14. Hanagasa Junko - the Flower Hat Procession of Gion Festival
In the old days, Yamaboko Junko (山鉾巡行, the grand procession of Gion Festival floats) was conducted twice during the festival period, namely on July 17th and 24th, as the main events for Sakimaturi (前祭, the first half festival) and Atomatsuri (後祭り, the latter half festival) respectively.
Since these two processions were integrated as one on 17th, the Hanagasa Junko (花傘巡行, the flower hat procession) newly came into operation on 24th as the symbol event of the latter festival. We Maiko (舞妓) from all Hanamachi (花街, Maiko and Geiko districts) take part in this procession ever since its commencement.
We get on open carriages decorated with many flowers and lanterns, making its way down the Shijo (四条) st. to West. From Yasaka shrine (八坂神社), parading along Teramachi st. (寺町) to Oike st. (御池), the procession goes back to Yasaka shrine, and then we perform votive dances dedicated to the god enshrined there.
Despite the hot, humid and steaming weather, a great number of people visit to see the gorgeous pageant. In fact, I am living in a Hoko-cho (鉾町, communities that save the Gion Festival floats), however, regardless if you are living in Hoko-cho or not, Gion festival means a lot to all us. It is something that you can be proud of for Kyoto residents.
Regarding Gion festival, there are some unique customs in Hanamachi, and the hair style of Maiko is one of them. It is a hair style called Katsuyama (勝山) allowed only to certain rank of Maiko called Ofuku (おふく) during the Gion festival season.
Approximately for 3 years after the debut, Maiko's hair is set to a peach-shaped style called Wareshinobu (割れしのぶ). After that, advanced Maiko wears a hair style called Ofuku, which is every Maiko's dream because of its stylish and beautiful shape. Anyway, Katsuyama style which is very gorgeous like a princess, is strictly limited only to Maiko who were allowed to wear Ofuku style.
I also remember myself proudly wearing Katsuyama style starting on July 10, the date of Hokotate (鉾建て, float assembling), until 24, the procession date of Atomatsuri. However, the hair style was very heavy and I could hardly sleep the first night I wore it.
When I was a new Maiko, my dream was to become a Ofuku Maiko, watching pretty faces of advanced Maiko wearing Katsuyama style hair on the beautiful Hanagasa cartridges.
Thank you very much.
Talk to you later.