Kyoto Gion Festival: The Byobu Matsuri (Japanese Folding Screen Festival)

KGF_2016_0722_Byobu Matsuri_WordPress

Recently, I’ve been talking quite frequently to people living in Kyoto about the Gion Festival and any of them have stressed that this is a festival held for the Kyoto residents (京都の市民のため) at its core.  In this post, I turn my focus to “smaller” scenes that include passerbys who are coming back from work, school, or a daily errand and people who traveled to Kyoto to see the Gion Festival.

This photo shows a scene from the Byōbu Matsuri, the Japanese Folding Screen Festival, taken on the evening of 7/22/2016. Unlike the common image of large crowds and noisy ambient noise, this “festival-within-a-festival” was rather calm and intimate although it was the yoiyama period* of the second half of the Gion Festival.

During the festival season, families who own kimono shops in the kimono district close to Shijo street take out their family treasures – folding screens (byōbu) as you can see on the sides and hand-crafted miniature hoko type floats on the left middle – and display it in their front room. Their historical houses are called machiya with tatami flooring, a front shop room to entertain kimono customers, and the family residence in the back.

These displays are like a museum exhibition, but the open streets of Kyoto provides a setting where one feels free to wander and peek into these windows. As a visitor, it feels like active exploration of Kyoto’s community. I imagine as a local, it would feel like calling on people who live in your city.

*The yoiyama period  refers to the three festive evenings before the yama-hoko float and mikoshi (portable Shinto shrines) processions during the Gion Festival, when the newly-constructed yama and hoko floats are displayed in the streets with their decorations and chimaki (charms to ward off ill health evil) and various businesses open up their wares to the public.

Suggested Transportation and Walking Route:

*I purposely didn’t put in the yama and hoko float locations into this map in order to focus the map on the Byōbu Matsuri. However, they are all located in the same general area.



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