Gion Festival / Yasaka-jinja Shrine Otabisho

The gods of Yasaka-jinja Shrine will stay here for a week between Sakimatsuri and Atomatsuri.

Text : Yasuo Yuzuhara / Photo : Yuki Sato

Picture provider : Kyoto Moyo


  Speaking of ‘Otabi Kyoto’ in Shijo-teramachi, it is a shop selling foods, snacks, and Kyoto standard craft works. However, the reality is that it’s called Otabisho which 3 portable shrines from Yasaka-jinja Shrine will be kept inside during Gion Festival.

  Otabisho is the sacred place that portable shrines will stay and rest while they are going around in the area of parishioners. Otabisho for Yasaka-jinja Shrine on Shijo-dori street has 2 palaces, which are Higashi-goten and Nishi-goten, and the space that ‘Otabi Kyoto’ locates between east and west palaces is going to have 3 portable shrines inside. It was in 1592 that Hideyoshi Toyotomi combined two divided Otabisho places into one and he decided to locate it where it is now.

  To tell you the truth, Gion Festival is the Shinto ritual of Yasaka-jinja Shrine that came from the Shinto ritual of Gion-sha (former name for Yasaka-jinja) that they prayed to the gods in order to eliminate epidemics all over Japan in Heian era. At that time, people thought that an epidemic and any other disasters in the capital of Japan  occurred because of the evil spirits, so that people prayed to Prince Susanoo (Gozu Tenno) in order to calm the evil spirits and all the epidemics. That’s how this festival started.

  It was in 859 ~ 877 that ‘Goryoe’ was first held to calm the evil spirits of dead. People put 66 long-handled spears, which was the same number of countries existed in Japan, in order to remove epidemics by sending portable shrines from Gion-sha at Shinsen-en close to Nijo Castle. Years later, the origin of Yamahoko Junko parade appeared in the public for the first time in Muromachi era, and Machishu (merchant class people) started making their original parade float for each town and participated in this Junko parade.

  As you see now, Gion Festival was born after Goryo-shinko (a religious belief of the avenging spirits of dead) and Yamahoko Junko parade has a role of gathering evil spirits by going around the city. ‘Mikoshi Togyo’, which is for welcoming the gods from the shrine to purified city, is the biggest event on this festival.

(Sakimatsuri, Yamahoko Junko parade. A picture of Naginataboko)


  It is July 17th that 3 portable shrines are going to stay in Otabisho from Yasaka-jinja Shrine, in other words, at the night of first Yabahoko Junko parade. From this day till 24th that Yamahoko Junko parade of Atomatsuri is going to be held, the gods will stay there. Shinkosai, 3 portable shrines going around the area of shrine parishioners from Yasaka-jinja Shrine to Otabisho at night in 17th, and Kankosai, again 3 portable shrines going around the area of shrine parishioners from Otabisho back to Yasaka-jinja Shrine, are both amazing and incredible. ‘Sashiage’, carrying a 3 tons portable shrine with a lot of men, and ‘Hoitto, Hoitto’, screams and cheers are very rough compared to the image of Yamahoko Junko parade in Gion Festival. If you have some times, I definitely want you to see them with your own eyes and ears.

  Names of 3 portable shrines are ‘Nakagoza’, ‘Higashigoza’ and ‘Nishigoza’. Susanoo no Mikoto, Kushiinadahime no Mikoto, and Yahashira no Mikogami are stays in each portable shrine. You can pray to the gods of Yasaka-jinja Shrine much closer than usual for a week and once a year. Let’s pray for your good luck and protect yourself again evils.


Contact : 

Yasaka-jinja Shrine

Association of Yamahoko, decorative floats, of the Gion Festival