So, the other day I posted one quick photo from one of the last major events of the month-long Gion Matsuri, Kyoto's biggest annual festival. I've picked a few more photos to share in this post.
The event has the name Shinkousai (祇園祭神幸祭), and I'd never heard of it before, and knew nothing about it other than "three tabernacle-like things are carried through the streets from the Yasaka Shrine, via different routes, to the corner of Shijo and Teramachi streets", and I saw map that indicated that the street would be closed for 15 minutes at the corner where Shijo Street dead ends into Higashiyama Street at the foot of the Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社).
Looking now, Wikipedia tells me that this parade of three portable shrines from the Yasaka Shrine dates back to 869 (1,142 years), and is the origin of the whole Gion Matsuri festival.
Anyway, I know that corner well, and knew that it didn't have the capacity to hold many people, so I headed down more than an hour early and looked around to stake my place at the north-west corner of the intersection, since I knew that would be the only place that was in shade the whole time. I found a wonderful niche where I could put a stool to stand on such that it was completely out of the flow of traffic, yet afforded me as good a view as I could hope for.
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/5000 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image data — nearby photos
looking away from the main intersection, west down Shijo Street
Even an hour early, the “best” viewing spot, the steps of the Yasaka Shrine, was packed. But it's “best” only so long as you don't mind staring out directly into the setting sun for two hours....
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/6400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image data — nearby photos
40 minutes before the start, about keeping safe and such
If it were an overcast day and I wasn't taking pictures, I'd go early to sit on those steps. But in one sense photography is better from across the street, so that the shrine can be in the background of the photos, at least if you're skillful (or lucky).
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image data — nearby photos
mini processional heads to the shine in preparation of the main event
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/1000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 720 — map & image data — nearby photos
traffic still flowing, but sidewalks are definitely getting packed
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/2, ISO 250 — map & image data — nearby photos
always cute (such as these)
Eventually traffic was shut down and the streets cleared. Unlike in my earlier posts, the streets were not opened for the general public.
A small procession of various “shriney things” (I don't know anything about the religious significance of the event, sorry) came out and went down the street, including some mounted warriors...
One guy among the long procession was really hamming it up, perhaps for his friends in the crowd. I decided to give this a black & white look, somewhat in a soft version of the look Stéphane Barbery gave his Jidai Matsuri pictures. As I mentioned recently, I'm not that big on B&W, but it's fun to dabble in every so often.
Then a boy dressed to the nines, with a crown, came out on horseback...
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/6400 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image data — nearby photos
or so it seemed
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 2800 — map & image data — nearby photos
heading west down Shijo Street
I sort of wondered whether that was it, but it turned out to be a minor opening act. The street soon flooded with hundreds of men lofting in a highly kinetic fashion three large portable shrines, each borne on two very long, solid wooden supports....
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1400 — map & image data — nearby photos
one of three
Once all three were out and on display in the now crowded intersection, there were various speeches into the setting sun...
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/2, ISO 360 — map & image data — nearby photos
I was shocked when looking at these photos at home that I actually recognized the guy to the left of the speaker, the smiling man in black, as the mayor of Kyoto. I have no idea where I've ever seen him before, but I recognized him immediately.
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3600 — map & image data — nearby photos
After the speeches, the head honcho guy came walking by, and I was actually able to get him in focus...
I have enough trouble with static subjects with this lens, so getting good focus on a moving subject is noteworthy for me.
Then it was time to get moving again, and the three portable shrines prepared to head off on their respective routes in the most energetic fashion, being heave'd and ho'ed boisterously as they're rotated a few times before actually making way toward their destination. One moved away out of my sight, but two moved west down Shijo Street.
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/8, ISO 5000 — map & image data — nearby photos
( the characters in stone at the far right are the name of the shrine )
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/2, ISO 500 — map & image data — nearby photos
as people watch from a parking structure in the background
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1000 sec, f/2, ISO 1400 — map & image data — nearby photos
followed by running Kyoto City paramedics, just in case, I suppose
I let the crowd thin considerably before moving from my safe perch. BY the time I did and crossed the street, traffic was moving again, but to little effect...