What is Gion Matsuri like?
Gion Matsuri is a one of the biggest festival which takes place over the entire month of July in Kyoto.
Rather than being a festival of energy and liveliness it’s more like a mystical and serene.
Wow, one month is pretty long! Do they repeat the same thing everyday for the entire period?
No, various different of events are held. For example, prayers to the shrine, assembling Yamahoko, dedicatory of traditional arts, processions of Yamahoko and more.
That’s great. But it’s hard to decide which event to see if there are so many things happening.
Yoiyama and processions of Yamahoko are the most famous and have visitors most.
You’ve mentioned that Yamahoko few times, what is it?
Yamahoko is decorated floats which every town in Kyoto builds their own. They are decked with local arts and crafts that’s why some call them walking museums. Here are some pics of Yamahoko.
They are so beautiful! Why do some of them have those pike-like pole?
In ancient times, people thought a pike had the power to absorb evil and they paraded along the streets with it. This was the beginning of Gion Matsuri.
Ah wow, that’s interesting.
With a history of more than one thousand years, the Gion Matsuri and Yamahoko are recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.
How about the Yoiyama?
Yoiyama is sort of the eve of the festival. Shogi, Japanese chess piece-shaped Lamps are lit and Gion music are played. It is quite atmospheric. The area gets turned into a pedestrian crossing aliened with food stands.
I love stands at festivals!
You can also see the arts exhibitions and ride Yamahoko. So there are lots of ways to enjoys the festival.
I really want to see both Yoiyama and the processions of Yamahoko!
What is Tenjin Matsuri like?
Tenjin Matsuri is a festival held by Osaka Tenmangu shrine, Sugawarano Michizane is enshrined at and has more than 1000 years of history.
Sugawarano Michizane, the famous god of literature!
Yes. In Tenjin Matsuri, they put the spirit of Michizane into Mikoshi(portable shrine) and on a ship then parades it in the city to let the spirit see the city hoping for the prosperity of the area.
In Japan, we often hear about putting the gods onto Mikoshi, but It’s very unique that they put the god onto a ship.
Yes, over 100 ships parade to rivers in Osaka. It’s called Hunetogyo. It’s unique to Osaka, sometimes dubbed as a City of Water.
That is a tremendous difference from Gion Matsuri!
Yes, while Gion Matsuri is more graceful, Tenjin Matsuri is more energetic. They even have fireworks!
Yes, about 5000 fireworks are sent up from the riverbank. Many people visits just to see the fireworks.
It must be so beautiful to see the river reflects the fireworks.
You can go on a tour ship to see the fireworks from it too.
Mikoshi in Tenjin Matsuri is also different from the other. They have “gal mikoshi”, which is Mikoshi carried by young women.
It’s exciting to see men powerfully carrying the Mikoshi but women’s Mikoshi must be glamorous and nice to see as well.
Tenjin-matsuri is also known for having so many food stands so you can go there just for the food too!
What about Kanda Matsuri then?
Unlike Gion Matsuri and Tenjin Matsuri, Kanda Matsuri it is held in spring. It has both Honmatsuri, and Kagematsuri. Former is held in odd-numbered years, latter is held in even-numbered years.
What are Honmatsuri and Kagematsuri?
Kagematsuri is smaller than Honmatsuri. The most hyped events in Honamatsuri, like Miyairi, are not held in Kagematsuri.
What is Miyairi?
It’s part of a event when the gods’ on the Mikoshi are sent back into the Shrine. In Kanda Matsuri, more than 200 mikoshi that were carry by gutty men are sent into Kanda Myojin in waves. It gets really lively.
Having more than 200 mikoshi is amazing!
The sight of Kanda and Akihabara, a business and otaku districts, changes so much during the festival because of the parade of so many mikoshi.
Not just mikoshi, but people with clothing from Heian period also parades in the modern city. It’s a wonderful scene.
The festival seems to have a long history too.
The origin is not clear, but it became a big festival in Edo period. After Tokugawa started ruling the whole country, he held the festival on a larger scale to show his appreciation for Kanda Myojin. So it’s also called “Tenka Matsuri(The ruler festival)”
It’s a festival deeply linked with Tokugawa family isn’t it.
If you use the app called “Kanda Matsuri Burari”, you can know more about the festival comparing maps of old and present.