Kyoto’s Gion Festival (京都祇園祭, Kyoto Gion Matsuri) is the city’s biggest festival and one of the most famous in Japan. Centered around Yasaka Shrine, it has roots dating back to 869 when the people of Kyoto held a festival to pray for respite from a plague that had befallen the city. Today the festival lasts for the entire month of July but it is the Yamaboko Parade (山鉾巡行) on the 17th and 24th which provides the focal points. The parade on the 17th is the original and sees about 20 floats take part. The procession on the 24th became an annual fixture from 2014 and is smaller in scale with about 10 floats pulled along the streets.
There are two types of floats: the yama and the hoko (referred to collectively as yamaboko). The latter hoko floats are the largest—some almost 25 meters tall—and the most impressive, but all are intricately decorated and impressively built from scratch each year for the festival.