced by a great long sword made by Izumi-no-Kami Raikinmichi, and in 1837, it was replaced by a replica made of bamboo with tin foil. The great long sword by Sanjo Nagayoshi is kept in Naginata Hoko and is not open to the public.

★The name “Naginata Hoko” comes from the fact that the great long sword that exorcises plague and evil, is attached to the tip of the shingi (pillar). In addition, the great long sword is mounted facing south so that the cutting edge of the great long sword does not face the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Yasaka Shrine. Sanjo Kokaji Munechika was a swordsmith of the middle to late Heian period (794-1185) and the founder of the Sanjo-ha school. In the late Heian period, Sanjo Kokaji Munechika made the “Mikaduki Munechika” sword with a total length of about 98.1 cm and a blade length of about 79.9 cm, and it is counted as one of the five swords (Tenka-no-goken) along with “Dojigiri”, “Onimaru”, “Odenta”, and “Juzumaru”.
*reference・・・Naginata Hoko website

【Features (subject to change)】

★Naginata Hoko is about 21.76 meters high, 6.42 meters long, 4.35 meters wide, 11.1 tons in total weight, and has a minimum turning radius of 6.15 meters. (2008 Data)
★The tennoza of the shingi (pillar) enshrines the doll of Izumi Kojiro Chikahira.
★The “Kinjichakusai Guncho-zu (Group of Birds)” of the attic is painted by Matsumura Keibun. The enbu of the gables and the wood carvings of Sanjo Kokaji Munechika making the great long sword are the works of Kataoka Yusuke.
★Carpets made from the 16th to 18th centuries were used, such as Persian flower pattern carpet and the mae-kake (front) of Persian silk carpet, and Chinese jade lion carpet, the ten flowers carpet, plum tree carpet, Middle Eastern flower leaf pattern, and the do-kake (side) of Indian carpet, but they have now been replaced by replicas. In addition, brocade with images of clouds and dragons from the Min dynasty of Chinai was used for the miokuri (back), but it was replaced by a replica made in 2005. The shita-mizuhiki was newly created in 2008.
★Gion-bayashi (Gion Matsuri music) of Naginata Hoko includes “Jibayashi”, “Age”, “Kagura”, “Karako”, “Usagi”, “Nagashi”, “Asahi”, “Aoba”, “Tsuzumi”, “Kasumi”, “Chikushi”, “Chidori”, “Yanagi”, “Shishi”, “Yonso”, “Ogi”, “Tomoe”, “Kyudan”, “Midori”, “Kashiwa”, “Goryo”, “Shiki”, “Naniwa”, “Ko”, “Taro”, “Michika”, “Nuke”, “Hiyori Kagura”, and others. During Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade), “Kagura” is played in front of Yasaka Shrine Otabisho, “Karako” is played at Tsuji-mawashi (turning of streets), and “Taro” is played at the final destination.
★Chimaki, which can ward off bad luck and disease, towels, noren (curtains), etc. are available for purchase. The purchase of chimaki and other items may allow you to board Naginata Hoko. (However, women are restricted to the second floor of the Kaisho (meeting hall) and are not allowed to board the Naginata Hoko. (forbidden for women)

【Events (confirmation required)】

★In Naginatahoko-cho Osendo on July 1st, Chigo, two Kamuro, and others visit Yasaka Shrine to report that they have been chosen and to pray for the safety of Gion Matsuri Festival. They walk around the main shrine 3 times clockwise, stopping at the front and back to pray.
★In Naginatahoko Chigo-mai-hirou on July 5th, Chigo-mai (Taihei-no-mai) by Chigo and two Kamuro is performed on the second floor of the Kaisho (meeting hall) in Nagatohoko-cho. Chigo-mai is performed during Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade).
★In Former Festival Yamahoko-hikizome on July 12th, newly assembled Naginata Hoko is pulled a short distance, just as in the actual Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko on July 17th. Chigo-mai (Taihei-no-mai) is also performed.
★In Naginatahoko Chigo Shasan on July 13th, Chigo is given the rank of Shogoi-Major General, the same rank as Daimyo (feudal lord) of 100,000 goku, so that Chigo does not become disrespectful when looking down on the person of high status or position from the top of Naginata Hoko during Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade).
★In Former Festival Yoiyama from July 14th to July 16th, Komagata-chochin lanterns of Naginata Hoko are lit and Gion-bayashi (Gion Matsuri music) is played in the evening.
★In Hiyori-Kagura on July 16th, Hayashi-kata (music group) of Naginata Hoko go to Yasaka Shrine Otabisho while playing Gion-bayashi (Gion Matsuri music), and dedicate Gion-bayashi to pray for good weather on the next day, and for the safety of Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade).
★In Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko (Float Procession, Yamaboko Parade) on July 17th, Yamahoko floats, including Naginata Hoko depart from Shijo-Karasuma and parade along Shijo-dori, Kawaramachi-dori, and Oike-dori. Naginata Hoko is kuji-torazu (without drawing lots), and leads the procession in Former Festival Yamahoko-Junko, and tsuji-mawashi (turning of streets) is performed at the intersections.

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