Tips and Tricks to Enjoy the Gion Festival

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!

Downtown area

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.

Be early

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

Water

Prevent dehydration, bring water along and be sure to take a sip from time to time.

Sunblock

Protect your skin, the streets of Kyoto are hot (and humid) during the summer.

A hat

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!

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