Hoko, Gion Matsuri
Gion Matsuri is the most famous festival in Japan. It takes place every year in July in Kyoto and is crowned by a procession on July 17th called Yamaboko Junkō (山鉾巡行). This colorful parade consists of men dressed in traditional costumes pulling 32 portable shrines through some of Kyoto main streets, Shijo, Karasuma and Oike. The floats are usually called Mikoshi (神輿) throughout Japan but Hoko (鉾) in Kyoto. All floats are made of wood, assembled a few days before the parade, carry musicians and are decorated with tapestries and fabrics.
The festival is over 1100 years old and originates a series of disasters such as plagues, epidemics or earthquake in the 9th Century. The priest of Yasaka Shrine decided to lead a procession to pray and ask for a divine intervention to stop these disasters. The festival is held once a year since and remains very popular.
Pulling the hoko, teamwork