Gion Matsuri Festival in Japan

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Social Studies ・MLA ・2 Sources

This is a month-long festival that is one of the most well-known and largest in Japan. A month is jam-packed with exciting gatherings and activities ranging from ancient rituals and cultural productions to processions. Despite the various activities that take place at the festival, Yamaboko Junto (the parade of floats) remains one of the most spectacular events.

The festival's origins can be traced back to 869 C.E., when it was intended to ward off a devastating plague. By then the weather of Kyoto in July was prone to the torrential downpours, extremely humid and unbearably hot. This were ideal conditions that necessitated the outbreak of malaria, dysentery, cholera and other epidemics, particularly before modern medicine and sewage. After this outbreak, the reigning emperor in the 9th century ordered that 66 halberds be sent to plead with the malicious spirits that were believed to cause these calamities. The 66 halberds represented all the 66 regions of the nation. Seemingly the ritual worked because the next time the nation was struck by pestilence another ceremony was ordered. The city's annual floods and rains made sure that the ritual became an annual event (Stein).

Religious Beliefs/superstitions

In its original form, the Gion Matsuri Festival was held with the intention of to please gods who according to their beliefs of the locals cause earthquakes, floods, and fire. At present the ceremony has grown to become a huge summer block party in which the visitors and locals gather to gorge themselves ob streets beer and food; and promenade in very appealing Yukata robes. The event has evolved to become a huge celebration of the Kyoto culture (Ashkenazi, Plutschow & O'Neill).

Main Participants

The Gion Matsuri Festival has so many participants. First, are the locals who take part in processions dressed in the appealing Yukata robes. The foreigners also attend the ceremony the ceremony. This one of the most populated ceremonies in Japan (Stein).

What Happens At The Ceremony

At this event, both the locals and foreigners gather and parade themselves on the street as they enjoy street food and beer. The major event is of two processions of the traditional floats that are held on 24th July and 17 July. The most fantastic and enjoyable apart of Gion Matsuri Festival are the Yoi-yama that are conducted three consecutive periods after the main float procession. This festival is centered on a collection of thirty-two spectacular Yamaboko Floats. Of the thirty-two floats, 23 are smaller but still grand floats while nine are enormous floats. The floats are well designed and decorated. An each float rests on wheels, and a team of men pulls it across the street. Some of these floats soar to 25 meters high and weigh as mush as 12 tons; this means that it takes a dozen of men to pull them around the street (Stein).

Where It Takes Place

The Gion Matsuri Festival is held in Kyoto. This remains to be one of the major festivals that takes place in Japans. The festival, in fact, takes its name from the Gion district that is located in Kyoto. The cities downtown areas are always reserved for the pedestrians in the three consecutive night before large parades.

Work Cited

Ashkenazi, M., Plutschow, H., & O'Neill, P. (1997). Matsuri: The Festivals of Japan. Monumenta Nipponica, 52(3), 415. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2385642

Stein, J. (2004). Matsuri! Japanese Festival Arts (review). Journal Of American Folklore, 117(463), 100-101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/jaf.2004.0023

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