Jul. 27, 2018 UPDATE

Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, and especially the Yamahoko procession is something you just have to see!

Sharing Kyoto’s very own Vanessa went and took part in the 2017 Gion Matsuri! The street food and the wooden floats are calling!
Vanessa[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

One of the three main festivals in Kyoto, Gion Matsuri, takes the whole month of July. The main part of this festival is the Yamahoko procession of the wooden floats and the Yoiyama Festival when Shijo Street is closed for cars. You can also find all kinds of street food when you go to Gion Matsuri, and you can enjoy some great snacks while you enjoy the historical festival. This festival is such a big event in Kyoto that every Kyoto fan has to visit it at least once in their life. 

If you want to really enjoy Kyoto culture, you have to take part in a local festival! And they don’t get any better than Gion Matsuri! People from all over the world come to see the Yamahoko procession in Kyoto. 

Especially worth seeing are the Yamahoko procession on July 17 and Yoiyama, the eve of the procession, on July 15 and 16. So, now it is time to join Vanessa on her trip to the heart of the culture of Kyoto, Gion Matsuri! 

The main part of the festivities happens on Shijo Street and Karasuma Street. There are really many people on these streets, and there are even police officers guiding the people. 

If you go into the alleys, you can see the Yamahoko wooden floats. There are 33 floats altogether, but on the eve of the festival, there are 23 on display. 

All the floats are different. This float here is called the Hoka Hoko float, and it has three disks on top of it that represent the sun, moon, and stars. 

At night countless lanterns are lit, making the mood feel very festive. 

During summer festivals you can see really many young women wearing yukatas. The colorful yukatas are really cute and make the atmosphere feel jubilant! 

On July 14 and 15 one of the main streets in Kyoto, Shijo Street, is closed for cars and only pedestrians can walk on it, and the street is lined with food stalls. 

Corndogs, takoyaki, and fried squid make for great festival staples. 

Yakisoba is also a great choice, these Japanese stir fried noodles taste great, and you get them in a nice plastic box which you can close if you don’t want to eat all of them in one sitting. 

After eating some Japanese junk food, how about a refreshing stick of icy pineapple? 

And if you want something even more refreshing, how about an ice cold cucumber? 

Besides the food stalls, you can also try catching goldfishes! 

Also, you cannot forget that at festivals, there is always beer on sale too! So cheers to the summer festivals of Japan! 

After you walk from Karasuma to Shijo Street, you get to see this beautiful sight of the street being lit by countless lanterns. There are really many people on the street, but it is still easy to enjoy the festival if you don’t hurry.

So, time to grab a pint with Vanessa and enjoy the night! But, Gion Matsuri is not only this! The Yamahoko procession is something you definitely have to see too! 

So, on the day of the procession, we woke up really early to get good seats in front of Kyoto City Hall! All for the sake of taking good pictures. But to be frank with you, my dear readers, it was really, really hot this day! 

The procession route starts from Karasuma Street, then continues to Kawaramachi, and then to Oike Street all the way to Shinmachi Oike. 

You get to see beautiful wooden floats go by you, and you hear music played by the people riding on it. The feeling can succinctly be said to be extremely festive. 

These wooden floats are almost like moving galleries filled with beautiful artwork. 

When you watch the parade, you can also see little children taking part in it. It is nice to see that this way the traditions of Kyoto are transferred to the next generation.

A comment from the staff
It took us almost four hours to see all the 23 wooden floats. Gion Matsuri takes place once a year, but it is a festival everyone who likes Kyoto and the culture of Kyoto needs to see at least once in their lifetime. It is great to know that the culture and way of life of the people of Kyoto are protected in this way. So, Gion Matsuri, until next year!

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