Gion Matsuri

There are three big festivals in Kyoto, and one of the most famous, Gion Matsuri, is happening this month. The festival takes place throughout the entire month. For about a week now, the streets have been flooded with people coming to watch the construction of the floats and the display of the richest Kyoto families’ treasures. Friday was the largest event, a promenade of wheeled floats and men in costume.

Despite the fact that a typhoon was blowing through the city.

For the first time in the five years since I came to Japan, forces allowed me to attend the parade. Since it is my last opportunity to see the festival, I was thrilled to go. My friend, who lives in the area, also had a prime spot to view the festival from her balcony. Since festivals are pretty packed usually, and a fourth floor balcony would provide the best view of the towering floats, NJ and I accepted her offer to entertain.

The parade began very early in the morning, at around 9am, and luckily so, as by the time the festival made it to Karasuma, the typhoon was picking up steam. By the end of the festival (which I missed due to having to go to work), most everyone on the street had abandoned their paid seating. But, the festival carried on.

There are other blogs that more valiantly explain this festival here and here, but I thought I’d share my favorite photos from the day. Have a look! Also of note is that the wheels on these floats don’t have turning axises, so have to be slid across bamboo to make corners. You can see a cool video of that here.











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View the whole album by clicking any of the photos!

28 thoughts on “Gion Matsuri

    1. Yes, it’s intense how detailed and dense they are… and some of those tapestries are several hundred years old. I love going there just to look at them.


  1. Everything is just so detailed and richly colored, so much gold and red. And the level of craftsmanship is fantastic. Even that rope is knotted and woven in an exquisite way. Great photos!

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    1. Yes, I love the color! It’s a color scheme I’m going to miss a lot… it’s always a little damp here, so the colors are so rich. I watched them tying the ropes for about half an hour… such a detailed process!


    1. Yeah, I was kinda happy it was raining… I didn’t even know that the different neighborhoods all had their own umbrella design! Kind of a cool thing to get to see. 🙂


  2. Wow! True to your style, this post has some great information and lovely pictures Alex. Hope all is well at your end. I am coming over here in a long time but it’s always such a learning 🙂

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  3. The embroidery in the third and fourth photos is exquisite. And all the details, colors, textures… everything is so ornate and gorgeous. And it still happened during a typhoon?? (Maybe the storm wasn’t a strong one…?) That’s amazing. Thanks for sharing, Alex!

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  4. What an incredible experience, and how wonderful that the parade went ahead regardless, because the amount of work it must have taken – all the preparation. I’m glad you got to see it, and in a prime spot. The photographs are beautiful. Thanks for sharing 😀

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  5. I agree with all of the comments and wanted to add that I love the photo of the looped rope and the subtle shift in colors. That would be fun to try to draw, or really hard. Also, congrats on publishing your book–the cover art is gorgeous!

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    1. Thank you! I really liked that one too…. though I was taking umbrella shots all day, I guess the first one is always the best. 🙂


  6. I simply can’t believe the detail — the beautiful tapestry work, the vibrant colors. There is so much about Japanese culture I don’t know, and so much I don’t understand. But the attraction of a festival like this? Quite powerful, really.

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  7. I’m constantly amazed by the level of painstaking detail that is taken in Japanese artwork. These are incredible. That man (statue) is an especially good shot – he looks like he is in agony. Wonderful pics as always, Alex!

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