Gion Matsuri Festival (祇園祭)

Gion Matsuri Festival is a kind of festival that is dedicated to the Gion-jinja Shrines which enshrine the Gion shinko (Gion belief) (Susanoo, deity in Japanese Mythology, and Gozu Tenno, deity of Disease, said to be the Indian god Gavagriva).

The name 'Gion Matsuri' originates from the enshrined deity, but the contents of the festival vary depending on the region. Further, the 'Tennosai Festival,' which is also dedicated to the same deity, falls into the same category.
Meanwhile, even without having relations with the Gion shinko, some shrines have festivals called the 'Gion Matsuri Festival.'
Most of the Gion Matsuri Festivals are held in summer, from July through August, praying for protection from plague and evil to the enshrined deity; the festivals are held around Japan, including the one held by the Yasaka-jinja Shrine (Gionsha) of Kyoto, sohonsha (main shrine).

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Festival
Summary
Kyoto Gion Matsuri Festival is held by the Yasaka-jinja Shrine as one of the three major festivals of Kyoto (others are Aoi Matsuri Festival by the Kamigamo-jinja and Shimogamo-jinja Shrines, and Jidai Matsuri Festival by the Heian-jingu Shrine), as well as one of three major festivals in Japan along with Tenjin Matsuri Festival held in Osaka and Sanno Matsuri Festival (or Kanda Matsuri Festival) held in Tokyo. The festival is also one of three major beautiful festivals or three major floats festivals in Japan along with the Takayama Matsuri Festival held in Hida and Chichibu Yomatsuri Festival held in Chichibu City. The festival is held throughout July and its highlights are: Mikoshi togyo (parade of mikoshi - portable shrines, and priests for the divine spirits in the portable shrine moving to other places from the main shrine); Yamahoko Junko (costumed procession of Gion Festival Floats); and Yoiyama (the eve of the main festival). During Yoiyama and Yoiyoiyama (event in two days before the main festival), old family houses and established business houses show their family heirlooms; the festival is also known as the Byobu Matsuri Festival, or Folding Screen Festival.
As the significant tangible folk cultural assets travel on the public way during the Yamahoko Junko, they are even described as 'moving museums.'

It is said that the festival originated in 869 when Hiramaro URABE set up 66 hoko (long-handled Chinese spear) and sent three mikoshi (portable shrines carried in festivals), praying for the decrease in the overwhelming influence of the plague, to enshrine the Gozu Tenno, and have a goryoe (ritual ceremony to repose of souls). Since 970, the festival has been an annual event. Even though the Onin War, World War II, etc. caused the festival to temporarily discontinue, it has been continued for more than 1,000 years to date. The festival was once called the Gion Goryoe (an attempt to secure protection from the plague of Gionsha, or Yasaka-jinja Shrine). Sometimes, it is also called the Gion-e for short.

As many as 400 thousands people visit to see Yoiyama every year, which is the biggest highlight of the Gion Matsuri Festival. Meanwhile, in the Yamahoko Junko and Mikoshi togyo are involved less people than the Yoiyama (still, there are a number or people): many people think of the Yoiyama, the eve of festival, at first as the Gion Matsuri Festival.

There is a proverb 'Ato no Matsuri' (event after the major event) meaning being too late to be of any use, which supposedly originates from the Gion Matsuri Festival: the events after the Yamahoko Junko and Shinkosai Mikoshi togyo (festival of the divine spirits moving to other places from the main shrine) or the major events of the Gion Matsuri Festival are not as popular as the Yamahoko Junko and Shinkosai Mikoshi togyo. In addition, it is also said that the proverb began based on the fact that before 1966 the Gion Matsuri Festival included the 'Saki no Matsuri' (an event before the main festival) (July 17) and the 'Ato no Matsuri' (July 24), each for the Yamahoko Junko: in the 'Saki no Matsuri,' a number of gorgeous decorative hoko floats as well as yama floats were paraded, whereas the 'Ato no Matsuri' had a smaller parade of only yama floats.

Schedule

July 1: Kippuiri. The beginning of the festival.

July 2: Kuji torishiki (lottery for the parade order of floats). Refer to the section on Kuji torishiki.

July 7: Ayagasa boko no Chigo (child of festivity of Ayagasa boko) visiting to the shrine.

July 10: Omukae Chochin (welcoming Lanterns).

July 10: Mikoshi arai (to purify a portable shrine by water).

July 10-13: Yama date hoko date (putting together yama and hoko - decorative floats). Assemble yama and hoko floats which are separated for storage and attaching kenso (things to decorate a float, such as textiles, carvings, gold works) to them.

July 13: Naginata boko Chigo (child of festivity of Naginata boko) visiting the shrine (in the morning). Refer to the section of Naginata boko Chigo.

July 13: Kuze Komagata Chigo (children of festivity) visiting the shrine (in the afternoon). Refer to the section on Kuze Komagata Chigo.

July 14: Yoiyoiyoiyama (event three days before the main festival).

July 15: Yoiyoiyama.

July 16: Yoiyama.
Sometimes the events from the 14th to the 16th are collectively called the 'Yoiyama.'

July 16: Yoimiya Shinshin hono shinji (ritual event of dedication).

July 17: Yamahoko Junko. Refer to the section on Yoiyama and Yamahoko Junko.

July 17: Shinkosai (Mikoshi togyo). Refer to the section of Shinkosai and Kankosai (the most important ritual of the Gion Matsuri Festival).

July 24: Hanagasa Junko parade. The Hanagasa Junko parade began on behalf of the Ato no Matsuri which was originally held on July 24.

July 24: Kankosai (Mikoshi togyo). Refer to the section on Shinkosai and Kankosai.

July 28: Mikoshi arai.

July 31: Ekijinja Nagoshi Matsuri Festival:
The end of the festival.

Events
Kuji torishiki
The Kuji torishiki is to decide the order of floats for the Yamahoko Junko. It began in the Muromachi period to avoid competition between the floats. Note that the order of floats is previously decided for 'Kuji torazu' (eight floats are not to draw lots for the parade order), which includes the former parade's leading Naginata boko, the fifth Kanko boko, the 21nd Hoka boko, and the 23rd Fune boko and the latter parade's leading Kitakannon yama, the second Hashi Benkei yama, and the last Minamikannon yama. The Kuji torishiki is carried out at shikaigijo (City's conference center) in Kyoto City.

Mikoshi arai

Yoiyama and Yamahoko Junko
They are the highlights of the Gion Matsuri Festival. Originally they were festivals coming with the main festival known as Tsuke Matsuri, but later became much bigger events. From the yama and hoko floats, a unique fushimawashi (intonation) of 'konchikichin,' the festive music known as Gion bayashi is heard. Such festive music began during the Edo period. Another highlight of the festival is the luxurious decorations of the yama and hoko floats, such as Gobelin tapestry. As described above, the Yamahoko Junko itself was once held two times: on the 17th (Saki no Matsuri) and the 24th (Ato no Matsuri); they were integrated into one in 1966 to be held on the 17th. The number of yama and hoko floats is 32 at present (9 hoko floats, 14 yama floats of Saki no Matsuri, and 9 yama floats of Ato no Matsuri) but this varies depending on the period. Yama and hoko floats leave Shijo-Karasuma at nine o'clock in the morning and parade during the morning. One of the highlights is the turns of hoko floats called tsujimawashi, taken place at intersections. As the hoko floats cannot turn due to the structure of the wheels, they make their 90-degree turns on the green bamboo spread on the road, water being poured on the bamboo. The floats are immediately disassembled and put away after the parade.

Some yama and hoko floats have paintings of the pyramids or camels of Egypt which do not exist in Japan.

Shinkosai and Kankosai (Mikoshi togyo)
Originally, these were the major events of the shrine. Shinkosai is a shrine ritual where three large portable shrines on which the gods are seated: Nakagoza mikoshi (hexagonal shaped portable shrine served by Sanwaka shinyokai); Higashigoza mikoshi (portable shrine enshrining Kushinadahime no mikoto - a goddess - served by Shiwaka shinyokai); and Nishigoza mikoshi (octagon shaped portable shrine enshrining Yahashiranomikogami (son of Kushinadahime no mikoto) served by Nishiki shinyokai), from the Yasaka-jinja Shrine pass through each ujiko machi (town of shrine parishioners) to otabisho (place where the sacred palanquin is lodged during a festival) located in Shijoteramachi; the otabisho is purified by the Yamahoko Junko. The portable shrines stays in the otabisho for seven days from the evening of the Shinkosai. This shrine ritual has been taken place since 974 when the otabisho (the current location of the otabisho is different from that of the original one) was given by the Imperial court. Also, Higashiwakagoza mikoshi (portable shrine for children of Higashigoza mikoshi) known as kodomo mikoshi (portable shrine carried by children), participates in the Shinkosai.

The Shinkosai, is completely different from the graceful Yamahoko Junko taken place in the morning, is characterized by Mikoshi togyo, which takes place in the evening, and is brave and thrilling. Three large portable shrines are carried by the total of not less than 1000 brave men; the rampage of portable shrines is spectacular. This is so-called the abare mikoshi (literally, "rampaging portable shrine"). Three large portable shrines, and one shrine carried by children, just completing the miyadashi (opening event of a festival by portable shrines to be carried out of the shrine) from the shrine, come together in soroibumi (appearance together) in front of the Ro-mon Gate at the Gion Ishidanshita crossing; the mikoshi carriers bravely carry up all the portable shrines to rampage about, when the cheers of the spectators reach their peak in front of the Ro-mon Gate.

After that, portable shrines go back to the otabisho via their respective routes. On the Miyako oji (main street of the capital), where yama and hoko floats, the moving museums, traveled in the morning, the portable shrines perform the transferral of the sacred object from its place of enshrinement, bravely rampaging about to perform the last splendid procession in the Shinkosai known as the otabisho miyairi (ending event of a festival by portable shrines to be carried into the shrine) in Shijoteramachi. If the Yamahoko Junko is regarded as the highlight of the Gion Matsuri Festival, the Mikoshi togyo can be the climax of the Gion Matsuri Festival.

In Mugon mairi, it is believed that one's wish will be fulfilled if one visits the otabisho seven nights without having communication with others while the mikoshi stays in the otabisho.

The Kankosai is a shrine ritual whereby the portable shrines and gods pass through each ujiko machi from the otabisho to go back to the Yasaka-jinja Shrine. The portable shrines and gods rampage about the broad areas of shrine parishioners in the Yasaka-jinja Shrine including Yamahokocho (towns with Yama or hoko, float) to perform the miyairi (ending event of a festival with the portable shrines being carried into the shrine) in the Yasaka-jinja Shrine. In the miyairi at the Yasaka-jinja Shrine, three portable shrines turn around the buden (building for dance) three times, known as haiden mawashi, to have the last brave and thrilling procession, taking the opportunity to use every exertion.

The last rampaging procession by the portable shrines ends in front of the buden and the portable shrines are kept on the buden to have mitama utsushi (to replace Mitamashiro - something worshiped as a symbol for the spirits of the dead), while the Yasaka-jinja Shrine lights dim down in the darkness; the festival gods seated on the portable shrines then return to the main shrine to have a silent ending of the Mikoshi togyo.

Folk Entertainments
In the Gion Matsuri Festival, a variety of folk entertainments are also performed.

Sagi mai (dance of hernshaw)
In the Sagi mai, two adult male dancers wrapped with white silk feathers, dressed like male and female hernshaws, elegantly dance with the festive music. It used to be performed around the 'Kasasagi hoko' (literally, "a decorative float of Kasasagi - European magpie") presented about 600 years ago, but it was discontinued in the middle of the Edo period. In 1956, Sagi mai hozon kai (Preservation Society of Sagi mai) reimported and restored the dance from Tsuwanocho, Shimane Prefecture, which had conveyed the sagi mai of the Gion Matsuri Festival; its costs were paid by the ujiko soshiki (organization of shrine parishioners) (Seisei kosha - organization of Ujiko shrine parishioners of Yasaka-jinja shrine) and then the dance came to be dedicated to the Yasaka-jinja Shrine. The Sagi mai also exists in Yamaguchi and Katagami Cities. The 'Shirasagi no mai' (dance of the egrets) performed at Senso-ji Temple (in Taito Ward) also drew upon the Sagi mai.

Usually, the sagi mai is dedicated to the Yasaka-jinja Shrine for three days: in Yoiyama on the 16th, in Yamahoko Junko and Shinkosai on the 17th, and Hanagasa Junko and Kankosai on the 24th; since 2006, the sagi mai has not been performed because the relationship between the Sagi mai hozon kai, shrines, and ujiko soshiki has become worse; instead, Kosagi odori dance has been dedicated to the shrine (described below).

Kosagi odori dance
Kosagi odori dance is a new type of folk entertainment that had arranged the above-described Sagi mai. In the Kosagi odori dance, six elementary-age boys and girls are wrapped with white silk feathers, like the Sagi mai, wearing a lot of stage makeup, and dance elegantly. Usually, the Kosagi odori dance is performed in the Omukae Chochin on the 10th, the Yoimiya Shinshin hono shinji on the 16th, and the Hanagasa Junko parade on the 24th; since 2006, due to the above-described reason, the six elementary-age boys and girls dance on behalf of the adults dancing the Sagi mai. The Kosagi odori dance also takes place in Tsuwano and Katagami Cities.

Komachi odori dance
The Komachi odori dance is a girl's dance that originated during the Genroku era. The dance was discontinued in the modern era, but was restored at Shiramine-jingu Shrine in 1962. In the Gion Matsuri Festival, elementary-age girls and geimaiko (Japanese professional female entertainer at drinking parties) from Gion Higashi fleshpot all dance elegantly in Genroku manner costumes and hair styles, wearing much stage makeup in the Omukae Chochin on the 10th and in the Hanagasa Junko parade on the 24th, respectively.

Gion Matsuri ondo (dance song)
The Gion Matsuri ondo was created in 1957 for the 10th anniversary of the resurgence of Gion Matsuri Festival. Many elementary-age girls dance in the same Japanese summer kimono, wearing stage makeup in the Omukae Chochin on the 10th and the Yoimiya Shinshin hono shinji on the 16th.

Mando odori dance
The Mando odori dance was created in 1968 based on the words by the honorary chief priest of Yasaka-jinja Shrine. Many elementary-age girls dance in the same Japanese summer kimono, wearing stage makeup in Hanagasa Junko parade on the 24th.

Dance of fleshpots
There are six fleshpots in Kyoto City; four of them are close to the Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and they perform a dance in the Hanagasa Junko parade taking turns in pairs of two.

Odd-numbered years
Gion Higashi fleshpot: Komachi odori dance: Refer to the section on the Komachi odori dance.

Ponto-cho: Kabuki odori dance (performance which was the actual start of the history of kabuki with vivacious dancing and gay songs and amusing stories), taken from the historical event of Okuni from Izumo Province. A dancer wears white kimono (Japanese clothing), red hakama (Japanese mail ceremonial skirt), chihaya (Japanese coat for female priests) and nurugasa (lacquered conical hat). The dance is reminiscent of the Takarazuka Revue.

Even-numbered years
Gion kobu (the largest fleshpots of Kyoto): suzume odori (dance of the sparrow): The dancers wear the same Japanese summer kimono over a red juban (undershirt for kimono). The dancers wear amigasa (braided hat). Pretty dance.

Miyagawa-cho: Konchiki ondo dance: The dancers wear white thin kimono with hakata obi (obi sash with hakata-ori textile) which is red against a white background in Ushiromi musubi (a way of knotting the obi sash) style. The dancers dance with Uchiwa fans. Tidy dance.

Gion Dengaku (ritual music and dancing in the Gion Matsuri festival)

Rokusai Nenbutsu Odori dance
Kuze Rokusai Hozonkai (Preservation Society of Rokusai KUZE) participates in the Hanagasa Junko parade on July 24.

Chigo (child of festivity)
The chigo also participates in the Gion Matsuri Festival.

Naginata boko Chigo
A chigo is seated on the Naginata boko float, which is the only float on which a human chigo rides at present. On other hoko floats, dolls of the chigo are placed.

Ten-year old boys used to be seated on all hoko floats except for the Fune boko.

As it costs about 20 million yen, the chigo as well as other two boys for the role of retainer called kamuro are selected from wealthy families residing in Kyoto City; it is announced in June before the festival who are selected as the chigo and kamuro.

Naginata boko Chigo wearing stage makeup appears in many events beginning with 'Osendo' (a thousand visits to a shrine) on July 1, and then in 'chigo shasan' (child of festivity visiting the shrine) in the morning on the 13th in Kariginu costumes and golden eboshi (lacquered headgear originally worn by court nobles in ancient Japan); Naginata boko Chigo is then awarded the rank of 'Shogoi Konoefu Naibukanshoku' (the senior fifth rank with a post guarding inside the palace and imperial families) (as high as feudal lord); after that, no women can assist the chigo.

In the Yamahoko Junko on 17th, the chigo appears in Kinran no Furisode (long-sleeved kimono with gold brocade), hakama (Japanese male pants) with figured textiles, and Ho-o no Tenkan (crown of Chinese phoenix), with the kamuro on both sides of him and performs Chigo mai (dance by children of festivity) in the center of the hoko float.

Note that Naginata boko Chigo in 1993 was Kohei KITAMURA, who is now a jockey of the Japan Association for International Horse Racing.

Ayagasa boko Chigo

Shijokasa boko Chigo

Kuze Komagata Chigo
Two chigo are selected from shrine parishioners in Ayato Kuninaka-jinja Shrine (in Kuzekamikuze-cho, Minami Ward) every year.

They also appear in wearing much stage makeup with black and white dots on their foreheads.

In the 'chigo shasan' in the afternoon on the 13th, they appear in white Kariginu costumes, shimon iri (purple textile with crests) kukuri bakama (Japanese male skirt with strings in the lower sleeve edge for adjusting), wearing golden eboshi.

One chigo appears in each Shinkosai and Kankosai; both chigo wear the same costume, and chigo tenkan (crown for child of festivity) with a woodcrafted pendant of a horse's head, or an object of worship housed in the Kuninaka-jinja Shrine, rides on a horse to lead the Nakagoza mikoshi which enshrines nigimitama (spirits of peace) of Susanoo no Mikoto (a deity of Japanese Mythology).

In the shrine ritual held before the Shinkosai in Yasaka-jinja Shrine, Komagata Chigo come together with the object of worship which houses Susanoo no Mikoto's aramitama (divine spirits acted brutal impact), which itself becomes a deification and the chigo never set their feet on the ground before deification is completed.

Usually, not only Naginata boko Chigo, but also even the Imperial family must not dismount their horses in the premises of the shrine; however, Kuze Komagata Chigo does not dismount his horse in the Yasaka-jinja Shrine before reaching the main shrine.

Uma-osa Chigo (costumed child of festivity riding a horse)
In the Omukae Chochin and Hanagasa Junko parade, three boys known as uma osa chigo appear riding on horses, wearing stage makeup and suikan (everyday garment worn by commoners in ancient Japan).

List of Yama and Hoko Floats

The origin of the yama and hoko floats is believed to be shirushi yama (tall decorative float with wheels), that was pulled in Daijosai (first ceremonial offering of rice by newly-enthroned Emperor); some say that the yama and hoko floats originated from the floats in the Jagannatha Festival, a religious festival held in April in the state of Orissa, India.

The mark * refers to Kuji torazu.
(Hoko floats in Saki no Matsuri)
Naginata boko (decorative float without being in the drawing to decide the order of the floats; leads the procession) *
Kanko boko (decorative float without drawing a lot for order; going second order) *
Niwatori hoko (decorative float associated with Chinese historical fact)
Tsuki hoko (decorative float associated with Tsukiyomi - deity of Moon)
Ayagasa boko (decorative float in a rare shape called "umbrella hoko")
Shijokasa boko (decorative floats with umbrella; attached flower vase, akahei (red staff with plaited paper streamers used in Shinto), and wakamatsu (young pine tree) at the top)
Kikusui boko (decorative float named after "Kikusui no I" well)
Hoka boko (decorative float without being in the drawing to decide the order of the floats; enshrining Hokaso priest) *
Fune boko (decorative float shaped like a vessel) *
Yama floats (Ato no Matsuri)
Iwato yama (decorative float associated with Japanese mythology called "Kuniumi" (the story about gods creation of Japan) and "Ama no Iwato (a rock cave where the sun god was hidden)") *
Hosho yama (decorative float representing Hirai Hosho, grandson of Chief Councilor of State FUJIWARA no Motokata)
Kakkyo yama (a decorative float associated with Kakkyo, one of the Chinese filial persons)
Hakuga yama (decorative float with the doll of Hakuga, a Chinese virtuoso of the harp in the era of the Chin dynasty)
Ashikari yama (decorative float with the deity figure - a doll) and its clothes are the oldest of those on all the floats)
Aburatenjin yama (decorative float enshrining a statue of SUGAWARA no Michizane, a late 9th century aristocrat who is identified with "Tenjin" or the God of Thunder)
Tokusa yama (decorative float featuring a scene from one of Zeami's Noh chants, "Tokusa" or a kind of scouring rush)
Taishi yama (decorative float enshrining the Crown Prince ("Taishi" in old Japanese) Shotoku of the 6th century)
Hakurakuten yama (decorative float featuring Hakurakuten, a Chinese poet during the Tang dynasty, and Daolin, a Chinese priest of Zen Buddhism)
Moso yama (decorative float named after Moso (Meng Zong), a paragon of a man from "Records of Filial Piety in 24 Chapters" compiled in the Yuan dynasty)
Urade yama (decorative float enshrining Empress Jingu, a mythical empress of the 3rd century)
Yamabushi yama (decorative float that Jozokisho, Goshintai, an object in which a deity resides, is dressed as yamabushi or mountain priest)
Araretenjin yama (decorative float named after the legend that a sudden hail ("arare" in Japanese) put out a ferocious blaze of a fierce fire during the Eisho era)
Toro yama (decorative float, with a mantis on the roof)
Yama floats (Ato no Matsuri)
Kitakannon yama (decorative float without being in the drawing to decide the order of the floats; enshrining Yoryu kannon, the goddess of Mercy, and Idaten, a guardian deity, and having shin-matsu or pine tree) *
Hashibenkei yama (decorative float with Benkei (Monk-soldier) and Ushiwakamaru, birth name of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune) *
Koi yama (decorative float associated with a large carp)
Jomyo yama (decorative float depicting a historic event when the monk warrior, Ichirai Hoshi, leaped over a monk warrior of the Mii-dera Temple, Jomyo, on the Uji Bridge to lead the vanguard at the Battle of Uji-gawa River)
Kuronushi yama (decorative float associated with OTOMO no Kuronushi viewing cherry blossoms)
Ennogyoja yama (decorative float with a figure of En no Gyoja who has been popular through the ages because he was a practitioner of Shugen-do as well as a doctor for the common folk)
Suzuka yama (decorative float featuring the myth about the Goddess of Mt. Suzuka, Suzuka Myojin (Seoritsuhime no Mikoto) who exterminated the Oni on the Suzuka Toge, mountain path)
Hachiman yama (decorative float enshrining Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine)
Minamikannon yama (decorative float without being in the drawing to decide the order of the floats; enshrining Yoryu kannon (the goddess of Mercy) and Zenzai-doji (Sudhanasresthi-daraka)) *
Yasumi yama (Yake yama) (nonparticipating floats): floats currently absent from the parade due to repetative large fires occurring and under the circumstances of Yamahokocho. Hotei yama (decorative float enshrining Hoteison or pot-bellied god of good fortune): Ubayanagi-cho, Takoyakushi-dori Shinmachi Higashi-iru (to the east of Takoyakushi-dori Street and Shinmachi-dori Street), Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City. There is a record that Hotei yama participated in the parade in 1500 but it is said that the Hotei yama has not participated in the parade since the Horeki era (from 1751 to 1763), the middle of the Edo period; the Hotei yama was lost in 'Tenmei no Taika' (Fire of Tenmei) in 1788 except for the Hoteison (pot bellied god of good fortune) and two children or the objects of worship. The appearance of the Hotei yama remains unknown. At present, the object of worship is enshrined only in Yoiyama. In 2005, gofu no hangi (woodcut of talisman), which is believed to be made during the Ansei era (from 1854 to 1859), was found. Further in 2006, it was confirmed that a textile handed down as an object for decoration was maintained by the local company; and in Yoiyama, a life-size model of the textile was exhibited in the town.

Taka yama (decorative float enshrining, assumedly, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo or ARIWARA no Yukihira): Koromonotana-cho, Sanjo-dori Muromachi Nishi-iru (to the east of Sanjo-dori Street and Muromachi-dori Street), Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City. The Taka yama originates before the Onin War; the Taka yama was a large-scale hikiyama (festival float) paraded just in front of the Ofune boko (decorative floats shaped after the vessel of Empress Jingu); the Taka yama was caught in a sudden heavy evening rain in 1826 causing great damage to the objects used for decoration; while being stored, the Taka yama was lost in fire caused by Conspiracy of Hamaguri-gomon Gate in 1864 except for the object of worship and some of the objects used for decoration. At present, the remaining object of worship and objects used for decoration are exhibited in the town only in Yoiyama (Imatsuri - to display the textiles, goldworks, carvings for a decorative float during Gion Matsuri Festival).

Ofune boko: Shijo-cho, Shinmachi Shijo Sagaru (to the south of Shinmachi-dori Street and Shijo-dori Street), Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City. The Ofune boko, also called the 'Gaisen funaboko,' was a grand boat-shaped hoko float that paraded at the end in the Ato no Matsuri; the Ofune boko was lost in a fire caused by Conspiracy of Hamaguri-gomon Gate in 1864 except for the object of worship of Empress Jingu and some of the objects used for decoration. After that, the 'Imatsuri' had been held whereby the object of worship and the objects used for decoration were exhibited in the Yamahokocho only in Yoiyama for 130 years; but was discontinued in 1995. In 1996, the festive music was restored with the leadership of Iwato yama, and in 2006, 'kazari seki' (place where kensohin, things used to decorate a float, such as textiles, carvings, goldworks are displayed) was restored in which the objects used for decoration except for the object of worship were exhibited.

List of Mikoshi, Portable Shrines
Portable shrine of the main shrine (Miya mikoshi)
Nakagoza mikoshi: called Sanwa mikoshi
Higashigoza mikoshi: called Shiwaka mikoshi
Higashiwakagoza mikoshi: Higashigoza mikoshi carried by children
Nishigoza mikoshi: called Nishiki mikoshi

Chokai mikoshi (portable shrine for the town) (Ujichi mikoshi or portable shrines of Ujichi, the place where deities are enshrined and favored)
Kaichi Kodomo mikoshi (portable shrine of Kaichi carried by children)

Prohibition to Women and Relaxation thereof

There is a record that indicates that women participated in the parade before the early Edo period, but women's participation has been prohibited since the middle of the Edo period. Even now, women are still prohibited on most of the yama and hoko floats, including Naginata boko which leads the parade, but now some Yamahokocho (Preservation Society) hope that women participate in the parade; in 2001, it was decided to allow women to participate in the parade upon the filing of notification with the Gion Matsuri Yamaboko Rengokai (association of Yamaboko, decorative floats, of the Gion festival) by each Yamahokocho: thereby women's participation in the parade was partly permitted (female players in festive music: two on Minamikannon yama float and three on Kanko boko float).

Gion Matsuri Festivals across Japan
The festival is sometimes called 'Ogyon' or 'Gion san' depending on the region.

Tohoku Region
July 22-24: Tajima Gionsai Festival (held in Minamiaizu-machi, Fukushima Prefecture)
Kanto Region
Early June: Shinagawa-jinja Reidaisai (annual festival of Shinagawa-jinja Shrine) (held in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo)
Early July: Chochin Matsuri (Lantern Festival) (held in Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture)
Early July: Narita Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Narita City, Chiba Prefecture)
Mid-July: Enoshima Tennosai Festival (held in Fujisawa and Kamakura Cities, Kanagawa Prefecture)
July 14: Ofudamaki (to strew the paper charm) (held in Totsuka Ward, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture) (Men dress up as women)
Mid-July: Sawara Gionsai Festival (held in Katori City, Chiba Prefecture)
July 20-22: Kumagaya Uchiwa Matsuri (fan festival) (held in Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture)
Late July: Fukaya Matsuri Festival (held in Fukaya City, Saitama Prefecture)
Late July: Fujioka Matsuri Festival (held in Fujioka City, Gunma Prefecture) (The festival is held in late August when the governor's race of Gunma Prefecture and Upper House election take place)
Late July: Haramachi Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Higashiagatsuma-machi, Gunma Prefecture)
Late July: Ogawa Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Omitama City, Ibaraki Prefecture)
Late July: Edosaki Gionsai Festival (held in Inashiki City, Ibaraki Prefecture)
Late July: Ogo Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Ogo-machi, Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture)
Early August: Numata Matsuri Festival (held in Numata City, Gunma Prefecture)
Early August: Kiryu Yagibushi Matsuri Festival (held in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture)
Early August: Omama Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Midori City, Gunma Prefecture)
Early August: Nakanojo Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Nakanojo-machi, Gunma Prefecture)
Early September: Ise machi Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival in Ise Town) (held in Nakanojo-machi, Gunma Prefecture)
Koshinetsu Region
Late June: Shimadachi Hadaka Matsuri festival (held in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture)
Late July: Joetsu Matsuri Festival (held in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture)
Tokai Region
Early July: Yamanashi Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Fukuroi City, Shizuoka Prefecture)
Third Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in July: Gion Matsuri Festival of Yoshida-jinja Shrine (held in Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture; Old Tokaido Road, Yoshida-juku, the inn town) (tezutsu hanabi (fireworks holding by a person), skyrocket firework, and MINAMOTO no Yoritomo's parade)
Mid-July: Matsusaka Gion Matsuri Festival and Izawa Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Matsuzasa City, Mie Prefecture)
Late July: Owari Tsushima Tenno Matsuri Festival (held in Tsushima City, Aichi Prefecture)
Late July: Gion Matsuri Festivals of Ueki-jinja Shrine and Yabuta-jinja Shrine (held in Iga City, Mie Prefecture)
Late July: Oyodo Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Meiwa-cho, Mie Prefecture) (After the parade of floats, the floats are taken on two ships to make a tour on the sea. The festival is sometimes held in early August depending on the tidal level.)
The festival is sometimes held in early August depending on the tidal level.

Hokuriku Region
Second Saturday in July: Nanao Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Nanao City, Ishikawa Prefecture)
Mid-July: Abare Matsuri (Powerful Festival) (held in Noto-cho, Ishikawa Prefecture)
Kinki Region (Kinai - counties near Kyoto)
July 1-14: Hiranogo Natsu Matsuri Festival (summer festival in Hiranogo) (held in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture)
July 12-14: Nanba Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture) (On the 12th, the first day of the festival, horen (imperial carriage) is taken on the ship to go round, called funatogyo a ritual to place divine spirits on the boat to cross the river)
Mid-July: Tsuruhashi Yaei Natsu Matsuri Festival (held in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture)
July 17-18: Ebie Yasaka Natsu Matsuri Festival (summer festival of Yasaka-jinja Shrine in Ebie) (held in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture)
Early October: Otsu Matsuri Festival (Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture)
August 23-25: Kameoka Matsuri Festival (held in Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture)
Chugoku Region
Mid-July: Tsuwano Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Tsuwano-cho, Shimane Prefecture) (Sagi mai and Kosagi odori dance are performed)
Mid-July: Yamaguchi Gionsai Festival (held in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture) (Sagi mai is performed)

Kyushu Region
Refer also to the section on yamagasa (literally, "mountain umbrella")
Early July: Kokura Gion Daiko drum performance (held in Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture)
Early July: Hakata Gion Yamagasa summer festival (held in Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture)
Early July: Izuka Gion Yamagasa Festival (held in Izuka City, Fukuoka Prefecture)
Mid-July: Usuki Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Usuki City, Oita Prefecture)
Late July: Hamasaki Gion Yamagasa Festival (held in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture)
Late July: Hita Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Hita City, Oita Prefecture)
Late July: Nakatsu Gion Festival (held in Nakatsu City, Oita Prefecture)
Late July: Daijayama Matsuri Festival (held in Omuta and Miyama Cities, Fukuoka Prefecture)
Mid-July: Kagoshima Natsu Matsuri (Kagoshima Summer Festival) (held in Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture)
Early August: Nankan Gion Matsuri Festival (held in Nankan-machi, Kumamoto Prefecture)