Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) #1

Area Central
Category Festival


One of the Three Great Festivals of Japan, the Gion Matsuri is celebrated for the entire month of July in both the Kyoto city center and at Yasaka-jinja Shrine. While the festival’s climax comes on July 17th with the celebrations Yamahoko Junko(parading of floats) and Shinkosai(a shrine festival where the divine spirit makes an imperial ), a vibrant variety of other events takes place throughout the month. Today, I went out to experience one of them: Yoiyama(Gion Festival Eve : 7/14-7/16). For Yoiyama, the festival’s focal point of Shijo-dori and its side streets are decorated with colorful Yamahoko (a type of beautifully ornamented festival float). As Yoiyama falls right in the middle of the larger Gion Matsuri, the streets are packed. 33 of the Yamahoko are installed in the area, and it’s great fun to take in both the floats and the enraptured festival-goers admiring them. Let’s take a look at a few of those Yamahoko.


Quite unlike the Kitakannon-yama(北観音山) tradition, in which the god of mercy Kannon is masculine, the Minamikannon-yama(南観音山) style displayed here represents Kannon as a woman.
Just as its name suggests, this is a float in the shape of a ship.
This themed float is inspired by the legend of Kuni-umi(the birth of land).


This one carries figures of the Chinese Tang Dynasty poet "Hakurakuten" and of a revered Chinese Zen master, "DorinZenji".
You have to check out this one, which features the figure of a small child festooned with a crown of chickens.
This magnificent, prize-winning "Hoko" is like a moving museum. It’s embellished with all kinds of vintage ornaments.


This "Hoko" dazzles with its array of spectacular ornaments collected from all over the world. Its finest showpiece is the float’s front apron, designated an Important Cultural Property.


This float boldly leads the presentation at Yamahoko Junko. Its front is bedecked with O-Naginata.

A discussion of festivals wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the yatai stalls. Tons of them are lined up all along the streets. They sell festival fare like yakisoba noodles, takoyaki (fried octopus), and fried snacks. In the stifling heat of summer, everything looks delicious. Sampling a little bit of everything as you wander from stall to stall is one of a festival's finest pleasures. Let's see what it looks like.  ⇒  Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) #2

Address Kyoto City, Kyoto, Japan
Refarence 7/1 - 7/31

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