Summer in Japan mainly means one thing (apart from obscene heat): matsuri, or traditional Japanese festivals. There are literally dozens in every city, some of them are local affairs, others span a whole area or the entire country.

One of the most famous festivals is Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, which technically spans all of July, with processions and special festival (and food stalls!) in temples and shrines all over town. The festival was started from a purification ritual that took place in the 9th century when the plague killed a huge part of the city's population.

The last three nights of the festival, the main streets of the city are blocked for vehicles and many of the colourful festival wagons are displayed. The hightlights is the parade, which takes place in the morning on 17 July.

food stalls at night
It's also a great time to have a peek into many places that are usually closed to the public, such as kimono workshops and some of the geisha houses.

While the parade itself always means that the city is overcrowded and it's hard to move on the main streets, Gion Matsuri is something everyone should experience when they visit Japan in the summer!

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