About Gion Matsuri festival in Japan
Gion Matsuri is a well-known festival that happens every July in Kyoto, Japan. One of Japan’s three biggest festivals, it is held to honour the Yasaka Shrine. The festival has been going on for more than 1100 years and is one of Japan’s most important cultural events.
The festival lasts all of July, but the main events happen on July 17 and July 24. On these days, the streets of Kyoto are filled with huge floats called yamaboko. The yamaboko are pulled by groups of men dressed in traditional clothes and have beautiful tapestries on them.
There are two kinds of yamaboko. The ones that are bigger and more detailed are called hoko, and the ones that are smaller and simpler are called yama. The hoko are made of wood and can reach up to 25 metres in height. They have beautiful paper lanterns on them, and it takes about 60 people to pull one through the streets.
In addition to the yamaboko parade, there are many other events and activities during the festival. These include traditional Japanese music and dance performances, food stands selling local food, and religious ceremonies at the Yasaka Shrine. The festival is a popular place for tourists to go, and people come from all over the world to see it.
The Gion Matsuri festival has been going on since the 9th century, when it was used to pray against plagues and other disasters. Today, it is a celebration of Kyoto’s rich cultural history and a sign of how the city’s traditions have stood the test of time.
Also, read – Famous festivals in Japan
Sure, here’s some more information about the Gion Matsuri festival in Japan:
- The festival has its roots in the purification rituals that were performed at Yasaka Shrine in the 9th century. The shrine was believed to be able to protect the city from disasters such as epidemics and fires, and the festival was originally held to appease the gods and ask for their protection.
- The yamaboko floats used in the festival are decorated with elaborate tapestries, which are hand-woven by skilled artisans. The designs often depict scenes from traditional Japanese folklore, history, or mythology. Some of the tapestries used on the hoko floats can be several centuries old and are considered valuable works of art.
- The festival has been cancelled several times throughout history, including during wars and epidemics. It was also cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the first time in 75 years that the festival was not held.
- In addition to the main events on July 17th and 24th, there are also smaller events and activities held throughout the month of July. These include a children’s parade, a traditional tea ceremony, and a display of portable shrines.
- The festival attracts millions of visitors to Kyoto each year, making it one of the largest and most famous festivals in Japan. The streets are crowded with people enjoying the festivities, and many restaurants and shops in the city offer special festival-themed menus and souvenirs.
History time line of Gion Matsuri festival
Here’s a brief history and timeline of the Gion Matsuri festival in Japan:
- 869 CE: The Gion Matsuri festival has its origins in a purification ceremony that was held at the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto to ward off a plague that was spreading throughout the city.
- 970 CE: The festival is formalized and becomes an annual event.
- 1533 CE: The festival is interrupted due to civil war.
- 1559 CE: The festival is revived and becomes more elaborate, with the addition of yamaboko floats.
- 1630 CE: The festival is again interrupted, this time due to a deadly epidemic.
- 1657 CE: The festival is revived once again, and a special procession is held to pray for the victims of a major fire that destroyed much of the city.
- 1817 CE: The festival is cancelled due to financial difficulties.
- 1863 CE: The festival is again cancelled, this time due to political unrest.
- 1894 CE: The festival is interrupted due to an outbreak of cholera.
- 1912 CE: The festival is cancelled due to the death of Emperor Meiji.
- 1943-1944 CE: The festival is cancelled during World War II.
- 2020-2021 CE: The festival is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite its interruptions throughout history, the Gion Matsuri festival has remained an important cultural event in Japan for over a thousand years, and is beloved by locals and visitors alike.
What is the impact of Gion Matsuri festival on Kyoto city
The Gion Matsuri festival has a significant impact on Kyoto City in several ways. Here are some examples:
- Economic Impact: The festival is a major tourist attraction and draws millions of visitors to Kyoto each year, which boosts the local economy. Hotels, restaurants, shops, and other businesses in the city see an increase in business during the festival, as visitors spend money on accommodations, food, souvenirs, and other items.
- Cultural Preservation: The Gion Matsuri festival is an important part of Kyoto’s cultural heritage, and it helps to preserve and promote traditional Japanese culture. The festival features traditional music, dance, costumes, and other cultural elements, which are passed down from generation to generation.
- Community Involvement: The festival is organized and run by the local community, which creates a sense of unity and pride among the residents of Kyoto. Many people participate in the festival as volunteers, helping to build and decorate the yamaboko floats, or performing in the various events.
- Promotion of Tourism: The festival helps to promote tourism in Kyoto and raises awareness of the city’s many attractions. Many visitors who come to Kyoto for the festival return in subsequent years to explore the city’s other cultural, historical, and natural sites.
Statistics of Gion Matsuri festival
- Number of Visitors: The festival attracts millions of visitors to Kyoto each year. In 2019, the festival was estimated to have drawn over 1.3 million people.
- Number of Events: The festival consists of several different events and activities, including the yamaboko floats parade, the mikoshi procession, and various traditional music and dance performances.
- Number of Yamaboko Floats: There are a total of 32 yamaboko floats that participate in the festival. These floats are divided into two types: the taller hoko floats and the shorter yama floats.
- Size of Yamaboko Floats: The hoko floats can be as tall as 25 meters (82 feet) and weigh as much as 12 tons. The yama floats are smaller and more mobile, and are designed to be pulled by hand.
- Age of Yamaboko Floats: Some of the yamaboko floats used in the festival are several hundred years old and are considered priceless works of art.
- Duration of Festival: The Gion Matsuri festival is held for the entire month of July, but the main events take place on July 17th and 24th.
- History of Festival: The Gion Matsuri festival has been held annually for over 1,000 years, making it one of the oldest and most historic festivals in Japan. However, it has been cancelled several times throughout history due to wars, natural disasters, and other events.
What are do's and Dont's at Gion Matsuri festival
Here are some general do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when attending the Gion Matsuri festival in Kyoto:
- Respect the local customs and traditions.
- Dress appropriately for the occasion. Lightweight, comfortable clothing and footwear are recommended as the festival can get quite crowded and warm.
- Stay hydrated and carry water with you.
- Follow the instructions of festival staff and volunteers.
- Take your trash with you and dispose of it properly.
- Be polite and considerate of others around you.
- Don’t bring large bags or backpacks. Security measures may be in place and some areas may be restricted.
- Don’t touch or climb on the yamaboko floats or other festival structures.
- Don’t litter or leave your trash behind.
- Don’t smoke in non-designated areas.
- Don’t disrupt or interfere with the festival events or activities.
- Don’t take photographs or videos where signs prohibit them.
- Don’t bring pets to the festival, as they may not be allowed in certain areas.
Overall, the Gion Matsuri festival is a time to celebrate Japanese culture and traditions, and it’s important to be respectful and mindful of the local customs and rules in order to have an enjoyable and memorable experience.