Gion Festival

Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival)

Gion Matsuri is one of the most important festivals of Yasaka Jinja Shrine with a tradition of more than 1150 years and takes place over the entire month of July. The month-long Gion Matsuri is a festival to prevent epidemics. During this period, various rituals and events are held, and the downtown of Kyoto is in a festive mood. Its highlight is the magnificent Mikoshi-Togyo and Yamahoko-Junko on July 17 and 24.

Children who visit Yasaka Shrine before the Gion Festival
the vehicle that God gets on

Gion Matsuri originated in 869 (Jogan 11th) when a terrible pestilence spread across the entire land of Kyoto, and people were suffering from it. In the past, people used to think that the cause of it is vengeful spirits and evil deities. The people of Kyoto attempted to appease them and pray for an end to the pestilence by erecting 66 spears (called Hoko) representing the provinces of Japan in Shinsen-en, a sacred imperial garden in Heian Capital, and carrying around the Mikoshi (a portable shrine) for the deity of Yasaka Jinja Shrine to Shinsen-en. In this way, Gion matsuri began as a festival to eradicate pestilences and prevent epidemics. The people of Kyoto have protected and supported this festival to this day in the face of many interruptions caused by civil wars and political reasons.

(The grand parade of floats)

On the morning of July 17 and 24, 34 festival floats with luxurious decorations, called Hoko and Yama, are drawn through the streets of Kyoto. This grand parade is sometimes called mobile art museums. Originally Yamahoko-Junko was held to appease evil deities who cause epidemics and troubles. During the parade, musicians on festival floats pray the festival music with traditional Japanese musical instruments to appease vengeful spirits. Before Mikoshi-Togyo (the procession of portable shrines), Hoko and Yama play the role of purifying the streets of Kyoto.

People who change the direction of the floats at the Gion Festival

(The procession of portable shrines)

Mikoshi-Togyo takes place on the night of July 17 and 24. On the night of July 17, 3 Mikoshi (portable shrines) carrying deities of Yasaka jinja leave the shrine for Otabisho in the downtown of Kyoto. They rest there for a week and come back to Yasaka Jinja Shrine on the night of July 24.

People carrying a Shinto shrine to the main shrine of Yasaka Shrine

Other photos of Gion Festival

Participants walking along Shijo-dori in Kyoto wearing kimono with an umbrella with flowers in their hands
A wonderful sight of the three Shinto shrines and the many people who carry them
People pulling floats with gorgeous decoration
People pulling floats with gorgeous decoration
People pulling floats with gorgeous decoration