See more photos and a video of the parade here.
The Gion Matsuri Festival is the most famous festival in Japan and occurs over the month of July. During this time, many different events take place, including the parade on July 17th. It dates back to 869 as a religious ritual. Some of the floats are up to 25 meters tall and are pulled on wheels larger than humans.
The parade was unlike any one I had witnessed before. Instead of being a joyous and enthusiastic event, it was somber and quiet. Only men participated in the parade, wearing traditional clothing including woven grass sandals and hats. They play a part in the parade by playing instruments (drums and flutes), walking, and chanting. The main street was shut down and crowds lined the entire sidewalk. The parade ran for over an hour and a half. After a while, it got a little monotonous so Jessica, Cameron (a guy we met at our hostel), and I left for the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Fushimi Inari Shrine, located just south of Kyoto, is one of the most important shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. It was very touristy but lovely. Many Japanese tourists wear their yukatas to take photos there. The three of us walked through its thousands of vermilion tori gates that arch over a series of trails behind the main buildings. You can also stumble upon some beautiful bamboo groves while walking around. Jessica, Cameron, and I loved hiking and getting lost along the trails. By the end of it, we finally reaching a mountaintop with a scenic view. I had been wondering why there were so many fox sculptures around and this is because foxes are Inari’s messengers.