Today is a national holiday in Japan, called Umi-no-Hi, translated as “Marine Day”. It takes place every third Monday in July and is meant to celebrate the ocean surrounding Japan in general. Many people take some time out to go to the beach.
Kyoto, however, is land locked and has no beach – although you could go a bit further North and visit lake Biwa. But, there is still Gion matsuri going on. In fact, the three days – yoiyama – from July 14th through 16th, leading up to the great procession on the 17th are the liveliest days of Gion matsuri. The floats for the procession have been finished and can be visited, some can even be climbed by spectators, for a fee of course. At each float people can buy special charms that are somehow tied to its history, and the original tapestries that cover the floats are on display, many of them dating back to the 17th or 18th century.
By now, the back streets where the floats are located are closed for traffic, and there are numerous stalls selling toys or clothing or various kinds of food (it’s amazing what you can put onto a stick, although I have to say the sausages and cucumbers look a bit … you get the idea.) Many spectators of all ages can be seen wearing yukata, the gorgeous light cotton summer kimonos of all colours that I find so attractive, especially on the sexy young men around here, they are so my kind of … but, I digress. The whole thing is an enormous party, in the evenings even the very big streets become pedestrian zones, and the whole atmosphere is light and cheerful. Tomorrow, the evening just before the procession of the floats is traditionally the biggest evening, and I will be there again, enjoying the lights and the atmosphere and in general … the views.