The History of Kyoto’s Biggest Festival
Back in the year 869, Kyoto was impacted with a great plague that brought suffering and pestilence to its streets. Attributed to the fury of the god. Gozu Tenno, the ruling emperor at that time desperately asked people to pray at Yasaka Shrine (in the Gion area) in order to appease this god. Soon after the successful results of such prayers, the Gion Matsuri began and continues today.
Every year, the most wonderfully decorated floats, called “yama” and “hoko”, depending on its design and representing meaning, are constructed throughout the main Kawaramachi area for everyone to enjoy. In some cases it is possible to enter some of the floats and inspect the inside, since they are still constructed in a way they have been since the beginning, without using one single nail and interlocking the wooden pieces, holding them together firmly with rope. Once the floats are constructed, anyone can participate on the first pull of the float’s ropes to assure it is mobile and ready for the parade.
Japan’s 1000 Year Festival in Kyoto
Being the biggest festival in Kyoto, people from all over the country, and the world, flock in (especially on the main “Yamaboko Junko” parade on July 17th) to enjoy the atmosphere and experience a big slice of this city’s traditions. With its great popularity, it was decided a few years ago that the second float procession, “Ato Matsuri Yamaboko Junko”, be also carried out on July 24th as originally done. This not only extends the possibility of enjoying this festival to the fullest, but it also allows everyone to deeply understand the meaning of such important event.
Special points to enjoy Gion Matsuri 2018
- Arrive early and with spare time.
Being an event of such meaningful and historical proportions, it is understandable that its popularity will bring large crowds. On the days before the main parade, allow yourself spare time to walk around the city, since there are more than 30 floats to enjoy, plus shops, food stalls and all the attractions of this season. On the day of the main parade, arrive early to allow yourself the time to enjoy the atmosphere and pick a nice spot to experience the parade.
- Don’t forget your bottle of water
Kyoto’s summer can get quite hot since its level of humidity is high. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, cover yourself from the sun and wear light garments. In case of an emergency, find shade as far away as the crowd as possible and let any of the police officers in the area know about you or your companion’s situation.
- Charge your phone/camera.
There will be many things to photograph and record during the days of this event. In order to allow your phone or camera to keep up with all the wonders you will find, make sure they are fully charged and with enough memory space to catch it all. Bring a battery pack if needed.
- Bring cash.
Japan is still a country that makes many transactions with cash (paper & coin money), therefore many shops might not accept credit card payments. There will also be many food stalls that of course will only accept cash.
- Visit the tourist center.
Many of the events precious to the parade (such as the first pull of the float or visiting the inside) happens only on a certain hour each day. For specific details don’t forget to check with the tourist center. Some of the most convenient ones in the area are:
Hankyu Kyoto Sightseeing Information Center – https://goo.gl/maps/WuqAfQqhsrq
H.I.S. Kyoto Tourist Information Center – https://goo.gl/maps/1dxeyWZxkTF2
Kyoto Tourist Information Center (Kyoto Station) – https://goo.gl/maps/SqaKt2U2cK42
Important events like this one are the best opportunity to make amazing new memories with the whole family or with your closest friends. Fortunately, our traditional Kyoto “machiya” house can fit all of you without any inconvenience. Large rooms, spacious functional kitchen and a lovely garden to enjoy the cool breeze of summer anytime. The best part is that just behind the house you can choose from 3 different bus lines to get you to the main action spot of this event. Also, a subway line nearby may also take you there. Head to our website for more information.