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History of Gion Festival / Kyoto

COOL JAPANESE SCENE / Kansai & Kyoto (47) / Kansai & Kyoto (49)

Refer to the history and the schedule in every year of the Gion Festival.
This festival originated as part of a purification ritual (goryo-e) to appease the gods thought to cause fire, floods and earthquakes.

In 869, the people were suffering from plague and pestilence which was attributed to the rampaging deity Gozu Tennō (牛頭天王). Emperor Seiwa ordered that the people pray to the god of the Yasaka Shrine, Susanoo-no-mikoto. Sixty-six stylized and decorated halberds, one for each province in old Japan, were prepared and erected at Shinsen-en, a garden, along with the portable shrines (mikoshi) from Yasaka Shrine.

File:Naginata hoko.jpg 
(Naginata Hoko float carrying a son of a well known Kyoto family. He is adorned with the golden phoenix).

This practice was repeated wherever an outbreak occurred. In 970, it was decreed an annual event and has since seldom been broken. Over time the increasingly powerful and influential merchant class made the festival more elaborate and, by the
Edo Period (1603-1868), used the parade to brandish their wealth.

File:Crafts and food2.jpg
(Food and crafts adorn every street during the matsuri.)

In 1533, the Ashikaga shogunate halted all religious events, but the people protested, stating that they could do without the rituals, but not the procession. This marks the progression into the festival's current form. Smaller floats that were lost or damaged over the centuries have been restored, and the weavers of the Nishijin area offer new tapestries to replace destroyed ones. When not in use, the floats and regalia are kept in special storehouses throughout the central merchant district of Kyoto in the care of the local people.
Schedule of events
Following is a list of selected events of Gion Matsuri every year.
July 1 through 5 - Kippuiri, opening ceremony of festival, in each participating neighbourhood
July 2 - Kujitorishiki,
lottery for the parade order, in the municipal assembly hall
July 7 - Shrine visit by chigo children of Ayagasaboko
July 10 -
Lantern parade to welcome mikoshi portable shrines
July 10 - Mikoshi arai, cleansing of mikoshi by sacred water from the
Kamo River
July 10 through 13 - Building-up of floats
July 13 a.m. - Shrine visit by chigo children of Naginataboko
July 13 p.m. - Shrine visit by chigo children of Kuse Shrine
July 14 - Yoiyoiyoiyama
July 15 - Yoiyoiyama
July 16 - Yoiyama
July 16 - Yoimiya shinshin hono shinji, dedicative art performances
July 17 - Parade of yamaboko floats
July 17 - Parade of mikoshi from Yasaka Shrine to the city
July 24 - Parade of hanagasa or "flower parasols"
July 24 - Parade of mikoshi from the city to Yasaka Shrine
July 28 - Mikoshi arai, cleansing of mikoshi by sacred water from the Kamo river
July 31 - Closing service at Eki Shrine

By T.S. on Jul 14, 2009
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Author:T. SATOH