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Blast in Japan Summer 2006

Festivals and Fireworks in Kansai Region
– July Edition –

Gion Matsuri
The Kyoto Gion Festival is one of the most important, famous, biggest, oldest and long-running festivals in Japan which a number of sacred rituals and events go on through the entire month of July. During the festival season, the air in the city is lifted with some kind of event going on everyday along with the unique festival music and rhythm that goes like “kon-kon-chiki-chin”. The main highlights of the festival are the Yamahoko Jungyo (the climax of the festival) and the Yoiyama (Yamahoko eve: see below for details).

Yoiyama (festival eve)

Yoi-yoi-yoi-yama               July 14 (Fri)
Yoi-yoi-yama                     July 15 (Sat)
Yoiyama                             July 16 (Sun)

Paper lanterns of all sizes hung on enormous frames like mountains sway fantastically with orange lights against the dark night. Yoiyama means the eve of Yamahoko, and the Yoiyama events start from the eve-eve-eve (Yoi-yoi-yoi-yama) counting down as they gradually pick up stream towards eve-eve (Yoi-yoi-yama) and eve (Yoiyama).

Yamahoko Jungyo

July 17 (Mon)

The stunning and dazzling climax of the Gion Matsuri. Although it is done in the middle of the month leaving two more weeks of the festival, it is so grand and exciting that the events after the Yamahoko lose significance, and thus the phrase “ato no matsuri” (after the festival: the doctor after death/ lock the barn door after the horse is out) derived from it. Festival floats and portable shrines called yama and hoko, some as big as 25 meters (82ft) tall and as heavy as 12 tons (13 CST), are pulled and carried around the narrow streets of Kyoto by hundreds of people.

[Dates] July 1-31, 2006
[Time] N/A
[Location] Yasaka Shrine and the City of Kyoto
Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
[Access] Get off city bus at Gion Bus Stop:
30-min-busride from JR Kyoto Station
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 075-561-6155 (Yasaka Shrine)
[URL] http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/
(Kyoto City official web site, English)
Nachi no Himatsuri (Fire Festival)
Nachi Katsuura Taisha is a pillar of the Kumano Sanzan, the three head shrines of the ancient Kumano Sanctuary which is now a World Heritage. The Himatsuri, or the Fire Festival, is also one of Japan’s Three Great Fire Festivals where men carry 12 portable shrines as tall as 6 meters (20 ft) from the Shrine to the nearby narrow but high waterfall. The mikoshi are purified by 12 large sacred torches about 50-60 kg heavy (110-132 lbs.) as they proceed the approach. It is a very dynamic festival with sacred atmosphere.
[Dates] July 14, 2006
[Time] Approximately 10:00 – 16:00
[Location] Kumano Nachi Taisha (Shrine)
1-banchi Nachizan, Nachi Katsuura Town,
Higashimuro-gun (county), Wakayama Prefecture
[Access] 10-min-walk from Nachizan Jinja Otera-mae Chushajo bus stop: 28-min-busride from JR Kii-Katsuura Station
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 0735-52-5311 (Nachi Katsuura Tourist Association)
[URL] http://www.town.nachikatsuura.wakayama.jp/
(Nachi Katsuura Town, Japanese w/ movies)
Kobe Gion Matsuri
A very interesting festival in which families in the town dedicate rice paper wrapped cucumbers the number of family members to the shrine between 18:00 – 21:00 every night, praying for the family’s good health and water accidents prevention. Nearly 200 street stalls line up and more than 80,000 visitors come during the festival week.
[Dates] July 13-20, 2006
[Time] Differ accordingly to each event
[Location] Precincts of Gion Jinja (Shrine)
12-1 Kami-Gioncho, Hyogo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Pref
[Access] 5-min-walk from Hirano bus stop:
15-min-busride from JR Sannomiya Station
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 078-361-3450 (Gion Shrine)
[URL] http://www.kobe-gionjinjya.com/index.html
(Gion Shrine official web site, Japanese)
Tenjin Matsuri
One of Japan’s Three Great Festivals alongside of Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri. On the 25th there will be the “Funatogyo” which a number of boats come and go across Okawa River, and at night there will be big fireworks.
[Dates] July 24-25, 2006
[Time] Differ accordingly to each event
[Location] Osaka Tenmangu etc.
Kita-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
[Access] 5-min-walk from JR Osaka Tenmangu Station
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 06-6535-0025
[URL] http://www.tenjinsan.com/tjm.html
(Osaka Tenmangu official web site, Japanese) 
Tanabe Matsuri
About 250 people in total form a procession as long as 1 kilometer (.5 miles) and carry the mikoshi together with the dashi (float) to the coast. Perhaps the most beautiful scene of the festival is when the dashi called Okasa crosses the Aizu Bridge and shows its brilliant colors on the surface of the river. It is one of the very rare festivals in Japan in which the rituals are carried out before dawn.
[Dates] July 24-25, 2006
[Time] Differ accordingly to each event
[Location] Toukei Shrine and the City of Tanabe
Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture
[Access] 5-min-walk from JR Kii Tanabe Station
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 0739-22-0155 (Toukei Shrine)
[URL] http://www.tanabe-kanko.jp/event/tanabematuri/index.html
 (Tanabe City Tourist Association official site, Japanese)
Sumiyoshi Matsuri
During the 3-day-long exciting festival, the most heated is probably the Osaka Prefecture designated intangible cultural asset Nagoshi Harai Shinji. A number of visitors come to see the Nagoshi-Onna (women) and Chigo (children) dressed in luxuriant costumes go through chinowa (huge straw-made loops) for this sacred event.
[Dates] July 30 – Aug 1, 2006
[Time] Differ accordingly to each event
[Location] Sumiyoshi Taisha (Shrine)
2-9-89 Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
[Access] 3-min-walk from Sumiyoshi Taisha Station:
Nankai Tetsudo (Railways)
[Admission] Free
[Inquiry] 06-6672-0753
[URL] http://www.sumiyoshitaisha.net/calender/natu.html
(Sumiyoshi Taisha official web site, Japanese)

We apologize that most web sites introduced are only in Japanese, but they have lots of pictures so we encourage you to have a look to get an idea of the festivals.

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