Kyoto Events July 2014

July sees the most important festival in Kyoto’s yearly calendar take place: the Gion Matsuri. There are preceding events leading up to the big day, showing off the spectacular yamaboko (parade floats) that will travel in procession through downtown Kyoto on the festival day itself.

Tsuki Boko (月鉾)

1-21 July 2014

Event: Kuroda Seiki: Ninety Years On – A Great Master of Japanese Modern Western-Style Painting
Location: The Museum of Kyoto
Time: 10:00am-6:00pm (Closed Monday)
Admission: JPY1,200

Painting fans should head to the Museum of Kyoto on Sanjo-dori Street to check out this exhibition of works by Kuroda Seiki. Seiki was a Meiji-era painter who adopted and popularized Western painting styles, techniques and subject matter in Japan. While tame by today’s standards, Seiki’s works were controversial during his day.

Kyoto - Kodai-Ji 高台寺(臥龍池)

5-6 July 2014

Event: Tanabata and Night Time Special Opening
Location: Kodai-ji Temple
Time: 9:00am-9:30pm
Admission: JPY600 (9am-5pm), JPY500 (after 5pm)

Tanabata is a Japanese festival that celebrates the meeting of two celestial lovers (Orihime and Hikoboshi) who are represented by the stars Vega and Altair. Separated by the Milky Way, these two lovers are allowed to meet once a year, during Tanabata. Kodai-ji Temple has a special evening light up event to celebrate this celestial romance. It’s a nice time to see the gardens illuminated to create an otherworldly effect.

6 July 2014

Event: To-ji Temple Flea Market
Location: To-ji Temple
Time: 9:00am-4:00pm
Admission: Free

If you can’t be in town for Kyoto’s two famous flea markets (Kobo-san Market and Tenjin-san Market), this is a good choice. Like the Kobo-san Market, it’s held on the grounds of To-ji Temple. You’ll usually find a good selection of antiques at this market.

7 July 2014

Event: Tanabatasai
Location: Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine
Time: 1:30pm-2:30pm
Admission: Free

A small Tanabata Festival (Tanabatasai) is held at the lovely Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine on 7 July. The festival includes touching performances by local schoolchildren. For more information on Tanabata, see the earlier Tanabata and Night Time Special Opening (Kodai-ji, 5-6 July) entry.

14 July 2014

Event: Gion Matsuri Yoiyoiyoiyama
Location: Shijo-dori Street and Nearby Downtown Streets
Time: late afternoon until around 10pm
Admission: Free

On the nights leading up to the Gion Matsuri (17 July, see later entry), the yamaboko (parade floats) that will appear in the festival are displayed in Shijo-dori Street and on nearby downtown streets. The streets are closed to vehicle traffic and citizens and visitors stroll the streets, many dressed in yukata (lightweight summer robes). Street stalls sell food and drink and the atmosphere is fun and festive. Don’t miss it.

15 July 2014

Event: Gion Matsuri Yoiyoiyama
Location: Shijo-dori Street and Nearby Downtown Streets
Time: late afternoon until around 10pm
Admission: Free

This is the second night of the street festival leading up to the Gion Matsuri. For more, see the preceding Gion Matsuri Yoiyoiyoiyama entry.

16 July 2014

Event: Gion Matsuri Yoiyama
Location: Shijo-dori Street and Nearby Downtown Streets
Time: late afternoon until around 10pm
Admission: Free

This is the third night of the street festival leading up to the Gion Matsuri. For more, see the earlier Gion Matsuri Yoiyoiyoiyama entry.

17 July 2014

Event: Gion Matsuri Floats Parade (Yamaboko-junko)
Location: Shijo st., Kawaramachi st., Oike st.
Time: starts at 9:00am from Shijo-Karasuma
Admission: Free

The largest and most important festival of the Kyoto yearly calendar, the Gion Matsuri culminates in a huge parade of yamaboko (huge wooden festival floats) on 17 July through downtown Kyoto. The parade starts at 9am at Shijo-Karasuma, heads north along Kawaramachi around 9.45am, and turns west on Oike around 10.30am, before ending at Shinmachi at around 11.30am. The parade itself is rather long and slow moving. It’s usually sufficient to take in a few yamaboko before taking refuge somewhere from the heat (the festival day is usually blazing hot). For my money, the earlier Yoiyama festivals (see preceding entries) are more fun and cooler, since they are held in the evening.

21 July 2014

Event: Kobo-san Market
Location: To-ji Temple
Time: 8:00am-4:00pm
Admission: Free

Named for Japan’s most revered Buddhist Saint, Kobo Daishi, this market is one of the two best markets in town (the other being the Tenjin-san Market, held on the 25th). You’ll find all manner of goods on sale here including used kimono, antiques, ceramics, food, bric-a-brac, old postcards and books, and assorted Japanalia. In addition to being a great market, this is also a chance to see Kyoto’s foreign community, which turns out in full, along with hoards of locals.

25 July 2014

Event: Tenjin-san Market
Location: Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine
Time: 6:00am-4:00pm
Admission: Free

Like the Kobo-san market (see previous), this is one of the two best markets in town. It’s named for Sugawara no Michizane, a 9th century poet and scholar who is the patron saint of academic pursuits in Japan. Known colloquially as Tenjin-san, the market is a great excuse to visit this shrine and see people, especially school children, rubbing the two stone bulls in front of the main hall of the shrine (doing so is said to make one more intelligent). Like the Kobo-san market, this is a great chance to buy used kimono, ceramics, antiques and bric-a-brac, along with food and drink. You’ll also rub shoulders with an interesting assortment of expats and locals.

Shimogamo-jinja

26-29 July 2014

Event: Mitarashisai
Location: Shimogamo-jinja Shrine
Time: 5:30pm-10:00pm
Admission: JPY200

Held on the four days surrounding the Day of the Ox at Mitarashi-no-yashiro, a subshrine in the precincts of Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, this interesting festival involves people wading in a shallow stream here to pray for good health and protection from disasters. When you pay the admission fee, you’ll be given a candle to light and offer to the gods. Don’t worry if the wind blows it out – this happens to most candles. You can also write your wish on a foot-shaped prayer card to place in a basin of water. But, the main act here involves wading through the shallow river here.