Gion Festival in Kyoto circa 2005

Summer 2005, I went to Gion Festival 祇園祭り in Kyoto.

Gion Matsuri 2005

Gion is one of the largest festivals held in Kansai. It is one of the three largest and most important festivals in Japan. Normally held in July, it is a treasured annual event that completely consumes all activity in downtown Kyoto.

Some Japanese phrases to describe Gion Matsuri could be…

人だらけ。 “hito darake” “nothing but freakin people everywhere”
満員電車状態。 “manindensha jyoutai” “freakin’ like a rush-hour train”
めっちゃ暑いねん。”meccya atsuinen” “It’s freakin’ hot”

I joke, it’s an amazing experience and if possible, I would recommend everyone at try to attend once if you can manage.

Gion Matsuri 2005 - A crowded float
Gion Festival 2005

Giant two-story, two-ton floats carrying dozens of people in festival wear are wheeled around the streets — manually dragged by what must be 40 men. At one of the most exciting moments of the festival they heave the float to turn their fixed-axel heavy wooden wheels across the pavement. It is truly a sight to see!

Gion Matsuri 2005 - float full view

They even float by McDonalds… For an… Ice Cream Float. [joke.]

Gion Matsuri 2005 rolls by McDonalds
Gion Festival 2005 – Floating by McDonalds

Visit Kyoto in the summer and check out Gion Festival if you can! More details can be found at Yasaka Shrine’s official site.

Mid-day Visit to Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto on a Weekday

On Thursday, March 12, I went to Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto just before lunch to see if I could enjoy a day there without crowds. Fushimi Inari has become one of the most crowded tourist destinations in Kyoto so the thought of a visit off peak season was appealing. I expected crowds to be low because it was a weekday, and also, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fushimi Inari Station
Fushimi Inari Station at around 11 am on Thursday morning March 12, 2020.

Fushimi Inari was certainly less crowded than usual, but there were definitely lots of tourists there. I wouldn’t recommend planning a trip anywhere with large crowds while the danger of Corona Virus is an issue, but if you’re already on your way to Japan and committed to going anyway this is what to expect.

Fushimi Inari Shopping Street
The shopping area near the station. Still tourists, but not crazy crowded.

I did see a couple of tour groups, including one with a tour guide with a lead flag and everything. The ten plus seemingly western tourists were all wearing the same style mask, which makes me think that the tour company provided them. Otherwise I noticed the usual groups of tourists, with the notable absence of Mandarin-speaking groups.

We arrived at Fushimi Inari station at about 11am, had lunch at a nice western cafe called Vermillion, and then started our way up Mt. Inari. I was with an elementary school kid and we made it to the top at at about 1:15 pm. After a bit of wandering and shopping we were ready to leave and at the train station at about 2:30 pm. So, If you’ve got 3-4 hours you can easily make it to the top of the mountain and back.

Fushimi Inari Torii Gates
Not exactly a empty… Though it did thin out the higher we got up the mountain.
Fushimi Inari Torii Gates
Midway up it was pretty easy to keep some distance between the next group of tourists.
Fushimi Inari Torii Gates
I was able to get some shots with no people around, but not near the bottom of the mountain.

If you’re thinking about traveling to Japan sometime soon and are wondering how the Corona Virus (COVID-19) or other local circumstances might affect your trip, I recommend checking out the following websites for information:

Fushimi Inari Fox Statue
One of the many fox statues at Fushimi Inari

Imakumano Kannonji Temple in Kyoto

I decided to visit Imakumano Kannonji after looking for a place in Kyoto that wouldn’t be crowded with tourists. Imakumano delivered. There was hardly anyone around when we visited in February 2020, perhaps the Corona Virus had something to do with it, but it is so out of the way I expect that it never sees large crowds. The site is large and it’s a good walk to see everything if you don’t use a taxi. A great site to visit on a good-weather day when you want to avoid the crowds but still see something special.

The complex is large and there are several sites to visit. One of them is Kaikoji Temple.

The largest standing wooden Buddha statue is located in Kaiko-ji Temple, which is on the way to Imakumano, and is worth the visit. At 5.4 meters tall, it was quite impressive. Photos of the inside are not allowed so you’ll have to take my word for it. They also have an audio presentation that will explain the site in English.

Kaikoji Temple Explanation

This is probably not the most efficient trip plan, but we visited Imakumanoji Kannonji after a visit to Sanjusangendo. It was about a 20 minute walk from one site to the the other and we stopped for lunch in between. I was with an elementary school kid who can only enjoy about two cultural sites a day, so this was our original plan.

Walk from Sanjusangendo to Imakumano Kannonji Temple, click for Google Maps Link
Imakumano Kannon near Kaikoji Temple
Near Kaikoji Temple
Imakumano Kannonji Entrance
After a long walk you can find the entrance to Imakumano Kannonji
Imakumano Kannon
The most photographed vantage point of the main building.
Imakumano Kannonji

I’m sure this area is even more beautiful in the fall when the leaves have changed.

If you’re looking for a Kyoto site to visit that is somewhat off the beaten path, consider a visit!


Imakumano Kannonji Temple – This YouTube video will give you an idea of the site