It’s Gion Matsuri time in Kyoto. There is no doubt that this is worth attending despite the heat and crowds. There is simply nothing like it. And I’m very grateful I had the opportunity so many years ago to soak it all up.
And soaking it up is exactly what I did. I never took a single shashin (didn’t even own a camera back then… gasp). It makes me wonder whether people are experiencing it now or photographing it.
I love looking at the photos of Gion Matsuri and watching videos. But I wonder how it is for the person behind the camera. How does filming it impact their own experience?
Another thing I wonder about is the commercialization. Some of it is traditional, some of it is promotional, and a lot of it is just plain old fun. For example, a Chinese restaurant has a shimidare nikuman for just three days. You can only get it at that time. Are there lines out the door for them? You bet!
How about the people of Kyoto? Are they avoiding it? Are they enjoying it? I’m sure there are both types of Kyotoites though I think that after a few years of COVID, they are happy to be free to celebrate without fear, albeit wearing a masuku… still… for many of them. But there are those Japanese who attend with a specific purpose.
If you have a gakusei at home and they have an important entrance exam coming up, you may want to visit the Hakurakutenyama [float] and purchase one of their souvenirs. In fact, I recently read about a family that simply purchases a pair of 500 yen chopsticks at this season and then the student uses them everyday until the day of their exam. It is meant to bring academic success.
Now, that’s personal. Maybe that’s just as Gion Matsuri should be—at least for the locals.
- shashin – 写真 -photograph(s)
- shimidare nikuman – しみだれ 豚まん A kind of dumpling literally called a stained dumpling. The stain is soy sauce. In this case it is a speciality of a certain Chinese restaurant and is only served a few days a year.
- masuku – マスク mask, a face mask. Ubiquitous in Japan even before COVID.
- gakusei – 学生 student
- Hakurakutenyama – 白楽天山 That’s a mouthful, isn’t it! It’s one of the floats of the Gion Festival. Read more here.