The Southern Kannon Float
Kannon is the Japanese bodhisattva of compassion. Her devotion has spread broadly over space and time: she’s known as Kwan Yin in China, and in male form as Chenrezig, in Tibet, and Avalokiteshvara in India.
There are two floats devoted to Kannon, Minami Kannon Yama and Kita Kannon Yama, the south and north Kannon floats, referring to their respective positions on Shinmachi-dori street.
On display in the treasure area are four exquisitely embroidered panels that used to adorn the float, of a dragon, tiger, phoenix and tortoise. Each of these are a symbol for one of the four directions in Chinese geomancy, used to found and design the imperial capital of Kyoto, modeled after the urban planning for Xi’an, then the Chinese capital. Just like paintings of saints from medieval Europe, most of the decorative elements in the festival tell a story or make this kind of philosophical reference. Let me know here if you’d value future versions of this site including more information on this kind of topic.
The Minami Kannon Yama chōnai deserves great credit for its active conservation and recreation of downtown Kyoto’s traditional cityscapes. Amidst a hyperactive development boom in bubble-era Kyoto, activities on this block in the 1990s sparked a renewed interest in remodeling traditional buildings and converting them into shops and restaurants.