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Japan Today

July 28, 2011

Gion Matsuri - One of the Most Famous Festival in Japan

Every year, at the beginning of July, a tremendous numbers of tourists visit the main streets of Kyoto downtown area and celebrate the worldwide famous festival—“Gion Maturi”. The entire celebration is started from the “Yoiyama” festival from July 14 to 16 and followed by a parade named “Yamaboko Junko” on 17.

Gion Matsuri is believed to have started about 1,100 years ago. Ancient Japanese built many floats called “Yamaboko” and paraded in the town in order to appease the gods of plagues and illnesses. These floats are about two-storied and 6 meters tall, and topped with a long pole shaped like an ancient spear. All the floats are decorated with gorgeous craftwork, such as woven fabrics, dyed textiles, and sculptures. Children wearing make-up and musicians playing the flutes, drums, and bells are seated on the second level of the floats.


Before the “Yamaboko Junko” parade, the floats are displayed in the town and lit up with many lights at night. People can hear the festival music called “Gion Bayashi” almost everywhere in the main streets of Kyoto. The weights of some floats are about 12,000 kilograms and these floats usually have a height of 25 meters measured from ground to tip. The average diameter of their wheels is about 1.9 meter. During the parade, 30 to 40 people are pulling the floats and two men are piloting with wedges.

People usually go and visit each floats during Gion Matsuri and purchase good luck charms. These charms, Japanese called it “Omamori”, are made of bamboo grass and used for protecting people from the evils. The entire events of Gion Matsuri are started by an opening ceremony on July 1 and completed by a closing service at Eki Shrine on July 31. Please join us in celebrating Gion Matsuri if you are planning to visit Japan and expecting to see Japanese culture of the traditional festival during the summer.