I’m excited to be in the final stretch of writing my guidebook to the Gion Festival in English. My plan was to launch it at the Gion Festival 2020, in July. It looks like that may not happen.
The Kyoto Shinbun newspaper just reported that there’s a good chance the Gion Festival 2020 processions may not take place.
The Gion Festival’s history began in the year 869, as a ritual to pray for the end of an epidemic. But with the spread of the new strain of corona virus, bringing so many people together in central Kyoto seems risky.
There were more than 1.2 million visitors to just the first part (saki matsuri) of the Gion Festival in 2019.
The Gion Matsuri Yamaboko Rengokai, or Federation of Gion Festival Floats, has been surveying the float chōnai. These are the neighborhood associations that sponsor each of the 34 festival floats. Some are in favor of canceling the festival. Others argue that it must go on since it was created to prevent epidemics after all.
At a press conference scheduled for April 20, the Rengokai will share its latest findings.
The floats procession did not take place in 1962, when Shijo street was being excavated to build the underground portion of the Hankyu train line. Due to cholera outbreaks in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the procession was held in the autumn and also in May instead of July.
What about the Gion Festival Guidebook in English?
It’s important to be safe and keep people healthy. Fortunately, I can continue to write the first English-language guidebook to the Gion Festival, with low risk.
Stay tuned for revised news of the launch. Stay connected via my Gion Festival Facebook page and Instagram channel. And if we can’t attend the Gion Festival this year, you can still enjoy my videos on my YouTube channel. I’ve researched the Gion Festival for the last 25 years, to offer you the best interpretation possible.
My aim is to help you enjoy the extraordinary Gion Festival, in ways that help this incredible tradition thrive so that future generations enjoy it too.