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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kyoto: Yoiyama Festival 2008

Kyoto yoiyama宵山

For the three nights prior to Gion Matsuri, Kyoto's best known festival, the streets of downtown Kyoto are closed to vehicular traffic. Instead of the usual traffic and noise, outdoor stalls are set up, and neighbors display their ancient byobu, fans, and priceless works of art.

And hundreds of thousands of Kyotoites, in their finest yukata robes, take to the streets in a sublime street party/art fair.

Drinking a cold beer on a steamy night surrounded by crowds in their cotton robes, Kyoto readies for July 17, the day of the festival.

Unlike the day of the festival--which takes place in the furnace of midday heat, with the floats passing in the distance--you can get right up to the floats in the cool of the evening. The massive "hoko," or floats, are put out on display for the three nights of the Yoiyama Festival.

You can see the crowds and the lanterns on a float in the photo above right. In the photo below, you can see some of the paper lanterns that seem to flight against the night sky. The floats are adorned with such lanterns, which makes them visible from afar--and beautiful.

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