The Taste of Kyoto: Food from the Gion Festival

Summer is a special season in Kyoto – and Japan! The streets are filled with a particular vitality during the month of July since Japan’s most popular festival takes place!

Locals and foreigners dress in yukata (formal Japanese attire used in summer) and joyfully stroll the streets watching parades of floats, snapping pictures of Geishas and stuffing their faces with delicious Japanese dishes and snacks sold from stalls.

Whether you are thinking of going to the Gion Festival, or if you feel like trying your hand at Japanese cuisine, don’t miss these top four traditional delicacies!

Yakitori

One of Japan’s most classic dish couldn’t be missing from Japan’s most traditional festival. During the month of July, Kyoto’s sidewalks are lined with stalls selling Yakitori (which means grilled chicken!) in a stick.
The Yakitori can be seasoned with salt or sauce, and you can spice-it-up with ichimi togarashi (hot pepper), shichimi togarashi (flavored hot pepper), or sansho (Japanese pepper). Choosing the right Yakitori for you can be an overwhelming experience, but the Japanese chefs are more than happy to help, just be sure to stop by a Yakitori stall and ask the cook for your perfectly seasoned chicken!

Taiyaki

This Japanese dessert has its origins in the XX century, and to prepare it you need a fish-shaped mold. It consists of a sweet filled cake with the shape of a fish.
The great thing about Taiyaki is that the filling comes in all kinds and flavors. The most common stuffing in Japan is the red bean paste, but it can also be filled with sweet Azuki beans, chocolate, cheese, and custards.
Don’t be fooled, even though it looks like a fish, the Taiyaki isn’t prepared with any seafood!
Taiyaki stands are popular during the Gion Festival, and it’s a must-eat dessert if you are visiting!

Okonomiyaki

The okonomiyaki is one of Japan’s festival main food dishes. The Gion Festival wouldn’t be the same without the Okonomiyaki stalls.
The fun thing about the Okonomiyaki is that it’s made to fit each particular palette! You can choose to add seafood, chicken or pork meat, or any combination between them! Its dish-like shape has earned this dish the name of Japanese Pizza.

Chigo Mochi

The Chigo Mochi is only made for the Gion Festival (although available all year long). The legend says that a child was serving this sweet made by God a long time ago in front of the Yasaka shrine, and the people who ate them stayed healthy for a year.
It is made from sweet white miso, rice cake and dried rice powders, and sprinkled with ice (kori mochi).

The packed streets in the Gion Festival are a sight of their own, but if you combine them with the smell emanating from the food stalls, you have perfection.
Don’t miss out on these biting of the Japanese culture and savor the Gion Festival in its full glory.

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