- 1Why is "Gion matsuri" festival celebrated ?
- 1.1A short history of Yasaka shrine
- 1.2The beginning of Gion matsuri festival
- 1.3Gion matsuri festival today
- 2What to see in Gion matsuri festival?
- 2.1Yamaboko float Parade (山鉾巡行)
- 2.2Yoiyama festival (宵山)
- 2.3Gion bayashi (祇園囃子)
- 2.4Souvenirs of Gion matsuri festival
- 3Access to Gion matsuri festival
- 4Schedule of Gion matsuri festival
- 4.1Nagoshi no harae (夏越の祓), 30th June
- 4.1.1Chinowa Kuguri
- 4.1.2Minatsuki (水無月)
- 4.2The parade of commemorating the new Imperial era and 1150th anniversarry of Gion matsuri.
- 4.3Kipu-iri 吉符入, 1st July
- 4.4Naginataboko cho Osendo 長刀鉾町お千度, 1st of July
- 4.5Decision of the order of Yamahoko parade, 2nd July
- 4.5.1The order of 2019
- 18.104.22.168Sakimatsuri (前祭)
- 22.214.171.124Atomatsuri (後祭)
- 4.6Yamanoko Rengokai visit Yasaka shrine 山鉾連合会社参 2nd of July
- 4.7Funeboko cho Shinmen Aratame 船鉾町神面改め 2nd of July
- 4.8Building Yamahokos, (鉾建て)10th July
- 4.8.1The construction of Hoko
- 4.9The Chigomai performance of Naginataboko 長刀鉾町稚児舞披露 5th July
- 4.10Naginataboko cho Osendo 長刀鉾町お千度, 1st of July
- 4.11Chigo of Ayagasaboko visit Yasaka shrine 綾傘鉾稚児社参 7th July
- 4.12Gion Sagimai dance performance 津和野に継承された祇園祭鷺舞神事の里帰りご奉納 6th and 7th of July
- 4.13Naginataboko Heisokukiri 長刀鉾幣切 10th July
- 4.14Nabibnatabokocho Haitai no Gi 長刀鉾町拝戴の儀 10the July
- 4.15Takahashi cho Shasan 高橋町社参 10th July
- 4.16Purification of water for rituals (神用水清祓式), 10th July
- 4.17Reception with paper lantern (お迎え提灯), 10th July
- 4.17.1General info.
- 4.17.2Umaosa 馬長
- 4.17.3Sagimai dance performance 鷺舞（さぎまい）/鷺踊
- 4.18Purification of portable shrine (神輿洗式), 10th July
- 4.19Building Yamahokos, (鉾建て) 10th July
- 4.20Hikizome, (曳初め) 12th July
- 4.21Iki-Chigos of Nginata boko pay a visit to Yasaka shrine. 13th July
- 4.22Kuze Komagata chigos pay a visit to Yasaka shrine. (久世駒形稚児社参) 13th July
- 4.23 Kikusuiboko Chakai 菊水鉾茶会 13th~16th
- 4.1Yoiyama festival of Sakimatsuri (前祭 宵山) from 14 to 16th July
- 4.1.1The must-see 1 "Byobu matsuri (屏風祭)"
- 4.1.2The must-see 2 "Kaisho kazari (会所飾り)"
- 4.1.3The must-see 3 "Gion bayashi (祇園囃子)"
- 4.1.4The must-see 4 "On Yamaboko (鉾にのる)"
- 4.1.5The must-see 5 "Souvenirs (授与品)"
- 4.1.6The must-see 6 "Gosyuin (御朱印)"
- 4.1.7The must-see 7 "Paper lanterns of midnight (夜の駒形提灯)"
- 4.2Imidake Tate 斎竹建て 15th July
- 4.3Mitarai ido biraki 御手洗井戸開 15th July
- 4.4Ikamaryu Hocho Hono 生間流式包丁奉納 15th July
- 4.5Demto Geino Hono 伝統芸能奉納 15th July
- 4.6Yoimiya sai (宵宮祭) 15th July
- 4.7Hiyori Kagura (日和神楽) 16th July
- 4.8Kencha sai 献茶祭 16th July
- 4.9Hoen Sensyoji Masakaki Tate 豊園泉正寺真榊建 16th July
- 4.10Yoimiya Shinho Hono Gyoji 宵宮神賑奉納行事 16th July
- 4.11Iwami Kagura 石見神楽 16th July
- 4.12Yamaboko float parade (山鉾巡行) 17th July
- 4.13Shinko sai (神幸祭) 17th July
- 4.14Mikoshi Togyo (神輿渡御) 17th July
- 4.1Building Yamaboko floats (鉾山建て) 17th July
- 4.2Yoiyama festival of Atomatsuri (後祭 宵山) from 21 to 23th July
- 4.2.1Recommendation 1 Byobu-matsuri
- 4.2.2Recommendation 2 "Kaisyo", the Yamahoko headquarters
- 126.96.36.199Koiyama 鯉山
- 188.8.131.52Hachimanyama 八幡山
- 184.108.40.206Kuronusiyama 黒主山
- 4.3Sencha Kencha sai 煎茶献茶祭 23th July
- 4.4Biwa Hono 琵琶奉納 23th July
- 4.5Matatabisha Ohaek Kiyoharae Shiki 又旅社オハケ清祓式 23th
- 4.6En no Gyojyayama Gomadaki Kuyo 役行者山護摩焚供養 23th
- 4.7Abare kannnon あばれ観音 23th of July
- 4.8Hanagasa parade (花傘巡行) 24th July
- 4.9Yamahoko parade (山鉾巡行) 24th July
- 4.10Kanko sai (還幸祭) 24th July
- 4.11Purification of water for rituals (神用水清祓式), 28th July
- 4.12Purification of portable shrine (神輿洗式), 28th July
- 4.13Sinjizumi Hokokusai 神事済奉告祭 7月29日
- 4.14Nagoshi Sai at Eki shrine (疫神社夏越祭), 31th July
- 5Mikoshi (Portable shrine) of Gion matsuri
- 5.1Naka goza (中御座)
- 5.2Higashi goza (東御座)
- 5.3Nishi goza (西御座)
- 6Yamahokos in Gion matsuri 2018
- 6.1.1Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Naginata hoko
- 220.127.116.11What is Naginata boko?
- 18.104.22.168What does "Naginata" mean?
- 22.214.171.124Naginata boko never draws lottery
- 126.96.36.199Constellation on the roof
- 188.8.131.52Sculptures and paintings (金字極彩色図)
- 184.108.40.206Turning around at corner
- 220.127.116.11Where can we find Naginata boko?
- 18.104.22.168Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Naginata boko
- 6.1.2Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Kanko boko
- 6.1.3Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Kikusui boko
- 6.1.4Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Tsuki boko
- 22.214.171.124Paintings of Maruyama Okyo「金地著彩草花図」
- 126.96.36.199Sculptures of Hidari Jingoro 破風蟇股
- 188.8.131.52Paintings of The Tale of Genji on "Ogi", fans 源氏物語 五十四帖
- 184.108.40.206Ohayasi music of Tsukihiko 祇園囃子
- 220.127.116.11Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Tusk boko
- 6.1.5Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Niwatori boko
- 6.1.6Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Hoko boko
- 6.1.7Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Iwato yama
- 6.1.8Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Fune boko
- 6.1.1Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Yamabushi yama
- 6.1.2Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Moso yama
- 6.1.3Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Taishi yama
- 6.1.4Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Kakyo yama
- 6.1.5Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Hosyo yama
- 6.1.6Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Aubura Tenjin yama
- 6.1.7Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Shiho Kasa boko
- 6.1.8Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Toro yama
- 6.1.9Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Hakuga yama
- 6.1.10Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Tokusa yama
- 6.1.11Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Arare Tenjin yama
- 6.1.12Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Hakurakuten yama
- 6.1.13Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Ashikari yama
- 6.1.14Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Urade yama
- 6.1.15Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Ayakasa hoko
- 6.2.1Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Kita Kannon yama
- 6.2.2Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Minami Kannon yama
- 6.2.3Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Kita Hashi benkei yama
- 6.2.4Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of En no Gyoja yama
- 6.2.5Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Koi yama
- 6.2.6Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Kita Hachiman yama
- 6.2.7Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Suzuka yama
- 6.2.8Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Kuronushi yama
- 6.2.9Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Jomyo yama
- 6.2.10Souvenirs and Gosyuin stamp of Ohfune boko
This Darticle is the most precise guide on Gion matsuri festival in Kyoto; its schedule, history, the reason why it is celebrated, route of Yamahoko parade, Yoiyama, souvenirs, and other must-sees.
In 2019, we commemorated the new Imperial era and
the 1150th anniversarry of Gion matsuri!
We had many events we don’t have in any other year!
More info. to enjoy Gion matsuri, BAAH!
Attention: This article is subject to be revised.
Why is “Gion matsuri” festival celebrated ?
Gion matsturi festival (祇園祭) is one of the most famous “matsuri (festival)” in Japan. The word “Gion” means a name of a small area in the eastern part of Kyoto city. It was named after the former name of Yasaka shrine (八坂神社) which holds Gion matsuri festival.
So, let me show you the short history of the shrine.
A short history of Yasaka shrine
The foundation of Yasaka shrine remains to be secret because of its long history. At least in the 9th century, the shrine was known as Gion-kanjinin (祇園感神院), or Gion-sha (祇園社),the Buddhist temple. This sounds very strange because Yasaka shrine is a Shinto shrine today. Why was a Shinto shrine a Buddhist temple?
In ancient Japan, both Shinto and Buddhism were fused. Shinto is a religion indigenous to Japan. It is a kind of animism and a code for a small community. On the other hand, Buddhism was a religion brought to Japan from ancient India in 6th century. When our ancestors saw the introduction of Buddhism, they did not fall away Shinto. They fused both of these religions and reconstructed them as a new belief instead. That is one of the typical and characteristic way of thinking Japanese people take. If we find something interesting and it is no harm to the members of society, we just adopt it.
Now go back to the word “Gion (祇園)“. As a Budhhist temple, former Yasaka shrine worshiped Gozu-tenno (牛頭天王) as a Buddhist Deity. Gozu-tennowas a guardian of Gion-shoja( 祇園精舎、Jatavana). So former Yasaka shrine was called Gion-kanshinin, or Gion-sha.Take a look at the picture above. It is a photo of small reservoir where visitors purify themselves. You can see engraved Kanji letters. They read Kanjinin (感神院).
This is a short history of Yasaka shrine. Now make it clear that why Yasaka shrine holds Gion matsuri festival in the following chapter.
The beginning of Gion matsuri festival
The history of Gion matsturi festival dates back to 869. At that time in Kyoto, many people suffered smallpox, dysentery, and other epidemics because of hot and damp whether and ill-prepared water supply. At the same time, whole Japan saw natural disasters like earthquake and tsunami and suffered huge expansion of maladies.
In those days, people thought evil spirit causes epidemics and natural disasters. The imperial court gave Urabeno-Hiramaro (卜部日良麻呂), the priest of Gion-sya,an order to hold Goryo-e, the ritual to calm down evil spirit at Shinsen-en (神泉苑),the largest pond in ancient Kyoto.(The picture above.).
He put the spirit of Gozu-tenno, the Buddhist Deity, into one of three portable shrines and sent them from Gion-sya to Shinsen-en and placed 66 hokos (矛)there (We don’t have exact idea of their appearance but I suppose they looked like these hokos in the picutre above). His aim was to put the evil spirits together and have them descended to the hokosand ask Gozu-tenno to get rid of them.
This ritual is called Gion-goryo-e, the origin of Gion matsuri festival. In the begging, the Goryo-ewas held when epidemics expanded, and became annual event in 970. Since then, the festival was carried on for 1000 years despite of some interruption.
Gion matsuri festival today
As indicated before, Shinto and Buddhism was fused and Shinto shrines and Buddhist temple were confused. In 1868, the Meiji government gave an order to shrines and temples. They were forced to make decision to be a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple in terms of law. Gion-kanshininchoose to be a Shinto (神道) shrine.It became Yasaka shrine and Gion-Goryo-e (御霊会) was renamed as Gion matsuri.
The fact that the Buddhist temple became a Shinto shrine does not mean a reincarnation of the Gion matsuri. Many documents prove that Gion-kanshinin worked and was considered as Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine: it held Buddhist ritual and that of Shinto.
That is a reason why the principle of Gion matsuri festival still remains the same though 1000 years of its history. People bring Deitieson the portable shrines and ask them to get rid of evil spirits which gathered around hoko.
What to see in Gion matsuri festival?
Yamaboko float Parade (山鉾巡行)
The hokos in Gion goryo-eis believed to developed into Yamahokos/Yamabokos (山鉾). At the first time, people held hokos by the hand. In Muromachi period (1336 – 1573), they are on the carriage called Hokosya (鉾車). At the end of the period, the hokosya began to be decorated with ornaments as Yamahoko of these days. Yamahoko was decided to be registered as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage on last November.
Yoiyama festival (宵山)
Yoiyama (宵山) is the most popular event in Gion matsuri festival. When twilight comes, paper lanterns on Yamahokos are lit and the musicians of Hokos begin to play Ohayashi (お囃子) music.(See the video above.)
On the Yoiyama days, Yamahokos almost dress full except some ornaments and Goshintai(御神体).
Yoiyama is the most popular event in Gion matsuri festival. It is also known as Byobu matsuri. Byobu is a Japnese traditional partition. During the period of Yoiyama, Yamahoko neighbors let the visitors see their treasures such as Byobu (屏風) and paintings inside of their house. Let us see the picture above. It is a Byobu that the golden boards on which cranes and pine trees printed. In front of it, there is a Japanese traditional strumming instrument called Koto. Behind in you can see Ikebana, the Japanese traditional flower arrangement and a painting.
Gion bayashi (祇園囃子)
Gion bayashi is a kind of Ohayashi. As usual, Ohayashi is music played in matsuri (festival) to cheer it up. But I’m not sure we can find anything cheering in the Gion bayashi because Gion matsuri festival is not only for us but also for the deceased.
Souvenirs of Gion matsuri festival
The most popular souvenirs in Gion matsuri is Chimaki (粽).
Chimaki is an amulets you can have at Yamohokos and their headquarters. We usually put it on the entrance of our home.
This is the origin of Chimaki called Chinowa (茅の輪). It is a wreath made of plant called Chigaya.The following is a story about it.
Once upon a time, Susanoo-no-mikoto (素戔嗚尊) was on his Odyssey. He asked for one night stay to Kotan-shorai (巨旦将来). He denied it though he was very wealthy but his brother Somin-shorai (蘇民将来) accept it though he suffered in poverty. The next morning, Susanoo-no-mikoto said to him that he will save hid descendants from any maladies and asked him to make his descendants put on Chinowa as a mark.
Take a close look at Chimaki. You can see the kanjis on the left side. They read “蘇民将来之子孫也”. These mean “The descendants of Somin-syorai.“.
You can also have Chinowa amulets at some Yamahokos. The Chinowa in the picture is sold at Koiyama.
Access to Gion matsuri festival
Usually, taking Kyoto city bus is the most easiest way to access to any where in Kyoto but bus route is subject to be changed in July.
The routes of Kyoto city bus are to be changed during Gion Matsuri period. It would be better to take trains and subways indicated below.
Sijyo station (Kyoto municipal subway)
Karasuma station (Hakyu railways)
Shijo kawaramchi station (Keihan railways)