July 16, 2011

1200 Year Old Pride of Kyoto People, Gion Festival

Rehearsal in a narrow street.
The parade of 32 floats are held on July 17th on the main roads.

The climax of Gion Festival is the parade of 32 floats held on July 17th. Before the festival, people in a community is rehearsing the parade.  The float is being pulled through such a narrow street where the buildings, houses and even electric poles with the  heavy electric wires  are lined with on both sides . The tall poll on the top of the float swings slowly from right to left, left to right. Often it almost touches the wall of a building or electric wires.
A yellow net covering a transformer is to protect a float.

 Each float is carefully preserved and maintained  by each local community. To have a float and join Gion Festival is the greatest honor for the Kyoto people.

Gion Festival is the 1200 year old  pride of Kyoto People. Every year on July 17th , 32 floats  are paraded through Gion Area in Kyoto. 32 floats are  decorated with gorgeously embroidered tapestries or carpets, exquisite paintings and more. Some of them are from foreign countries, such as China, Korea, India, Persia and  Belgium.  No wonder, they are nicknamed  "Moving Art Museum". This paraded is only part of Gion Festival. The festival continues one month long from July 1st through 31st.
At night floats displayed on a main street are illuminated by paper lanterns.

The origin of the festival dating back to the 9th century when a bad plague prevailed Kyoto and tormented people. This time of  year in those days, the outbreak of the plague occurred often. Because heavy rain caused floods and the severe summer heat rotted water. The rotten water caused the plague and tormented people.  At that time, they believed that natural disasters and diseases were caused by evil spirit. To appease or drive away evil spirit,  66 pikes were hoisted in the holy garden of Imperial Palace to pray to the deity for help. Some of the floats have well kept the legacy of these 66 pikes. But, why 66?? Because in those days, there were 66 provinces in Japan. Still now Japan is the country which has suffered from terrible natural disasters. The great earthquake which hit Tohoku area on March 11th is too vivid in our memory. Now, we do badly need Gion Festival.



  1. The photos are great and I love the reflections! I also enjoyed reading about the origin of the festival.
    My country is only 235 yrs old and my state is less than 160 so 1200 yrs is amazing to me.

  2. Wow! Japan has so many wonderful festivals and photo opportunities. Your photos do give this festival justice though I know you are not so comfortable with it. Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. The reflections on the building are beautiful especially the red colourings.

  4. Never having been to your part of the world it is very interesting to learn a little about traditions like these. It is so hard to get good photos in a crowd of people - I think you did well! Thanks for sharing.

  5. The photos show enough for us to understand and appreciate your interesting account. I love the way that these ancient things go through the glassy modern buildings.

  6. 京都の祇園祭はさすがに有名ですね!

  7. oh, the photos are wonderful! the rehearsal through wires and buildings is scary though! the rich tapestry you showed on that one float is just amazing. what a wonderful, historical tradition.

  8. I really adore your photos. They captivated me as I looked in anticipation of the rehersal as they went through the narrow street. Such deep, wonderful history. Thank you!

  9. I have been the festival some times. But I've never seen the floats are moving. Whenever I see them they are placed on the road and I listen sound of bell (Kon-kon-chikichin-kon-chikichin).
    Though I like to see beautiful floats I don't like hot and humid in Kyoto.

  10. 京都の祇園祭が始まるというニュースをTVで頻繁に目にします。でもまあ~~すごいですね!この暑さの中、沢山の人、人、人。でもまだリハーサルですね。でもいつかは、見に行きたいと思っています。

  11. I heard my friends went to Gion Festival today! Wow, amazing photos! I always love seeing the men/women on the roof of the float...very thrilling watching them jump up and down :D

    I guess you still don't have your camera back? But it's really not the camera but your way of taking the photos that make this blog so special. I think the photos of this post are beautiful! Hope you enjoy your 3day weekend :D

  12. Holding and passing this tradition down from generation to generation must take enormous enthusiasm and supports of both human resources and funds from the community. I really respect their contribution and pride in this festival.
    Thank you for sharing, snowwhite.

  13. It’s awesome many decorated “yamas” and “hokos” with sky-piercing sword on the top parade slowly through the modern city streets of Kyoto. Kyoto people’s enthusiasm, too. Today I’ve watched the live parade on Kyoto TV.

    You don’t sound comfortable with your photos, however, they are fascinating to me more than enough. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Very beautiful photos of the festival! I love your sidebar photos too! Do you sell them as well?

    Warm regards from Vienna!

  15. I saw on TV that many girls with cotton kimono were chanting a traditional song. Their manners and the lyrics of Kyoto dialect were so lovely. I've never been to see the live festival because of the hottest season though.

  16. what a beautiful tradition for so so many years! i hope the festival spirit lifts spirits of the tragic events of March...awesome photos!

  17. Hi

    Oh the reflections of the float on the glass walls are so beautiful! Nice captures! The red cloth decoration with gorgeous embroidery is very impressive. Thanks so much for sharing those lovely photos!


  18. Keiko,I agree with Kaori,your way of seeing is of prime importance,but of course in the the end it's how you feel about image that matters.I like the first photo very much,it tells a story and is beautifully composed.It's lovely how the new reflects the old.....and the embroidery is gorgeous.
    I wonder what future generations will say about our beliefs!

    Enjoy your day,


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko