Jul 1
~
Jul 31

2021 Gion Festival

Free

The Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) is a month-long festival that takes place in Kyoto in July each year. The name comes from the neighborhood of Gion, which is home to some of the more traditional parts of Kyoto—including the geisha quarter.

Although there are processions throughout the month, the highlights of the festival are the parades called Yamaboko Junkō on the 17th and 24th of July (canceled for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). In the three days that lead up to each parade (known as yoiyama days), the central city streets are closed to vehicular traffic. Lining the streets are stalls selling a variety of traditional festival food such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki and yakitori. The floats in the Yamaboko Junko parade are huge and can weigh up to 12 metric tonnes.

Apart from the parades and the other festivities, the festival is also known as an opportunity to snap pictures of geisha or maiko—but you’ll have to be on the look out!

Access

Kyoto is well served by a metro line, trains and a flat-rate bus network, which makes getting around easy and affordable. There is a one-day bus pass available for ¥500. If you’re traveling from Tokyo, these are your top transport options.

Accommodation

Staying in Kyoto during the Gion Festival is a challenge to say the least—it’s almost as busy as cherry-blossom season. More affordable options disappear fast, but there are a few good hotels to keep an eye on. In Kawaramachi, The Millenials offers capsule-like pods. In a similar vein, the Karasuma branch of First Cabin has airline-inspired part-capsule part-room options for a few thousand yen a night. On the other side of the river, in the Gion district itself, Ryokan Hostel Gion has a more traditional hostel feel but with modern design, starting at a couple of thousand yen a night.

Get the best Japan Cheapo hacks direct to your inbox

Related Events
  • Kihoku Lantern Festival
    Late
    Jul

    Kihoku Lantern Festival 2021

    Cancelled

    The Kihoku Lantern Festival takes place in the port town of Nagashima in Kihoku, Mie Prefecture. Each year a large, elaborate cloth lantern is set afloat on the harbor in the afternoon. After nightfall, there is a spectacular fireworks display […]

    3:00pm – 9:00pm
    Free
  • Jul 20
    ~
    Jul 27

    Yamaguchi Gion Matsuri

    Cancelled

    The Kyoto of the area, Yamaguchi was modelled after the beautiful city and it’s no surprise it has a similar festival. When the Yasaka shrine was brought from Kyoto and the spirit of the deity implanted during the Kanjo ceremony, the […]

    Free
  • Late
    Jul

    The Japan International Birdman Rally

    Cancelled

    From a jetty jutting into Lake Biwa from the scenic Matsubara Beach in Hikone City, “bird men” – mildly insane people in human powered flying machines – will attempt to fly as far as possible into the lake. The event […]

    Free