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  4. Gion Festival (Gion Matsuri)

Gion Festival (Gion Matsuri)

”Con con tiki tin (the sound of the bells)” Along with Gion Bayashi, Kyoto is all about the Gion Festival in July. The Gion Festival started more than a thousand years ago and holds a variety of small festivals over a month from July 1st (Kichijiri) to 31st (Eki Shrine Natsukoshi Festival). Among them, the “Yamaboko* Junko” held on the 17th (pre-festival) and 24th (post-festival) is the most popular, but many people visit other Yoiyama (pre-festival) as well. Kyoto will be full of the passion of the festival. ※Yamaboko: A float with a halberd and a naginata on a mountain-shaped decoration

Gion Festival Continues for a month

Gion Festival is a festival of Yasaka Shrine, and the festival starts on July 1st with “Kippuiri” and ends on July 31st with “Eki Shrine Nagoshi Festival”. Among them, the centerpiece of this festival is the Mikoshi Watari of Yasaka Shrine and the Yamaboko Junko held on July 17th and 24th. The “Kyoto Gion Matsuri Yamaho event” is also listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

When can we see a Yamaboko?

At each Yamaboko-cho1, the structure of Yamaboko assembled by traditional rope-related techniques without using any nails will surely amaze you. You can also enjoy the pre-festival and the Yamaboko Junko. Once “Yamadate” and “Hokodate”2 (pre-festival July 10-14 / post-festival July 18-21) are completed, a trial towing called “Hikihajime” will be performed. After this, Yamabokos will appear everywhere in the city of Kyoto city.
1: Yamaboko-cho referes to groups that have a Yamaboko 2: “Yamadate” and “Hokodate” are the process of building a Yamaboko
Main event: Yamaboko Junko (processions of floats) The “Yamaboko Junko” is the main event of the Gion Festival in which the sound of the bells echoes in the summer sky and many Yamaboko go around Kyoto. The Yamabokos depart from Shijo Karasuma for the pre-festival and Karasuma Oike for the post-festival. There are many things to see such as “Kuji Aratame” and “Tsuji Mawashi”. The ornaments of Yamaboko such as beautiful embroidery and imported textiles are breathtaking. A gorgeous, big pageant, also known as a “moving museum,” will liven up the festival.

Pre-festival and Yamaboko Junko will be held twice

At Japanese festivals, there are two types of rituals: welcoming the gods and sending them after worshiping them. Mikoshi (portable shrine) goes from the shrine to the Otabisho at the Jinko festival and returns from the Otabisho to the shrine at the Kanko festival. At the Gion Festival, the Jinko Festival will be held on July 17th, and the Kanko Festival is held on July 24th. The “Yamaboko Junko” had been held as an opening performance for such events until 1966 when both the pre-festival and post-festival began to be taken place on the 17th. However, from 2014, the post-festival started to be held on the 24th again. The pre-festivals and Yamaboko Junko have also returned to the original form of the Gion festival.

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