Yamahoko, the float ceremony of the Kyoto Gion festival
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Yamahoko, the float ceremony of the Kyoto Gion festival
On July 17 every year, the Gion Festival in Kyoto in central Japan culminates in a grand procession of yamahoko, floats known as ‘moving museums’ because of their elaborate decoration with tapestries and wooden and metal ornaments. The festival is held by the Yasaka Shrine in the neighbourhood of Gion and the thirty-two floats are built by the residents of the city’s self-governing districts, who have transmitted the tradition for many years. Each district works with musicians to play in the orchestras that accompany the parade as well as diverse artisans to assemble, decorate and disassemble the floats, which proceed in an order determined each year by lottery. The floats come in two varieties: yama floats with platforms decorated to resemble mountains and hoko floats dominated by tall wooden poles originally intended to summon the Plague God so that he could be transformed into a protective spirit through music, dance and worship. Today, the yamahoko parade is a representative urban summer festival showcasing the creative spirit and artistry of the float-building districts and providing entertainment for the entire city.
Decision 4.COM 13.58
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Yamahoko, the float ceremony of the Kyoto Gion festival, has been passed down over generations, is organized collectively by local residents and is recognized by them as a symbol of their identity and continuity;
- R.2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List would raise the visibility of this and similar festivals and increase awareness about the importance of intangible cultural heritage at national and international levels;
- R.3: Various practical safeguarding measures such as maintenance of the floats, documentation and research have been carried out and proposed under the initiative of the Foundation for Gion Festival Preservation Associations in cooperation with national, prefectural and city governments;
- R.4: The nomination includes the free, prior and informed consent of the Foundation for Gion Festival Preservation Associations;
- R.5: The element is inscribed as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property on the national inventory maintained by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
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