Experience a piece of the Gion Festival here at the Museum with Gion Festival performers from Kyoto, who will be dressed in their traditional summer kimono and will ring the traditional bells. In the Japanese gallery (180), you will marvel at the beautiful large folding screens “Inside and Outside the Capital” that depict old Kyoto.

The Gion Festival occurs in the middle of July heat in Kyoto, where people dress in cool cotton summer kimonos and go see the beautifully decorated floats in the evenings when it is cooler, beckoned by well-lit lanterns that are set up in the different neighborhoods. Each float has different melodies and are often called “The Moving Museums,” since they are decorated with many arts and crafts from other Asian countries as well.

The Gion Festival started when the Metropolis of Heian Kyoto was devastated by an epidemic in the year 863. After many prayers and rituals, the epidemic subsided. These rituals became a tradition, and the Gion Festival has been held every year since 970 with a month-long celebration.

There are typically 19 musicians that sit in a small space way up high on the float called Naginata-boko, which leads the parade of the Gion Festival. The musicians are bell ringers, flute players, and drummers, who play and cheer the men that pull the 12-ton float. They start out playing slowly, but speed up on their returning trip. 

Image: from a traditional Gion Festival float with performers.