Kyoto is set for a whole month of festivities in July as it celebrates the Gion Festival. The festival dates back to 869 as a religious ceremony to appease the gods during the outbreak of an epidemic.
A local boy selected to be a divine messenger
Even today, the festival continues the practice of selecting a local boy to be a divine messenger. The lad cannot set foot on the ground from the 13th July until after he has been paraded through town on the 17th of the same month. On July the 16th and 23rd residents of the old kimono merchant district mark Yoiyama by opening up their entrance ways to the public and displaying valuable family heirlooms, in a custom known as the Byobu Matsuri, or Folding Screen Festival. This is the prelude to a parade, the Yamaboko Jonko on July 17th and July 24th. July the 17th sees a spectacular procession of floats take to the streets with a smaller one on July the 24th.
The word Yamaboko refers to the two types of highly decorated floats used in the procession: the 23 yama and 10 hoko. The hoko are up to 25 meters tall, weigh up to 12 tons and their wheels are the size of a human being.