Festival Pictures Part 2: The Main Event

Finally the main event of the October 15th festival! This large mikoshi was carried by a large group of local men into the South Garden. It’s difficult to get a head count, but it is safe to say, it takes a lot of people to carry a mikoshi of this size!


Carrying the Mikoshi

Carrying the Mikoshi


Festival Pictures Part 1

Here are a few photos of the festival on October 16th for your viewing pleasure! These are pictures of the prelude to the main event. Check back next week for pictures of the mikoshi being brought into the South Garden!

Chokushi Gate

The intricate carving and decorations on the opened Chokushi Gate.

Small Mikoshi

Visitors to the temple admire a small mikoshi while a lion dance (shishimai in Japanese) is performed.

Playing Taiko in Front of Niō-Gate

Several large drums, taiko, were lined up in front of Niō-Gate and were played by the members of the Fukuoji Kōshin Taiko Club, members of the children’s club are shown playing above.

Festival this Sunday!


This is the view looking from the inside out of Nio Gate, as you can see preparations for Fukuōji Shrine’s annual October festival have begun! The long staff center in the picture is called a “kenboko,” this kenboko (along with others, I believe!) will be carried during the parade this Sunday. Kenboko are very long and quite heavy, it takes skill and practice to carry them during the procession. You can also see two very long bamboo stalks that have been placed on either side of the road across the street. You can see more of these bamboo stalks placed along the parade route.

The parade originates at Fukuōji Shrine Sunday morning and after winding through the neighborhood, ends here at Ninna-ji. When the procession arrives at the temple in the afternoon, the mikoshi will be carried into the temple (up the stairs at Nio Gate!) and into the South Garden through the Chokushi Gate.


Gion Festival

Year of the Rabbit

Unfortunately, unlike Aoi Festival and Mifune Festival, there aren’t any depictions of Gion Festival here at Ninna-ji. However, Gion Festival is one of the big three festivals of Kyoto,  so although it is not directly related to Ninna-ji, I feel that a brief post is a must! One of the Chinese Zodiac bunnies constructed with Kyoto-made fabric from the temple shop is going to have to stand in for a photograph of something Gion Festival related. I apologize that I cannot offer something more on-topic, but I do hope you find his serious countenance as endearing as I do.

Gion Festival is actually a month-long occasion, but the parade (largely considered the main event) happens this weekend on Sunday from 9am to 1pm. On the evenings leading up to the parade (starting tonight!) you can go see the completed floats (yamaboko) and enjoy the amazing festival atmosphere down near the intersection of Karasuma and Shijō streets. On the day of the parade, I recommend finding a place to watch that will allow you to see the floats turn a corner, I think it is the most impressive part of the procession!

Aoi Festival

Painting of Aoi Festival
On the wall opposite of the Mifune Festival painting in the middle room of Shinden there is a painting of Aoi Festival as a representation of summer. Aoi Festival is one of the three big festivals in Kyoto (the other two are Gion Festival in July and Jidai Festival [Festival of Ages] in October). “Aoi” means “hollyhock,” and the namesake of the festival can be seen in the form of hollyhock leaves adorning both people and animals in the famous procession. The festival is held annually on May 15th, and features many people in Heian Period costumes and even horses and oxen. The procession starts at Kyoto Imperial Palace and continues on to Kamigamo Shrine after passing through Shimogamo Shrine. You can find a map of the parade course and times of arrival here (English & Japanese).

This weekend is a busy weekend for Kyoto! If you end up picking another event over Aoi Festival, feel free to come to see the painting at Ninna-ji in Shinden for a little glimpse of what you missed…

Mifune Festival

Mifune Festival Painting in Shinden

The three main rooms of Shinden (the residential quarters inside of Goten) all feature wall-paintings that depict one of the four seasons. On the left-hand side of the center room, the above painting can be seen depicting an autumn scene. The festival illustrated by the painting is Arashiyama’s Mifune Festival. Long ago, when Emperor Uda visited Arashiyama, the people of the area held an event on the river for him, and that event would eventually be the inspiration for Mifune Festival. The original event was in the fall, but now the festival is held by Kuruma-zaka Shrine in May. The festival is held on the 3rd Sunday of May, this year on the 15th. The festivities start at high noon at the shrine, and continue into the afternoon with a parade of people in Heian Period costumes and old-fashioned boats on the river. You can find more about the festival at the shrine’s website here.

After learning about Mifune Festival here at Ninna-ji, I think I’ll try to go this year. If you can’t make it to the festival in person, come to Ninna-ji to see the painting in Shinden for a taste of the festival any time of year!