It’s just ticked over to July. That means two things: the heat has suddenly gone way up, and Gion Matsuri has kicked off.
Gion Matsuri is the biggest event in Kyoto’s calendar, and one of the biggest and most important festivals throughout Japan. It’s also one of the cheapest events in Kyoto, nay, maybe even in Japan!
Don’t believe me? Let’s count the ways:
The yamaboko junko parades (the main processions on July 17th and 24th) are free, and span many kilometers, with no end of viewing spots to choose from. But if you want to spend some money, you can secure a reserved seat with a very clear view. You can buy tickets to see the Gion Festival parades online.
The yoiyama nights (the 3 days leading up to the main parades) are also free to wander around. See the completed floats, listen to the musicians, admire the family heirlooms on display. But what can you do about the money burning in your wallet? Well, many floats allow revelers to climb up into the musician’s section for a few hundred yen. There’s no better way to get up close to the stars of the parade.
Taking photos is a cheapo way of preserving your memories of the festival, but if you want something a little more unique, why not splash out on a goshuin-cho stamp book (between 900 and 1,500 yen) and collect the commemorative stamps of each float as you visit them? A small donation is welcomed at every stamp station.
Wearing the clothes you have is naturally free, but if you want to blend in with the locals, spend a little cash on yukata rental and a decorative hand fan. Then head over to the yatai food stalls and enjoy festival staples like yakisoba and takoyaki.
But wait, even after all that, there are still more free events than paid during Gion Matsuri? Geez, it’s tough to spend money at this cheapo event!