Access free interactive maps with locations and description of all 34 Gion Festival floats, plus procession routes!
Gion Festival Overview
The Gion Festival’s history began in the year 869 C.E.. The Emperor called for a goryō-e ritual to appease angry spirits. He believed the spirits were causing a deadly plague in Kyoto‘s sweltering midsummer.
These roots remain today: in many ways the Gion Festival is an enormous, month-long purification ritual. These include countless rituals and prayers for a year full of protection from harm. In other words, the Gion Festival invites goodness to Kyoto City, its residents and visitors.
Although Japan is often stereotyped as a homogenous country, it’s spiritually very open-minded. That is, Japanese people and culture accept “whatever works” into their spiritual cosmography. Consequently, the Gion Festival features an abundance of spiritual traditions. Look closely and you’ll see signs of Shintō, Zen, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam and Greek mythology.
With more than a millennium of rich history, the Gion Festival offers an excellent case study for sustainability. More and more, we’re recognizing the benefits of a longer view so we can live together well on this planet.
And the Gion Festival has continued for more than a thousand years! So what can we learn from it and its community?
Put on annually by thousands of volunteers, the Gion Festival is a fascinating self-organizing institution. What about this event has made it so meaningful to so many people for so many generations? What makes it meaningful and worthy of our interest and support today?
For over twenty years I’ve investigated these questions. Originally I could find little quality information about the Gion Festival in English. And so I explored the festival on my own, equipped with curiosity, inquiry, notebooks, dictionaries, cameras and audio recorders.
The Gion Festival community has responded with hospitality, generosity, knowledge, love, commitment and humor. GionFestival.org offers you the fruit of our many shared hours together. May it enrich your own experience of the festival! And may it help make sure that another thousand years of future generations benefit from its exquisite offerings.
Gion Festival: Learn More
While it consists of countless smaller events, the most visually stunning are the two grand processions of floats (Yamaboko Junko) on July 17th and 24th. In 2009 the procession won recognition as a UNESCO cultural World Heritage event.
During the days leading up to the Gion Festival’s processions, visitors can watch the gigantic float structures being built and adorned with treasures. Wandering the streets rewards us with cultural riches displayed at the floats and in private homes.
We’d like you to have access to the GionFestival.org content at your convenience, and we understand that you may not always have access to the internet, particularly when visiting Japan. We offer you an eBook containing this Gion Festival content as a downloadable pdf reading solution.
My Gion Matsuri fieldwork began in mid-July 1993 when I was working as a regional correspondent for The Japan Times newspaper. I also lived in the heart of the Gion Matsuri yamaboko floats neighborhood. Every time I walked out my door, the treasures adorning the...
New to GionFestival.org?
We recommend you start with top menu at the head of each webpage for an overview of the Gion Festival overview. Additionally, the 34 eye-catching yamaboko floats each have their own webpage. You can see those via the links in the sidebar at upper right. Or check out the webpages on the Gion Festival floats‘ two parts, Saki Matsuri (July 10-17) and Ato Matsuri (July 18-24). Enjoy!