When considering the seasonal traditions associated with summer in Kyoto, historical festivals and Japanese sweets that mitigate the heat come to mind. In recent years, a plethora of stylish souvenir sweets have made their appearance. Enjoying one of these delicious treats gives a moment of blissful respite from the muggy Kyoto summers.
Gion Matsuri is one of the “Three Great Festivals of Japan” that are renowned throughout the country. With over 1,000 years of history, each year this religious festival held by Yasaka-jinja Shrine hosts various festival activities for a month spanning from July 1 – 31. The highlight is the “Yamahoko Float Procession”* where 33 floats are paraded through the streets of Kyoto. The sight of these floats, some reaching about eight stories high, performing “tsujimawashi” (direction changes) while accompanied by soul-stirring chanting is truly spectacular.
*Canceled for 2020
Gozan no Okuribi
A traditional event held on the eve of Obon (August 16) that acts as a memorial service for departed ancestors. Bonfires are lit in the shapes of “Daimoji,” “Myo-ho,” “Funagata,” “Hidari Daimoji,” and “Toriigata” on the five mountains surrounding Kyoto. Held as a send-off for the souls of departed ancestors who have returned to visit their families for the Obon period, areas with good visibility such as the riverbed of the Kamo-gawa River or hotels and building rooftops are recommended as the best places to enjoy the view.