July 2010 – This month in Kyoto

July 2010 – This month in Kyoto

July is one of the hottest and busiest months in Kyoto with the Gion Matsuri (one of Japan’s 3 largest festivals) as the main reason for it.

Here is a breakdown of all the highlights, activities, and things to see and do in Kyoto during July 2010:

Monthly Kyoto Calendar – July 2010


Festival of Gion / the “Gion Matsuri” (~ until July/31): The first day of the Gion Matsuri. A ceremony of offerings that indicate the start of the celebrations is held at Yasaka Shrine. In there, three of the boys elected as Bokochigo of the Naginataboko (鉾稚児 or child that lead the floating shrines) are presented together with other officers at the temple so that the festivities become auspicious (10:00). (See video below)

Festival of the Wind / “Kaze Matsuri” (~ until July/16): A special opening at night of Sengon Yenmado Injoji (千本ゑんま堂 引接寺)

Cormorant fishing at Arashiyama (~ until Sept/15): You can watch the classic show of fishermen using cormorants to do their bidding at Arashiyama.

Handcraft market at Umekoji Park: The well-known handcraft market where you can buy hand made items or brings yours for sale. Held every first Thursday of the month. Official site map.



Gion Matsuri / Ceremony of allocation for floats (祇園祭・くじ取り式): During this ceremony a lottery is held and depending on the results is how the order of the Yamaboko (Gion festival floats and portable shrines) will parade this year.

Gion Matsuri / Shrine visit of the Yamaboko Association: The representatives of each Yamaboko area pay a visit to Yasaka Shrine and pray for a good outcome of the festivities (11:30)



Tanabata festival with a night viewing at Kodaiji temple (~ until July/4): A special lighting up mixed with the Tanaba festival decorations (colorful decorations made of bamboo branches) give a different view of Kodaiji at night.


Flea market and Handicraft Market at Tohji Temple: Yet another well known monthly market held every 1st Sunday of the month at Tohji Temple.


Gion Matsuri / Naginataboko area ceremony of commencement: During this ceremony the kippuiri of the Naginataboko float area is held. The “kippuiri” (吉符入) is a ceremony in which the “Shintai” or object of worship of every area of the Gion festival, and believed to contain the spirit of the deity, is placed into every Yamaboko headquarters. A musical rehearse of each Yamaboko area can also be enjoyed from the outside of each headquarters.




Mitarashi Festival – Tanabata Festival: A festival of purification through water held at Kitanotenmangu Shrine.

Water Festival of Kibune: Held at Kibune Shrine (Northern Kyoto).

Gion Matsuri / Temple visit by the Bokochigo from the Ayakasaboko area: The elected boy of the Ayakasaboko area visits the Yasaka Shrine in order to ensure a good outcome of the festival, in other words… so that no one gets hurt (14:30).



Obaku Hotei Festival: Another handcraft festival, but held in Uji, Kyoto.


Pottery and Ceramics festival (~ until July/12): Dedications to these everyday life articles is held together with expositions and a market at Daihoonji Temple.


Gion Matsuri / The greeting lanterns: Japanese lanterns are set in advance to the ceremony of “washing” of the floats to be used during the Gion Festival. Children perform the Heron and Komachi dances throughout the event at Yasaka Shrine (14:30 ~ 21:00)Gion Matsuri / The cleaning of the Portable Shrines: The portable shrines are purified by being carried all the way to the Shijo Bridge while water is thrown on them and fire is carried around.

Gion Matsuri / Raise of Halberds and construction of floats (~ until July/14): All the floats and halberds are erected with a special technique of hemp ropes and where no nails are used for the wood.



Kyoto City Hall Flea Market


Gion Matsuri / Start of the pulling of the floats (~ until July/14): The construction of the floats is finished and pulling on them starts on this day. Anyone can participate in the pulling.

Gion Matsuri / Second stage of the construction of floats starts (~ until July/14): At each Yamaboko area.



Gion Matsuri / The boys of Naginataboko (11:00) and Kuse (14:00) pay a visit to the temple: The elected boys visit Yasaka shrine on this day.



Gion Matsuri / Festival of the folding screens (~ until July/16): On each Yamaboko area/neighborhood the old families’ heirlooms are opened for public display. These “treasures” consist of tatami rooms each in which valuable folding screens are exhibited.




Handcraft market at Hyakumanben.

Gion Matsuri / Eve of the festival vigil: Offerings are made at Yasaka Shrine (see second video below) and lanterns are turned off to guide the spirits into the three main portable shrines.




Gion Matsuri / Tea Offering to the gods: Tea offerings made at 9:00 and Iwami Kagura (ancient Shinto music and dancing) performed at 18:30 by the Shimane Prefecture Association at Yasaka Shrine.

Gion Matsuri / Hiyori Kagura: Another type of Shinto music and dancing, except this is doing while parading at Shijo street. Some scenes of it on the third video below.

Gion Matsuri / Abare Kannon: A statue of Minami Kannon is covered in cloth, then taken out to the street where it is paraded and swung with force. This is to appease Kannon and to ensure than during the next day the deity will not create any disturbance to the floats (23:00). Alright I tried to be as objective as possible with that explanation but the truth is that this ceremony may be better described as “Kannon gets pwned!”, cuz that’s what it really is.



Gion Matsuri / Parade of the Yamaboko floats: At 9am the pulling and parading of the floats starts with the Naginataboko at Shijo/Karasuma and from then on the floats will be taken throughout all 32 stations of the main route.

Gion Matsuri / Ceremony of dispatch of portable shrines (mikoshi – 神輿) (16:00)



Onda Festival at Matsuo shrine




Osuzumi Festival at Jonangu Shrine: A festival which started with the idea of cooling oneself in the middle of the summer by visiting this temple at night.


Festival of the sealing of the Japanese cucumbers at Jinkoin: The Japanese cucumbers were believed to carry many medicinal properties, especially to be effective against infections. And for that a special dedications of this year crop is done at the Jinkoin temple (7:00~14:30).




Gion Matsuri – The offering of sencha (a type of green tea) to the gods: At Yasaka shrine (9:00)

Gion Matsuri – Dedication of the biwas: A biwa is a Japanese short-necked fretted lute (similar to a mandolin or a balalaika) very commonly used in storytelling.

Festival of Purification (~until July/26): Using water to purify oneself at Shimogamo Shrine from 5:30 to 22:30



Gion Matsuri – The Hanakasa parade

Gion Matsuri – Transfer of the Mikoshi (portable shrines): At 17:00



The Service for Shishigatani pumpkins: Offerings of a Japanese pumpkin are made throughout the day from 9:00 to 15:00. The pumpkin was believed to protect against paralysis and other diseases.

Sealing of cucumbers at Gochisan Rengeji Temple



Praying of the baking pans: By putting old style baking pans on one’s head and placing mogusa (Japanese water-plants) and setting them on fire until they are consumed is believed to protect against bad spirits, protection against palsy and heat stroke (9:00 16:00 at Sanpohji temple – 三宝寺).




Fire-walking festival at Tanukidani Fudoin Temple: Probably there is no need to describe what will happen there (starts at 19:00).

Gion Matsuri – Purifying of the Mikoshi at Shijo bridge (20:00)



Gion Matsuri – Report of finalization: Each representative gives his report of activities, a ceremony of gratitude at the temple is held and the Gion festival is officially closed. Yasaka shrine at 16:00.




Gion Matsuri – Protection against Ekijin: Ekijin is a god that spreads diseases and in order to contain him for the rest of the summer several chinowa (茅の輪 – large rings made of threaded cogon grass that are believed to purify) are placed at the torii gates of Yasaka shrine (10:00).

Chinowa services: Chinowas are placed at the temple and hung as portals and anyone who crosses through them would receive protection against disease (15:00~23:00).


July 1st: A vintage video of the 1969 Ceremony of Dedication of the Naginatayama area (Naginatayamaboko Osendo) at Yasaka Shrine by KBS-Kyoto (the local TV station)

July 15th: Scenes of the 2000 vigil at Yasaka Shrine by KBS-Kyoto

July 16: Hiyori Kagura at Shijo Street

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