July is the perfect time to be emerged in Japanese culture. The Gion Festival takes place in Kyoto throughout the entire month and is one of the three largest festivals in Japan and is also part of the Yasaka Shrine. All throughout Japan, the festival is recognized for its beauty and size.
The summer festival apparently originated about 1,100 years ago, originally as a religious ceremony which was celebrated by the Japanese people who prayed to get rid of the bad plaque in hopes of appeasing the gods. There are 66 floats, symbolizing the number of provinces that were in Japan when the festival was first celebrated.
The main attraction of the festival takes place between the 16th and the 18th and is called the Yoiyama festival. At the festival, the floats are displaced and lit up with festive music called Gion-bayashi.
During Yoiyama, people visit each float and buy good luck charms called omamori, made from sass bamboo grass used to ward off evils. There are two types of floats used in the parade yama and hoko. The hoko floats are enormous and up to 25 meters tall and weighing up to 12 tons with unique decorations representing specific Japanese themes.
The importance of the festival is tied in Japanese history. Even today, the festival continues the tradition of selecting a young boy do be the divine messenger. Every day there are various events where different music, dancing, and food are celebrated.
Photo credit: Japan-Guide.