The Hangu Float
The Kankō Boko is by tradition always the second hoko in the procession, after Naginata Boko (yama may come between the two). As such its members feature the liberal attitudes of a family’s second son, compared to Naginata Boko’s more orthodox upholding of tradition.
For example, Kankō Boko has been outspoken about its support of women’s participation in the festival, which has been restricted for at least three centuries. Its musical troupe has openly included women for the last two decades.
Kankō is the Japanese name for the Hangu Pass, one of the Great Wall of China’s famous strategic fortifications, located in Shanxi Province.
It’s considered the birthplace of Taoism, as legend holds that Lao Tzu determined to write the Tao Te Ching while traveling through the pass, and he wrote it in Hangu.
The Kankō Boko neighborhood members say their name comes from a different historical episode: During a 30 BC civil war, Lord Meng Chang of Qi needed to escape through the pass in the middle of the night, in a life-or-death situation.
Lord Chang was renowned for recognizing talent where others did not, and had taken under his protection a man whose “talent” was to perfectly mimic a cock’s crow. With lives at stake, the fowl mimicry caused the pass guards to open the gate and unwittingly grant the men their freedom.
Much of the floats’ history and culture has been transmitted by word of mouth, and research opportunities beckon; how exactly this tale relates to the float, for example, is currently unclear.