Origins of the Gion Festival: How did our architectures look?

Even though the Gion festival originated in 869 to appease the gods of death and disease, it mostly gained prominence during the Edo period (1603 – 1868). Back then, the culture and architecture of Japan were quite different from what you see today.

While the Japanese way of living is deeply influenced by ancient customs, the people of this country have made tremendous strides in every aspect of life. Despite such massive change, the Japanese have managed to preserve the tradition better than many other nations.

However, charm that existed back in the old days can mostly now be seen either through illustrations or famous paintings that have left their mark in the world.

Edo period architecture

Japan has an eclectic mix of buildings that exhibit varying architectural forms. From grand imperial palaces to humble farmhouses, the country has it all. The architectural styles have largely evolved from prehistoric to contemporary, with the currently existing past architectural styles serving as tourist spots.

When Gion Festival rose to prominence, most of Japan’s buildings flaunted a different kind of style. In the Edo period, a lot of classical architectural techniques were brought back because there was a problem of fire striking quite often.


The houses were made in a way so that they could be rebuilt quickly in case if there were destroyed by fire. Despite the structures being simple, the houses looked classy and reflected the reigning emperor’s taste in ever so subtle ways.

In the Edo period, the Gion Festival served as a platform for the wealthy to brandish their riches and their influence even showed in the prevailing architectural style. The structural developments also reflected the major trends found in other visual arts.

From regular houses to grand palaces to temples and shrines, everything wore a coat of aristocracy without going too overboard.

Japanese architecture vs. others

Japan’s Edo period influenced design can be said to be in stark contrast with some of the other places in the world. For example, when the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was reigning in China, the architectural achievement happened rather in Private.

Even though the scholars cultivated sensibility, the architecture of China back then lacked the flair of imagination. The Daoist nature of the architecture was intended to engender tranquility and induce a sense of safety for the people residing in the said buildings.

The garden tradition rose to popularity once again, not by scale but by style. You can still see what’s remaining of the old guard and architectural style all over China. Europe, on the other hand, has a different story to tell.

Europe’s architectural style saw many twists and turns due to the influence of the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance period. As Rome spread across Europe from 800 to 1280, Romanesque architecture with rounded arches came to be seen in many places.

During the Gothic period (1100 to 1450 AD), Europe’s architecture saw a rise in pointed arches and a ribbed vaulting, leading to taller and more sophisticated buildings. However, it was in the Renaissance period also known as “age of awakening” that Europe went back to its roots.

The modern day

Modern Japan continues to flaunt many of its old school buildings in cities like Kyoto. All that remains to be seen is how the style and influence of the Western world take effect in the future.


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