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The Biggest, the Best, and the Most Fun! – Gion Matsuri


Let’s Enjoy Gion Matsuri!

Yamaboko floats1

The humid, muggy Japanese summer can be difficult, especially if you are traveling in Kyoto – it can get pretty hot!

But don’t worry! July in Kyoto is packed with exciting events that culminates to one of the biggest, best, and most fun festivals in Japan. Yes, in July, one of the three biggest festivals in Japan – Gion Matsuri – takes place all over Kyoto.


What is Gion Matsuri?

Yamaboko floats2

Gion Matsuri is a festival of Yasaka Shrine located right at the corner of the Gion district.

The festival takes place throughout July but the highlight is the splendid and grand pageant of some dozen floats called yamaboko, proceeding the main streets of Kyoto.

The awe-inspiring floats are gorgeously adorned with handmade craftwork, woven fabric, traditional textiles, sculptures. The floats are massive, reaching to the height of 2 stories, and often weigh as heavy as ten ton. They are hauled by teams of up to 50 men.

Gion Matsuri is believed to have started more than a thousand years ago when floats were originally paraded in the town to appease the sprits and pray against diseases.

As time passed, the parades became an event for the local socialites to boast their wealth by adoring the floats, and for the ordinary people to enjoy the exciting atmosphere, fun events, and many stores that appeared on the streets.

Eventually today Gion Matsuri is marked as one of the biggest and the most historical events in entire Japan.


How can I enjoy it?

Since 2014, Gion Matsuri takes place on two occasions: first as Saki-matsuri, and secondly as Ato-matsuri. (Ato-matsuri has not happened for decades but was revived as of 2014! )

Saki-matsrui for 2015 takes place from the 14th to the 16th of July, and Yamaboko parade will make a round on the 17th.

Ato-matsuri will be from the 21st to the 23rd, with Yamaboko parading on the 24th.

In each Matsuri, there is a three to four day long preceding period before the Yamaboko parade. This period, called Yoiyama, keep the area open to the public to walk around freely and vehicles are prohibited from the roads after 6pm.

Yoiyama lights

During Yoiyama for Saki-matsuri, a large number of stores will be out along the streets, selling not only traditional goods but food, drinks, local delicacies as well as many other Gion Matsuri-related goods. Keep in mind this is not the case for Ato-matsuri!

For Yamaboko, the float will start from Shijyo Karasuma around 9am, and make a round through the main streets like Shijyo street, Kawaramachi street, and Oike street.


Now, go out and have fun!

Yamaboko mapSo this is just the essence of Gion Matsuri for you to know!

This is one of the most essential events you must experience if you are coming to Japan this summer. Get out there, enjoy Japanese sweets and delicacies, while roaming around the brightly-lit streets of Kyoto with the festive spirits abound.

I can’t think of anything more fun on a hot July night!

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