The Gion Festival is perhaps Japan’s best known festival. Running the entire month of July each year — it’s also one of the longest.
The festival is named after Kyoto’s Gion district. Gion is Japan’s most exclusive Geisha entertainment district. However, most of the festival’s main events don’t take place in Gion.
The peak of the festival are the Yamaboko Junk parades on July 17th and July 24th.
The streets of Gion are reserved for pedestrian traffic for the three days (July 14-16) leading up to the parade. Vendors offer festival snacks and games on the streets during these days. Many people attend dressed in traditional yukata.
The festival’s Yamaboko Junk floats weight up to 12,000 kg (26,500 pounds). It’s a lot of work to get them down the street. It can also be dangerous.
Parade masters are in charge of everything. It’s a real engineering project to get the floats down the streets.
Geisha, Maiko and Tayu
Gion Matsuri is perhaps Japan’s best event for geisha enthusiasts and photographers seeking candid photos of Geisha and Maiko.
You might even see one of Kyoto’s more exotic traditions. Here’s an older photo of a Tayu at the festival. Tayu is the top rank of Kyoto courtesan.
There’s genki night life surrounding the festival events.
Police show up in force for the festival but there’s not much to do.
If you attend — be sure to where a yukata. It will make you feel like you’re part of the festivities.
Major festival events including the parades are held to the southwest of Kyoto City Hall. The area is accessible from several stations including Karasuma-oike, Kyoto Shiyakushomae, Kawaramachi and Karasuma.
The main parades take place in the evening of July 17th and July 24th. Minor festival events span most the month of July.