National

Gion Festival reaches peak

Kyodo

The annual Gion Festival reached its peak Saturday with a parade of 32 “Yamahoko” floats in Japan’s ancient capital.

The ornately decorated floats started out from Shijo-Karasuma at 9 a.m. in the “Yamahoko Junko” parade, the highlight of the festival.

At Shijo-Kawaramachi, the crossing where Shijo and Kawaramachi streets meet, the floats performed a 90-degree turn known as “Tsujimawashi.”

The spectacular feat involves the 10-ton floats making a quick turn with bamboo plates placed beneath the wheels and water poured over the wheels to reduce friction.

An estimated 210,000 spectators, up 30,000 from last year, braved the sweltering heat to turn out for the parade, the Kyoto Prefectural Police said.

The festival — one of the three most famous in Japan — has developed over a period of more than 1,100 years, despite the many wars that took place in and around Kyoto.

It began in 869 during the Heian Era (794-1185) as a religious purification ceremony to ward off pestilence. By the Kamakura Era (1185-1333), it had become a showcase for craft guilds and merchants.

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