Yoiyama festival of Sakimatsuri (前祭 宵山) from 14 to 16th July
Yoiyama of Sakimatsuri is one of the most popular event in .Gion matsuri festival. 16th of July is the most crowded day.
The must-see 1 “Byobu matsuri (屏風祭)”
As I indicated before, Yamahoko neighbors let you see inside of their houses and treasures.
The must-see 2 “Kaisho kazari (会所飾り)”
In Yamahoko headquarters, you can see Goshintai and ornaments of Yamahokos.
This is an ornament of Koiyama. You can visit to Koiyama headquarters during Sakimatsuri period though Koiyama belongs to Atomatsuri.
The must-see 3 “Gion bayashi (祇園囃子)”
During Yoiyama period, Each Yamahoko which has Obayashi begins to play them.
The must-see 4 “On Yamaboko (鉾にのる)”
You can be on Hokos.
The must-see 5 “Souvenirs (授与品)”
Each Yamahoko sells souvenirs like Chimaki and Tenugui hand towel. You better get them in the day time on 14th and 15th incase they are sold out.
The must-see 6 “Gosyuin (御朱印)”
“Gosyuin (御朱印)” is a stamp you can have when you visit shrine and temple. Collecting Gosyuin is very popular in Japan these days. In Gion matsuri festival, we can have special Gosyuin of Yamahokos!
A “Gosyuin book” is also available. You can buy it at bookstores and Yamahoko headquarters.
The must-see 7 “Paper lanterns of midnight (夜の駒形提灯)”
My recommendations are the nights of 14th and 15th. Around 10:00 a.m., most people came from outside of the city are on the way to home and the calm atmosphere arrives. In the heat of Matsuri night, we are brought away to somewhere we’ve never expected. Let us see the video below.
Imidake Tate 斎竹建て 15th July
Two bamboo trees is installed at Shijo Fuyamachi. A rope makes a Kekkai border is put between them.
16:30~ At Sjokp Fuyamchi
Mitarai ido biraki 御手洗井戸開 15th July
There is well around Shijo Karasuma. There used to be a edifice of Gion-sha. During Gion Goryo-e, the water of the well would be served for Gozutenno.
7:00~ At Karasuma Nsihiki
Ikamaryu Hocho Hono 生間流式包丁奉納 15th July
In Ikamaryu, cook made cuisine without touching fish with hand. They use sticks and knife like a man in the photo. The footage is a ritual in Heian Jingu shrine.
10:00~ At Yasaka shrine
Demto Geino Hono 伝統芸能奉納 15th July
At Yasaka shrine, traditional art performance like Imayo is dedicated to the Deities of Yasaka shrine. You can see Imayo aroud 0:45 in the video of Mifune matsuri.
Yoimiya sai (宵宮祭) 15th July
Shinto priests brings the spirits of Susanoo-nomikoto (素戔嗚尊), Kusinadahime-nomikoto (櫛稲田姫命), and Yahashira-nomikogami (八柱御子神) into the three portable shrines called Mikoshi. This ritual so sacred that no one allowed to take pictures.
In complete darkness, the priests led by small paper lantern coming out of main hall of Yasaka shrine. I suppose they have small boxes in which the sprits of Karmis are.(It is too dark to see. Every single lighting is shut down.)
They go to Buden where three Mikoshis stay and put the spirits into Mikoshis.
Hiyori Kagura (日和神楽) 16th July
Hayashikata (the musicians of Ohayashi) go to a place where Mikoshis stays for a week.
Kencha sai 献茶祭 16th July
In the main hall of Yasaka shrine, cups of tea are dedicated to the Deities. At Noh butai, Gion Bayashi music is also dedicated.
9:00~ At Yasaka shrine
Hoen Sensyoji Masakaki Tate 豊園泉正寺真榊建 16th July
Sakaki is a plant in altar. In Gion matsrui, large Sakaki leads Mikoshi. The plant is prepared at Rakuoh elementary school on the day.
9:00~ At Rakuoh elementary
Yoimiya Shinho Hono Gyoji 宵宮神賑奉納行事 16th July
Near twilight on the day, Shijo street near Yasaka shrine has a car-free zone. In the area, many performance are held.
Iwami Kagura 石見神楽 16th July
Iwami Kagura is a theatrical performance in which an oddysey of Susano no mikoto, the Deity of Yasaka shrine.
19:00~ At Yasaka shrine.
Yamaboko float parade (山鉾巡行) 17th July
23 Yamoboko floats parade around the area of ancient Kyoto city to gather evil spirits.
The highlight of Yamahoko parade is Tsujimawasi (Turning around of Yamahoko).
Yamaboko floats are pulled by many people. Around wheels, there are some people to help them. When hoko is moving, men pushe wheels with sick and change hoko’s direction with something like oar.
Shinko sai (神幸祭) 17th July
In Shinko sai, The boy called Kuze komagata chigo leads one of the three mikoshis to the area of ancient Kyoto city.
He is the most important figure in Gion matsuri festival. He has a horse head in the breast. It is “Goshintai” which the spitit of Susanono-mikoto descends to. With the Goshintai, he is considered as Kami himself. He has a privilege to enter the field of the shrine on his steed even though members of the royal family have to get off a horse.
Shinto Kami has two aspects. The one is fierce aspect called “Aramitama (荒御魂)”. It brings us anything bad like disasters, famine, malady, and so on. The another is peaceful aspect called “Nigimitama (和魂)”. It bring us anything good like harvest, peaceful state of mind, and so on.
In Ayato kuninaka shrine, “Aramitama” of Susanono mikoto is enshrined and that of “Nigimitama” is enshrined Yasaka shrine. The both of spirits is put together and and prepare for calm down the evil spirits.
Mikoshi Togyo (神輿渡御) 17th July
The most important event in Gion matsuri festival. Three Mikoshis depart Yasaka shrine and head for Otabisyo, where Mikoshis will be placed. They took different ways to reach there. They stay there for a week and come back to Yasaka shrine.