The annual mid-summer Gion Festival is in full swing in the heart of Kyoto. The procession includes warriors in complete armor and colorful decorated carts called yama and hoko. The yama are box-like structures carried on long poles on men's shoulders and feature life-sized dolls representing themes from Chinese and Japanese history. The hoko are the double-deck wagons carrying musicians that are pulled by teams of strong young men. The carts are decorated with works of art, including valuable medieval tapestries. Also part of the festival are the three fancy mikoshi, or portable Shinto shrines, that have been carried across the river from the Gion Shrine. A tourist attraction even today, the Gion Festival originated in the ninth century to ward off the evils of a mid-summer epidemic. The sacred carts and poles bearing halberds were paraded through the streets to exorcise the demons of the epidemic. Of particular interest in these paintings is the clear description of the taka-yama (falcon float) at the intersection of Sanjo (Third Avenue) and Muromachi, with a falconer standing on top. The float was destroyed in 1864.
See a set of twelve Japanese paintings from the 17th century, depicting the Gion Festival, offered in our New York Rooms, 22 September 2004, lot 169.