Enjoying one of Japan’s biggest and best festivals- The Gion Matsuri

The Gion Matsuri is probably Japan’s most famous festival and spans the whole (!) of July in Kyoto. On various days there are different events which take place but most impressive are the nights leading up to a parade which takes place during the day. I was luckily in Kansai for most of July and so was lucky enough to see some of the Gion festival. There are 3 nights where the streets are closed off for the pedestrians and special floats ride throughout the streets. High up on the floats there are actually musicians who play flutes whilst the procession takes place. There are also stalls selling food and many people come wearing yukata (traditional Japanese clothes for the summer). I was in Kyoto for one of these nights and I was able to take some pictures. After the 3 nights there is a parade which takes place early one morning (I don’t remember the specific date though), I tried to see it but missed it. But, luckily I talked with a woman at the Yasaka Shrine and she told me something else was happening in the evening. I stayed in Kyoto the whole day and in the evening there was a second parade with people dressed in traditional clothing and some special guys riding on horse-back. Anyway, if you’re visiting the Kansai region then it’d be really good if possible to visit Kyoto during July in order to experience the Gion Matsuri- it really is something not to be missed!!

Oh, and just one last thing- the festival was actually started by a cult of the Gion Shrine (The original name for the Yasaka Shrine) in Kyoto as part of their actions to ‘appease’ vengeful spirits known in Japanese as ‘goryou.’ This was back during the Heian Period, a time when a lot of the aristocracy were very supersticious.  Enjoy the pictures, I’d love to experience the festival again and take more photos!!

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