Gion matsuri is one of the three most famous festivals in Japan with more than 1000 years history. I’m crazy for the festival which is cool, high-spirited and elegant as well.
The festival continues whole month of July according to the traditionally fixed schedule and various kinds of ceremonies.
The first highlight is “hoko tate” (float assembling),which starts on July 10th and goes on a couple of days in every corner of the downtown; it must be worth to see! The framework of the float is assembled skillfully by only straw ropes. I really love to watch how it goes and how experienced artisans work on it. What makes me impressed is the beautifully arranged knots of ropes. Although the framework would be covered later with tapestries , artisans won’t cut corners at making and arranging the knots of ropes beautifully. Even invisible, covered part is given...That’s the spirit of Japanese culture, I proudly think so.
As the float assembling goes , the streets become festive mood with a lot of vendors and the festival music played with drums, bamboo flutes and bells.
The problem is a huge crowd of people especially on the 17th, the day of float procession, called “Yamaboko Junko”. People start to gather around the main streets to secure the best spot to see the procession from around 7:00am, 2 hours ahead of the starting time!! Around the main intersection where the spectacle of the huge float turning the direction can be seen is out of question! Once you get in the crowd it’s almost impossible to move around. for a while. So I always secure my position at a corner of less crowded streets : the corner of Shinmachi street and Shijo street, avoiding the most popular area. There is no obstacle to block your view and you would feel lively spirit of the participants in “happi ”: traditional uniform for the festival.
In this way , I go to see Gion festival every year without getting tired and get energy for summer heat!