Gion Matsuri is Kyoto’s largest festival which takes place throughout the month of July by the Yasaka Shrine. Although it is named after the Gion district, the main events take place on the opposite side of Kamo River. There are two main parades called the Yamaboko Junko, which occurs on the 17th and 24th. On nights leading up to the parade (yoiyama), Kyoto’s downtown area is reserved for pedestrian traffic. The streets are filled with energetic food stands, drink vendors and festival games.
On the 17th and 24th, the processions of floats (Hoko and Yama) take place between 9:00 and 11.30. Groups of people collectively carry these heavy floats which are elaborately furnished with beautiful tapestries from Nishijin. Yama floats weigh up to 1,600kg and Hoko floats weigh up to 12,000kg and starts from Shijo-Karasuma or Karasuma-Oike. If you go, make sure to wear a yukata!