Tips for the Gion Festival 2023
If you’re visiting or in Japan in July, there is one festival that I highly recommend: the Gion Festival, held in Kyoto and boasting over 1000 years of history. Get ready to immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Gion Festival 2023, where tradition and celebration intertwine. If you’re looking to make the most of this iconic Japanese festival, here are five tips that will help ensure you have an unforgettable experience.
What is Gion Festival?
The Gion Festival is an annual traditional festival held at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto throughout the month of July. With a history spanning over a thousand years, it is one of Japan’s most iconic and beloved festivals. The festival is divided into two parts: Saki-Matsuri (first half) and Ato-Matsuri (second half). The highlight of the festival is the Yamahoko Parade, which takes place on July 17th during Saki-Matsuri and July 24th during Ato-Matsuri. Prior to each parade, the Yamahoko floats are proudly displayed in the heart of Kyoto for three days. As evening falls, the festival comes alive with vibrant festivities, featuring a variety of food stalls and street vendors surrounding the magnificent floats. These events called “Yoiyama”.
Tisps for Gion Festival
Tip 1: Check the Schedule
Before you head out, take a moment to check the festival schedule. Highlight the must-see events and parades that capture your interest. This way, you won’t miss out on any of the excitement!
July 14～16 Saki-Matsuri(Former Festival) Yoiyama
July 17 Saki-Matsuri Yamahoko(Floats) parade
July 21～23 Ato-Matsuri(Latter Festival) Yoiyama
July 24 Ato-Matsuri Yamahoko(Floats) parade
Tip 2: Join the Festivities with beautiful Yukata
The summer version of traditional Japanese clothing is called “Yukata.” Embrace the festive spirit by dressing up in a stunning yukata and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the festival. As you walk through the streets of Kyoto, you’ll feel like a true participant in the festivities. There are rental yukata shops scattered throughout the city, so be sure to visit one and try on different styles. Complete your look with matching accessories and a beautiful obi belt to create a perfect ensemble!
Tip 3: Nighttime Delights in Yoiyama
As night falls, the yamahoko(floats) displayed throughout the city are illuminated, creating a mesmerizing atmosphere. If you listen carefully, you can hear the music of the Gion Festival in the air. Various locations showcase art pieces decorating the floats and knowledgeable individuals who share their stories about the festival’s history during Yoiyama. Take your time to admire the beauty and craftsmanship of each yamahoko during the festival. Each one tells a unique story and showcases the dedication of the local artisans. Capture their intricate details and appreciate the effort that goes into creating these magnificent works of art.
During Saki-Matsuri, food and drink stalls (including alcoholic beverages, of course!) line the streets, so you can enjoy the yoiyama experience while indulging in delicious treats. (Unfortunately, these stalls are not open during Ato-Matsuri)
Jump to each Yoiyama Map!
Tip 4 : Don’t forget to get the Chimaki!
When you visit the yamahoko during yoiyama, don’t forget to get a chimaki. In Kyoto, there is a tradition of displaying chimaki, a type of rice dumpling, as a talisman against misfortune at the entrance of homes. You are likely to encounter them as you walk around the city. Each yamahoko has its own unique design and blessings associated with the chimaki. Make sure to get your hands on these exclusive chimaki that you can only find here in Kyoto!
Tip 5: Witness the Parade – Marvel at the Festival in Full Swing!
Lastly, make sure not to miss the grand parade, the highlight of the festival! It’s a unique opportunity to witness the vibrant floats with their colorful designs parading through the streets of Kyoto. This spectacle only takes place on July 17th and July 24th. The parade usually starts around 9:00 in the morning and continues until the afternoon.
Get ready to immerse yourself in the magic of Gion Festival. With these five tips in your pocket, you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy the rich traditions, delectable flavors, and vibrant atmosphere that make this festival a truly unforgettable experience. Let the festivities begin!
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