Kyoto: Gion Matsuri

A must-attend event in July! Expect that there will be a lot of trips to Sanjo downtown, a lot of pictures to be taken…

Gion Matsuri

A living symbol of Kyoto’s 1,200 years of rich, colourful history

Gion Matsuri Festival Event Calendar

Hoko and Yama Tate (float construction):
on these three days, the festival’s 32 floats are assembled. No nails are used.

Omukae Chochin (welcoming lanterns):
at around 16:30, men wearing formal kimono and carrying long bamboo poles from which lanterns are suspended, depart from Yasaka Shrine, heading west along Shijo to Kawaramachi.

Mikoshi Arai (mikoshi purification): during the festival, the deities of Yasaka Shrine reside in a temporary shrine called Otabisho. Before moving the deities on the mikoshi portable shrines, mikoshi will be purified with water from Kamo River. The mikoshi depart from Yasaka Shrine at 19:00 and arrive at the bridge at 20:00, then come back to the shrine at 21:00.

Hoko Hikihajime & Yama Kakizome (trial pulling):
the people of each respective float neighbourhood try pulling the newly constructed floats.

Yoiyama (eve of the grand parade):
those three nights before the grand parade, the festive atmosphere gets its peak. Gion bayashi music fills the air and a number of stalls sell various foods. Children chant short songs to attract customers for the chimaki talisman.

Byobu Matsuri (folding screen display): some of the families in the respective areas open the front parts of their homes and shops, allowing the public a first-hand look at their valuable folding screens.

Traditional Entertainment Performance:
at Yasaka Shrine, from 15:00 to 18:00, various traditional Japanese entertainments (kabuki, biwa lute, harp, kyogen, dance, etc.) will be performed.

Kencha Matsuri (tea ceremony festival):
from 9:00 at Yasaka Shrine, formal tea ceremony will be performed by Omote Senke School to pray for the development of tea ceremony.

Iwami Kagura (ancient court dance): from 19:00 at Yasaka Shrine, ancient court dance will be performed with the music of flute and bells. It is from the ancient story when the Japanese God got rid of giant snake.

Yamaboko Junko (grand parade):
at 9:00 the main Naginata-boko starts moving. When it reaches at Fuyacho, the chigo sacred child on the float cuts the sacred rope and the real parade begins.

Hanagasa Junko (flower umbrella procession):
at 10:00, about ten large umbrella floats attended by nearly 1,000 people depart from Yasaka Shrine. Various dances will be performed.

Mikoshi Arai (mikoshi purification):
like the one on the 10th, the mikoshi are again purified on Shijo Bridge at 20:00 before the deities are carried back to Yasaka Shrine from their temporary home, Otabisho.

Nagoshi-sai (summer purification ceremony):
it completes one-month-long festival. The ceremony starts from 10:00 at Yasaka Shrine and huge wreath made of rushes is set up. Passing through it is believed to purify the spirit and ward off illness.

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