Every year in July Kyoto celebrates the Gion Festival. It is probably the oldest and most famous annual festival in Japan and attracts visitors from all over Japan and beyond.

It originates from the 9th century as purification ritual. When Kyoto was haunted by the plague the people started to hold the festival in order to calm the gods. The highlight of this festival is from July 13th until 17th, when the whole Shijo-Karasuma and Gion area is full of markets, booths and floats.

The Yamabokos are up to 20 metres tall and are being pulled on a big parade on July 17th. They also provide space for approximately 20 people who are wearing traditional clothes and playing authentic music. But not only the artists are in traditional style, more than half of the visitors are as well. The visitors wearing Yukata or Jinbei draw a fascinating picture of the crowd.

Unfortunately I could not attend the parade, because I had classes. But on the other hand the streets are almost too crowded during the main event, so people gather there several hours ahead.

Japanese summer is marked by relatively high temperature and humidity. These days we have between 25° and 35° C and more than 80% humidity. This makes wearing the traditional clothes more convenient, because they have a better ventilation.

Between the stream of the people I noticed a lot of police officers. Apparently the Japanese prefer safety and security. And to make sure that everyone knows where to go and what not to do, some of them are equipped with megaphones to share the latest instructions.

Word of the day: 賑やか – nigiyaka – busy (crowded)

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