Gion Matsuri – Building Phase

In Kyoto, all through July, there is Gion Matsuri, what I like to call “the biggest party in Japan”. While the main party night is on July 16th, i.e., next Monday, people are getting ready: The yamaboko floats for the saki matsuri parade on July 17th are being built right now.

Today, I went with two of my friends to get a glimpse at the new floats. Building of the biggest ones has already started, but the smaller ones are not out yet. We first had lunch in a tiny restaurant serving excellent sashimi, then we walked around the inner city and watched five of the big floats being built. Although they weigh more than 10 tons, there is not a single nail used anywhere, they are held together by elaborately tied, nay: woven ropes of rice straw. The whole frame is then covered with beautiful tapestries, the originals of which are hundreds of years old and are on display during the three days of yoiyama, starting on July 14th. Below is the building of the Kikusui Hoko, one of the large and popular ones.

Building Kikusui HokoOne of the favourite things for Kyotoites to do during Gion Matsuri is shopping. For yukata and obi, but also towels and new handbags… anything cloth-related, really. So, we went to one of the Yukata shops nearby the Kikusui Hoko to have a look around. Gion Matsuri is the one and only occasion where I am wearing a yukata – a summer kimono – myself, and while I am interested in the patterns, I didn’t really want to buy one: I already have two, and I’m not a big fan of pink flowery clothes.

My brand new Yukata! However, my friends decided on the spot to buy a new yukata for me! Isn’t it lovely? (I know that this is not the correct way to fold it!) I think these are bell flowers and some sort of feathers, a rather common pattern. I got dressed in my new yukata on the spot (and I hope I can remember the correct way of doing so) and could spend the rest of the afternoon looking really nice and mature (according to my friends), and I did get a number of approving looks as well. I also bought a new pair of geta – summer sandals – mostly because the straps on my old ones are broken and cannot be repaired. I am not a huge fan of the new pattern on the geta, but now that they are proper Japanese ones and not “made in China”, I can have them replaced at any time.

So, I had a fantastic afternoon at Gion Matsuri! To my friends (who are reading this): Thank you for spending today with me, thanks for the lunch and the tea, and, of course: Thank you so much for the beautiful yukata!

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