Moso-Yama at Gion Matsuri

Moso-yama is one of the smaller floats of the Gion Festival and is based on an ancient Chinese tale.
Moso-yama is one of the smaller floats of the Gion Festival and is based on an ancient Chinese tale.

The four biggest events of Gion Matsuri begin this evening with Yoi-Yama (July 14-16) and culminate on July 17 with Yama-Hoko Junko, the procession of 32 floats along Shijo, Kawaramachi, and Oike Dori in downtown Kyoto.

There have been wicked thunderstorms this afternoon, but the sky seems to be clearing just in time for Yoi-Yama, which is just beginning as I write this in the area around Shijo-Karasuma with all the hoko and yama floats on display to the public, along with plenty of good food and cold beer.

The float pictured here is Moso-Yama. The difference between the hoko and yama floats is that the larger hoko floats weigh up to 12 tons and have roofs and wheels, while the relatively smaller yama floats are carried on the shoulders of the men from that district.

The man depicted on this float is Moso, a filial son in ancient China who managed to find bamboo shoots under a heavy snowfall for his sick mother. You can see the snow on his hat and around the bamboo in his left hand, and I can guarantee this is the only snow you will see in the sweltering summer heat of Kyoto!