When it comes to tradition, Kyoto festivals stand out, and you’ll definitely want to see them if you have the chance. The city also has a variety of other festivals depending on the season, and we’ll be checking out a couple here.
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Aoi Matsuri: Like a beautiful court mural (May 15)

Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com

May 15th
The Aoi Matsuri is held every May 15th at Kamo-mioya-jinja (the Shimogamo Shrine) and Kamo-wakeikazuchi-jinja (the Kamigamo Shrine). Kyoto festival-goers donning the garb of Heian nobles march down the city’s main road, going from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to Shimogamo Shrine, then to Kamigamo Shrine. The group of over 500 look like something out of a beautiful Heian picture scroll as they gracefully move down the road.
The carriage with its bamboo blinds is decorated with hollyhock (aoi) leaves, hence the name Aoi Matsuri – although its actual name, Kamo Matsuri, is said to have come from how this Kyoto festival was performed to enshrine the god of Kamigamo Shrine.

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The lines are split into a main line and the Saio-Dai line, with the latter and its glamorous costumes being more popular. There's the Saio-Dai on the palanquin, the shrine girls and court ladies, and many other women with beautiful costumes and instruments.
On the 3rd of May, a preliminary rite is held at Shimogamo Shrine to pray for the festival's safety. This is a very impressive event in which archers, wearing clothes of the old nobility shoot three targets on horseback. The viewing is free, so if you have time in your schedule, check it out.


59, Shimogamoizumigawacho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
075-781-0010Kamo-wake-ikazuchi-jinja Shrine (Kamigamo Shrine)
339, Kamigamomotoyama, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Gion Matsuri: Moving art galleries and grand mikoshi (July)

Photo: Gion Matsuri Yamahoko Federation

July 1st to July 31st, Yamaboko floats on the 17th and 24th
The Gion Matsuri is probably Kyoto's most famous summer Kyoto festival. It's held at Yasaka Shrine, starting with the kippuiri on July 1st and ending with the closing ceremony at Eki Shrine on the 31st, lasting for a month.
The Gion Matsuri began when a disease was plaguing Kyoto, leading priests to prop up 66 halberds, one for each province in Japan at the time, in the garden of Shinsen-en. This offering to the god of the shrine, Susanoo-no-Mikoto, is said to have lifted the plague. Of particular note in the festival is the parade of the Yamaboko floats on July 17. The floats are lavishly decorated, making them like moving art galleries, and indeed have been designated as national treasures.

Gion Matsuri Guide (July): Access and Tips on Enjoying One of Japan’s Three Great Festivals

(Photo courtesy of Sanwaka Mikoshi Kai)

On the evening of the 17th, the parade of the mikoshi floats to Yakasa Shrine is held. Three mikoshi, housing the gods Susanoo-no-Mikoto, Kushiinadahime-no-Mikoto, and Yahashira-no-Mikogami go thr…

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