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Taka Yama 鷹山 – The Falconry Float

Taka Yama Float Gion Matsuri

The new Taka Yama float.

In 2022 the Gion Matsuri community was delighted to welcome Taka Yama back to the Gion Festival procession after an absence of nearly 200 years. There’s s a celebratory atmosphere around this new float and its revitalization.

While in many parts of the world loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions, the Taka Yama

chōnai is moving in a more hopeful direction. They’re rallying around their new float to strengthen relationships within the neighborhood, with other Gion Festival chōnai, with many other related organizations, and with the general public. It’s easier with others! More fun, too.

We know that Taka Yama has been part of the Gion Festival since at least the 15th century. A terrible rainstorm during the 1826 Ato Matsuri procession destroyed Taka Yama’s decorations, keeping it out of processions in following years. Then its timber frame burned in the great fire of 1864, which caused widespread destruction in the Gion Matsuri and Kyoto in general.

Taka Yama Sacred Statues

Taka Yama’s sacred statues

However, in a great show of belief in the value of their three sacred statues, locals rescued the sculpted heads and hands (the rest of the statues’ bodies are more like simple mannequins for dressing).

The Gion Matsuri floats and communities have survived more than a thousand years of wars and natural disasters. It teaches us about impermanence: the sorrows of passing away, and the joys of new life.

With help from crowdfunding, Taka Yama has rebuilt and decorated its new float handsomely, including with some remarkable Persian knotted textiles. There’s surely more to come, and each year we can enjoy some additions to Taka Yama’s treasures and community heritage.

Buy my book, “Gion Festival: Exploring Its Mysteries,” to learn more about the spectacular Gion Festival than you can anywhere else. Some former directors of Gion Matsuri float associations have told me they believe it’s better than any books available on the Gion Matsuri in Japanese. I’m pleased to gift you a free excerpt here.

Interested in sharing this content? Check out the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License for guidelines on how. This is a cool way to grow a culture of generosity. In Buddhism, generosity is one of the foundational practices of spiritual enlightenment. So it’s worth a try.