Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Gion Matsuri: Procession of Dieties

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Ususally the only shot of Yasaka Shrine one can get is with a few ugly buses, taxis and cars streaking thru the foreground, but with Shijo-dori closed to traffic for the procession, the street is filled with happi-clad mikoshi carriers and lined with excited onlookers. Here, three mikoshi, or portable shrines, rest before Yasaka Jinja (shrine) before being carried by the men in white throughout the streets of Gion.

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There is something strikingly Biblical about these mikoshi...I remember the first time I saw one at the Kurama Himatsuri during my Gaidai days, I immediately thought of the Ark of the Covenant. I am completely aware that there is a very descriptive description (redundant much?) of the Ark in the Bible, and that is it very different from what you see before you here, but the thread that joins all of mankind and its history together is, for me, blatantly aparant in these ancient traditions. You can't tell me that the ornamentation on the roof of the mikoshi doesn't look like a menorah!

Unlike the festival hoko floats, Mikoshi are not pulled, but carried on the shoulders of many men. Not only are they carried through the streets of the city for hours, they are thrown into the air and jostled about to excite the crowd. After bouncing the Mikoshi down Shijo a bit, these men made a turn onto the Hanamikoji, "Wasshoi"-ing their way past the Ichirikiya, the most famous Ochaya ( 'teahouse', where Geisha and maiko entertain) in the history of Japan...

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