Historic Float From Kyoto's Gion Festival Draws Crowds At Tourism Event In Tokyo

Historic float from Kyoto's Gion Festival draws crowds at tourism event in TokyoOn the eve of the famed Gion Festival, one of the event's decorated floats went on display in Tokyo on June 20-21, the first showing of a large float from Kyoto in the nation's capital in 60 years.

Ofune Hoko, a replica of the historic namesake float that is in the shape of a ship, was displayed at the Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo’s Minato Ward at an event to promote Kyoto tourism.

The float, 7.47 meters long, 6.35 meters high and weighing about 12 tons, is among those paraded during the Gion Festival, renowned as one of Japan's three most famous festivals, which runs through the month of July.

“People who see the float must be awestruck,” said Nobusuke Kimura, 45, director of the Shijocho Ofune Hoko preservation society in Kyoto. “I am hoping that many people will become familiar with Ofune Hoko.”

The original float was destroyed by fire in 1864, three years before the Edo Period (1603-1867) came to a close.

But a wooden replica was built, and the rebuilt version joined the midsummer festival last year for the first time in 150 years.

Craftsmen began work in Tokyo on June 18 to put together parts and components of the float after the structure was dismantled and transported from Kyoto. The work to reassemble it, done without the use of nails, was completed on June 20.

The Roppongi Hills show was accompanied by the performance of festival music by musical accompanists aboard the float and a dance by “maiko,” or apprentice geisha, on a stage set next to it.

In a previous exhibition, Tsuki Hoko float from Kyoto was displayed near JR Tokyo Station in 1955 after it was assembled there.

A large float was last erected outside Kyoto Prefecture at the 1970 World Expo in Suita, Osaka Prefecture.