How to Spend Money at Gion Matsuri

Kyoto Boken

It’s just ticked over to July. That means two things: the heat has suddenly gone way up, and Gion Matsuri has kicked off.

A float covered in lanterns
Photo by foooomio used under CC

Gion Matsuri is the biggest event in Kyoto’s calendar, and one of the biggest and most important festivals throughout Japan. (Read more about it here and here.) It’s also one of the cheapest events in Kyoto, nay, maybe even in Japan!

gion matsuri
Photo by Yoichiro Uno used under CC

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 kilometres, with no end of viewing spots to choose from. But if you want to spend some money, you can buy a reserved seat with a clear view of the parade outside Kyoto City Hall for 3,180 yen. It seems like you can no longer buy the tickets online (website in Japanese), but you’ll still be able to purchase them in person at various information centers (Kyoto Tourist Information Center, Osaka Tourist Information Center, or Kansai Tourist Information Center).

A Gion Matsuri float filled with musicians
Climb up onto the floats and hang out with the musicians for a few hundred yen! | Photo by Takeshi Kuboki used under CC

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.

Young women wearing yukata
Photo by MShades used under CC

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!

What’s something you HAVE TO buy at a festival? Tell us in the comments!

Name: Gion Matsuri
Pricing info: Free (and hard to spend money!)
Location(s): Kyoto,
Access: Karasuma Subway Line - Shijo Station, Hankyu Kyoto Line - Karasuma Station




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