The Gion Masturi, popularly also known as ‘Gion San’, deriving its name from Gion district of Kyoto, is one of the most famous annual festivals in Japan and is celebrated over the entire month of July.
The festival is held at Yasaka-jinja Shrine along the streets of Kyoto and is crowned by several events most renowned of which are the Yamaboko Junko, which is a procession of floats and Yoiyama which constitute the festive evenings leading up to the procession. These nights are also known by special names such as yoiyoiyoiyama (July 14th), yoiyoiyama (July 15th) and yoiyama (July 16th).
|Date||Month of July.2016|
The grand festival has a long history and dates back some 1100 years to 869 when there were huge scale losses of life due to outbreak of an epidemic and was attributed to the wrath of deity Gozu Tennō. The festival was hence conceived as part of religious ceremony to appease Susanoo-oo-mikoto, the god of the Yasaka shrine. Even to this day, a chosen child is selected as a divine messenger to the God and is not allowed to set foot on ground from 13th to 17th until he has paraded through the town.
The grand pageant of Yamaboko floats comprising of around 30 floats parading down the streets of Kyoto on 17th July forms the most important event in the series of rituals associated with the festival. The floats in the yoiyama parade are comprised of two groups Yama and Hoko collectively called as Yamahoko (Yamaboko). These floats are adorned with exquisite works of art from Nishijin, representing the best of Japan, dyed textiles, halberds representing the 66 spears used in the original purification ritual and sculptures and figures of important and renowned people.
The streets are decorated with dazzling lights and are adorned with several food stalls selling taiyaki, takoyaki, takitori and other culinary delights. Festive music known as Gion-Bayashi fills up the atmosphere and adds to the exuberance of the crowd. Tourists are allowed to enter some of the floats and also some resident homes which exhibit valuable art collections and family heirlooms in a customary ritual “The Folding screen” which is also known as Byobu Matsuri.