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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Kyoto's Yoiyama Festival

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Every year on the night of July 16th Kyotoites turn out in their cotton summer kimonos - yukata - to look at the famed Gion floats that will be used in the Festival the following morning.

The night before Gion Matsuri (festival) is in many ways far superior to the tourist crush under sweltering skies that is the actual festival.

On the night before, the famous floats--the “Hoko” that will pass by far in the distance on festival day--are on display in the streets in the neighborhood northwest of Shijo-Karasuma.

Large sections of downtown are closed to automobile traffic for several nights preceding July 17th, and stalls selling chicken, beer, fried octopus, trinkets for children, and more are set up.

Young people come in groups or on a date; families come to show off their children; and older people make an evening of it.

In addition to the floats on display during Yoiyama, the “kon-chiki-kon” of Gion-bayashi music can be heard and children chant short songs to attract customers for the talismans they sell. Traditionally, people who live in this part of downtown open up the front parts of their homes and shops, allowing passersby a look at their valuable heirlooms: byobu - painted screens, kimono, armor, textiles, decorative folding fans, etc.

Byobu and Fans and Yukata

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