Translated by Lester Somera
Gion Matsuri, Kyoto - Enjoy The Floats And Rhythm Of A Great Festival
Starting in July and lasting for about a month, the Gion Matsuri is one of Japan's three great festivals, and it features special music and traditional parade floats.
Written by Keishi Kawakami
The Gion Matsuri, which starts at the beginning of July and lasts for about a month, is one of Japan’s three great festivals. During this time, the entire Kyoto city is bright with festival colors.
During the rousing festival atmosphere, Mt. Yoiyama stands out for being particularly crowded from July 14th through 16th. This time, we will introduce you to scenes from that area, as well as the main attraction of the Gion Matsuri, the yamaboko festival floats.
You Haven’t Heard About the Real Gion Matsuri Yet
City dwellers might think that this kind of crowd is normal, but the sheer volume of people who visit Kyotofor Gion Matsuri isn’t common at all. If you see this many people gathered in Kawaramachi, you’ll know that it’s definitely festival time.
This is how streets in the Kawaramachi neighborhood usually look.
It’s not a pedestrian’s paradise, as cars are normally using the roads too. Picture how big this crowd has to be to make cars disappear, and you can understand how bad the traffic jams get.
The Scene at Gion, and the Centerpiece of the Festival
We will introduce the main draw of the Gion Matsuri, the yamaboko floats.
Here’s a look from far away.
As you get closer,
You get a clearer look at the entire design.
This yamaboko, the naginata hoko, is one of the float varieties with 33 lanterns. It’s a foregone conclusion that one look at this float’s sheer size and ornamentation will steal your gaze, and because the float will traverse the city streets during the first Gion parade on the 17th, it won’t be hard to imagine its splendor.
The children seated inside this yamaboko float are called hayashi-kata, and they conduct musical performances according to a characteristic rhythm known as konchikichin. These children must complete specific requirements before being allowed to perform in the float, so they have actually been carefully selected.
Naturally, yamaboko floats and the music played by the hayashi-kata are only one part of the Gion Matsuri. However, a little prior knowledge about the festival will certainly help you enjoy the scene even more.
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