We timed our trip to Kyoto with Gion Matsuri it is a month long celebration but we wanted to see the Yamaboko Junkō (parade).
The three nights before the parade on the 17th are also celebration nights, the roads are closed, food and drink stalls erected and you can walk around enjoy the atmosphere and see the parade floats up close.
Be warned – it can get busy!
The parade on the 17th started at 9am so we got up early to get a good spot.
We watched the parade for a few hours then retired back to the shade and visited a shrine. The celebrations went on well into the evening at the Yasaka Shrine and along the streets.
The mikoshi from the parades that house the deity are stationed in spots in Kyoto, there is another procession on the 25th July to return the mikoshi to their shrines.
All throughout the celebrations there is a great atmosphere you can hear traditional music and drumming, people chanting and police men blowing whistles.
It’s one of the few times where eating and drinking in the street is acceptable and there is a stand selling cold beers every few paces. Festival foods tend to come on sticks – yakitori, okonomiyaki, melon, toffee apples and strawberries, but my favourite is kakigori (shaved ice).
There are also stalls where you can get festival masks, plushies, yukata, palm reading, marbles and fish.
I really enjoyed Gion Matsuri particularly the warm yoiyama nights leading up to the parade. I hope we can go again one day.