- Ornately decorated festival floats of many different kinds, weighing up to several tons and designated locally by various names, most incorporating the word 'mountain', such as yama (mountain), hiki-yama (pulled mountain), yamagasa (mountain hat) and dashi (mountain vehicle). Evidently some kudos attaches to having the largest, heaviest and best-ornamented yatai. They should be distinguished from the mikoshi which is a palanquin carrying the kami. The ceremonial transfer of the mikoshi to the o-tabisho of the kami during a festival (shinko-shiki) may be conducted separately from the parade of floats, though the two activities are at least integrated into one festival. The floats are religious to the extent that the community's celebration of its own identity is religious; they are showpieces for the skills, customs, folk- (and fine) arts and communal values of the local community, and their function in relation to the kami where they form part of a shrine procession is to please and entertain the divinity. They frequently incorporate onstage performances, often, for obvious reasons of scale, by children or puppets rather than adults (see Furyu-mono). Descriptions of some of the floats which take part in numerous festivals around Japan may be found under the various matsuri mentioned in this dictionary. Floats in their present variety of forms appear to have originated at the Gion matsuri in Kyoto. Yatai were banned from Tokyo in the late Meiji era because their height interfered with overhead power lines, so festivals in Tokyo feature only mikoshi, though these may be divided (as at the sanja matsuri of Asakusa) into 'honja mikoshi' (true mikoshi) containing the kami and 'machi-mikoshi' (town mikoshi) which are essentially mikoshi functioning as yatai.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.