There is so much to do in Japan’s festivals that you may find yourself wishing you could grow an extra pair of eyes to see everything! Whether you are a festival novice, or you have been to the Gion Festival every summer, don’t miss out on these useful tips to get the most out of your visit!
Information on location!
The festival takes place in a plethora of Kyoto’s streets, and it is easy to get lost in the shenanigans and miss out on the real deal!
During Yoiyama, Yoiyoiyama, and Yoiyoiyoiyama nights, most of the action happens Southwest City Hall, where the roads are closed from 18:00 to 23:00.
Kimono merchant district
During the Yoiyama nights Japanese families open up their houses to the public. You can observe a traditional Japanese house.
Shijo, Kawaramachi, and Oike streets
There are two float parades, the first one happens on July 17th – Yamaboko Junko -, while the closing procession – Ato Matsuri – takes place on July 24th. The Yamaboko Junko begins on Shijo-Karasuma, and the Ato Matsuri starts off at Karasuma-Oike, following the opposite route of its former counterpart.
Tips for Enjoying the Festival
Visit during the Yoiyama evenings and parades
If you cannot visit during the entire month of July, the best dates to pick are from July 14th to July 25th.
Visit the parade route before July 17th
During the Yoiyama of the first parade you will both know the route beforehand and see the beautiful lanterns aligned for the procession.
Ask the police
They are distributed along the streets of downtown Kyoto, so be sure to approach them if you need any help.
Wear a Yukata
You will feel more at ease and a part of the Festival.
Try the Ato Matsuri
If you don’t like crowds, try it. It’s less crowded and smaller than the Yamaboko Junko parade, but the main floats make their appearance in both events.
Get to the parade at least two hours before it begins at 9 a.m.
Find a place in a corner
They are the less busy spots, and the floats spend more time there since turning corners takes a longer time than just walking straight down the streets.
What you must bring to the parade
Prevent dehydration, bring water along and be sure to take a sip from time to time.
Protect your skin, the streets of Kyoto are hot (and humid) during the summer.
Since you will be standing for five hours under the blazing sun, it’s best to protect your head too.
A small umbrella
Summer is hot and rainy, it will both keep you safe from rain, and bring shade in the heat. You will be prepared for every weather!
All in all, don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by the size of the festival, relax and enjoy. Take a rest whenever you get tired, and get your camera ready for pictures!