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 of Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and the highlight is the splendid pageant of some 20 and 10 floats called yamaboko proceeding along the main streets of Kyoto on the 17th and 24th.
The Gion Matsuri, familiarly known as 'Gion-san,' is a festival of Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and the highlight is the splendid pageant of some 20 and 10 floats called yamaboko proceeding along the main streets of Kyoto on the 17th and 24th.
Two-types of float called Yama and Hoko, Hoko are usually about 25 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 on the leading float, Naginata-boko, and musicians playing the flute, drums and bells are seated on the second level of the floats. Except the Naginata-boko 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 as early as possible.
Moreover, From July 14 to 16 and 21 to 23, Yoiyama, festival-eve is held preceding the main attraction on July 17 and 24. 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 visit each of the floats, where they can buy Chimaki (good luck charms) made from sasa bamboo grass for warding off evil.
Although only limited to the Yoiyama days, the local merchant residents or shops open 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.