Gion Ato Matsuri 2) Kanko-sai

Turning the mikoshi round and round while shouting ‘mawase’ is a highlight of the event

From last year July 24 has become a busy day for Kyoto.  In the morning 10 mighty floats parade through the city centre.  They are joined by a Hanagasa procession from Yasaka Jinja to make a pleasing spectacle for the enjoyment of the kami – and the thousands of people who come to watch.

In the afternoon and evening of the same day, the three mikoshi (portable shrines) bearing the kami of Yasaka Jinja are borne aloft and carried back to the shrine in an event known as Kanko-sai.  The three mikoshi travel three different routes through the town’s back streets to reach their destination, taking over four hours in all.  There are some 1000 men involved, hoisting the massively heavy mikoshi aloft and jostling them up and down as they shout out ‘hoitto‘ and other ejaculations.  Many of the participants had been drinking beforehand, making it a wild frenzy of an event, capturing something of the primal connections of mankind and the life-force.


For an overview of the Gion festival, click here.  For the main parade, see here, and the evening before here.  For an in-depth 28min NHK programme in English, click here.


Carrying the mikoshi is so heavy people have to take it in turns to bear the weight


The mikoshi even enter the shopping arcade, heading for the covered food market


Learning to be Japanese at a young age


The priest resisted the lure of Liption tea


Some participants dressed the part but had other things on their mind…


… while others just displayed bare-bottomed cheek!


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Gion Ato Matsuri 2) Kanko-sai — 2 Comments

  1. It’s great to see the second part of the Gion Ato Matsuri reinstated. Showing respect for the people who experienced the original version, and being able to listen and learn from them, is to be highly commended. I imagine that you would have to book accommodation well ahead of time to enjoy and participate in the event. Your images and descriptions make the prospect very tempting.

    • Thanks for that, Jann… Judging by the number of foreigners in the streets this year, I would imagine most of the accommodation was booked out long ago as you suggest. Mind you, every other building in some streets now seem to be a guesthouse or AirRnB. Kyoto sure is hot!

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