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Kyoto Gion Matsuri festival guide

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Experience hosted by Nick

5 hours
Includes drinks, equipment
Up to 6 people
Hosted in English

What you'll do

The Gion Matsuri (festival) is one of the biggest events in Japan’s travel calendar. Started in the 9th Century, it takes place every year in Kyoto, drawing crowds from around the World. UNESCO recognizes it as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage event.

Musicians practice yearlong to be able to climb into the wooden structures and play traditional flutes and drums while teams pull the shrines by thick ropes. Media crews fly in from around the world.

The main attractions are the 23 “Yama” shrines and the 10 massive “Hoko” shrines. The Hoko shrines are a full 25-meters tall, and take days to assemble outdoors in the streets. Attendance often exceeds 400,000 visitors, turning Kyoto into one giant festival.

In the morning I'll show you how the shrines are painstakingly built in the street, how the carriage wheels (taller than the average person) are fitted, and how they are decorated with ornate metal hubs. We'll take a walking tour of the shrine route, and talk directly with crews about their extensive preparations.

After a lunch/shopping break, we'll move to the river to get a panoramic view, and then get a peek inside one of the shrines.

I've operated during the Gion Matsuri as guide and vendor, rain and shine, and have contacts with the organizers.

I'll be your bilingual guide, getting you inside the shrines, (most tourists have to wait hours) and explaining in English
The Gion Matsuri (festival) is one of the biggest events in Japan’s travel calendar. Started in the 9th Century, it takes place every year in Kyoto, drawing crowds from around the World. UNESCO recognizes it as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage event.

Musicians practice yearlong to be able to climb into the wooden structures and play traditional flutes and drums while teams pull the shrines by thick ropes. Media crews fly in from ar…

Nick's commitment to safety

This host has committed to Airbnb’s COVID-19-related safety and cleaning guidelines – including adhering to social distancing guidelines, practising good hygiene, and ensuring that all participants wear a mask.
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What's included

  • Drinks
    Optional summer kimono (yukata) for those who want to dress the part. At ad...
  • Equipment
    first aid kit, rain gear, washroom, refreshments
From ₹4,657
/ person

Meet your host, Nick

Host on Airbnb since 2018
  • Identity verified
I have operated event stands and tours during the Festival for several years, including the preparations for the main event. I have access to the pathways that the locals know, and also have contacts with the crews that prepare the moving shrines. I know the local tricks and ins-and-outs of how to navigate through the often overcrowded event, and have local places where we can cool our heels during breaks.
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Where you'll be

Morning filming of preparations in the streets - great for time-lapse filming. Late morning walking tour of festival route. Midday lunch and traditional souvenir shopping. Afternoon view from bridges over river. Around sunset, inside access to the interior of a shrine. An official will show you the shrine’s interior. Most tourists have to wait in line for hours for this privilege.

Choose from available dates

    Things to know

    Cancellation policy

    Any experience can be cancelled and fully refunded within 24 hours of purchase, or at least 7 days before the experience starts.

    Government ID

    You’ll need to take a picture of yourself that matches the photo on your ID. This is so Airbnb can confirm who’s actually going on the experience. You’ll only have to do this once.

    Guest requirements

    Up to 6 guests ages 14 and up can attend.

    More tips

    The festival is ongoing, so please send a message telling me which day you prefer to join. The weather is famously unpredictable during the festival. It could be extremely hot and sunny, or there could be typhoon rains. Dress in light clothes. Be prepared to walk for most of the day.

    What to bring

    Good walking shoes (broken in and comfortable) NO FLIP-FLOPS! Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, backpack, any needed medicines