Children during the Kanko-Sai Ceremony, Gion Matsuri

In the evening of July 24th, the three mikoshi from Otabisho (the temporary abode of the deities) are taken back to the Yasaka Shrine. These three mikoshi (portable shrines) bearing the kami of Yasaka Jinja are borne aloft and carried back to the shrine in an event known as Kanko-sai.  They travel along three different routes through the town’s back streets to reach their destination, taking some four hours in all.  There are over 1,000 men involved, hoisting the massively heavy mikoshi aloft and jostling them up and down as they shout out ‘hoitto‘ and other ejaculations.  Many of the participants had been drinking beforehand, making it a wild frenzy of an event, capturing something of the primal connections of mankind and the life force. Once the group starts moving, the energy that comes out is really something impressive. 

The procession starts at 17:00 from Otabisho on Shijo Dori Street but the large number of people at this time and location makes it quite difficult to take photos, even if one arrived early and is well positioned. A location overlooking the scene would certainly be best but is not easy to find. I definitely prefer to move away from this place and anticipate the procession course, positioning myself in open areas on the route of one of the three mikoshi.   

The three mikoshi are housing the three enshrined deities at Yasaka, namely Susanoo no Mikoto, the storm god, his wife, Kushiinadahime no Mikoto, and Yahashira no Mikogami, which is their ‘eight-child kami’ (i.e. their many offspring showing a blessed happy marriage).

When the mikoshi arrive back at the shrine, around 22:00, special prayers are held to welcome the spirits back to their main ”home”. The ceremony ends around midnight.