Gorgeous floats, sometimes called 'mobile art museums,' parade down the main streets of Kyoto
The Gion Matsuri, familiarly known as 'Gion-san,' is a festival held at Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and the highlight is the splendid pageant of some 30 floats called yamaboko proceeding along the main streets of Kyoto on the 17th. Each float, two-storied and about 6 meters tall, is topped with a long pole shaped like a spear. Adorned with exquisite craftwork such as woven fabric, dyed textiles and sculptures, these floats are so gorgeous that they are sometimes even described as 'mobile art museums.'
During the parade, children wearing make-up and musicians playing the flute, drums and bells are seated on the second level of the floats. Some floats have dolls propped up on the second level. This festival is believed to have started 1,100 years ago when floats were made and paraded in the town to appease the deity of plague and illnesses.As charged seating is also available, you should inquire at the Kyoto City Tourist Association (http://www.kyokanko.or.jp) as early as possible. Moreover, between the 14th and 16th, the Yoiyama festival is held at night preceding the main attraction on the 17th. Floats displayed in the town are lit up with dozens of lights, and the festive music known as Gion-bayashi can be heard almost everywhere in the town streets. During the festival period, people go and visit each of the floats, where they can buy omamori (good luck charms) made from sasa bamboo grass for warding off evils.Although only limited to the Yoiyama days, the local residents open their homes to the public, exhibiting their valuable art collections, a customary event known as the Byobu Matsuri or the 'Folding Screen Festival.' This is a precious opportunity to actually visit and observe traditional Japanese residences of Kyoto. Please remember, however, that this is not a visit to an art museum, so be sure to observe etiquette when visiting the homes of its citizens.
[Bus]Near Gion bus stop. Gion bus stop can be reached from JR Kyoto Station on City Bus No. 206.
Place: Yasaka-jinja Shrine
Dates: July 1st-29th
City: Gion-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City