July 17 – Gion Matsuri in Japan

Posted on July 17, 2013

When downtown is closed to autos, and people walk about every night eating treats and meat skewers purchased from food stalls...

...And some girls and women walk around in summer kimonos, called yukata, carrying traditional paper fans...

...And private houses in the old kimono merchant district open to the public and show off their family heirlooms...

...You know it's Gion Matsuri!

This is one of Japan's most famous festivals, held every year in Kyoto. And tonight is the biggest night of all – the night of the parade, complete with floats and marchers in traditional regalia.

Matsuri means “festival,” and Gion is the name of the kimono district of Kyoto.

This festival started as a purification ritual to appease gods, in an attempt to avoid disasters that angry gods might inflict on people, such as floods, earthquakes, fires, and plagues. However, in the 1500s the government halted all religious events. The people complained. They didn't seem to mind giving up the talk about appeasing gods; they were fine without the purification rituals—but they insisted on keeping their parade!

So it is that the festival developed its modern secular nature.

These floats don't exactly float!

There are nine of the larger Hoko floats, which tower about 25 meters (82 feet) from ground to tip and weigh about 12,000 kg (more than 26 thousand pounds)! Each of these floats requires 30 to 40 attendants pulling plus two pilots. There are 23 of the smaller Yama floats, which require a mere 14 to 24 people to pull, push, or carry. They are only 6 meters (19 feet) tall and weight less than 2,000 kg (4,400 pounds).

The Hoko floats represent old provinces of Japan, and the Yama floats carry life-size figures of famous people. Both sorts of floats are beautifully decorated with tapestries and art and carry traditional musicians and artists.

Also on this date:

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest pages on July holidayshistorical anniversaries in July, and July birthdays.

And here are my Pinterest pages on August holidayshistorical anniversaries in August, and August birthdays.

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