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Japan Travels

Gion Festival Season in Yamaguchi (Dozomonsen)

July 21, 2012

This girl’s face!

She really, really wanted one of those water-filled balloons. They’re one of the common game stall that pop up around Japanese matsuris (festivals). I hated having it done to me when I was a kid, but I’ve gotta say: I love seeing how the parents dress their kids for these festivals. It’s adorable; and you see so many great, fun yukata patterns. I suppose it also makes it easier to see your kid from far away.

Some facts: The differences between Yukatas and Kimonos: yukata are traditional Japanese summer clothes, like the one the little girl is wearing in the picture (kids’ version). They are not kimono; kimono are usually only worn in the winter, or during cooler weather (since they’re so hot!). Unless you’re a geisha; then you might be forced to suffer wearing one in the summer heat. Kimono are heavy, more elaborate, and a bitch to put on. Yukatas are more like really nice bathrobes. In fact, often when you stay at a Japanese ryokan or hotel, they’ll leave a yukata for you to wear on the bed. Another difference between yukatas and kimonos is that the obi (belt part) on the kimonos are usually a bit more built-up, whereas a yukata is usually just a simple bow; sometimes with an extra sash or decoration. I know for foreigner’s it’s easier to just say ‘kimono’ no matter what, since it’s the easy go-to word we’re familiar with for traditional Japanese clothing, and we apply it to pretty much anything that’s asian and wrap-around. But, it can’t hurt to know a little extra. Cheers!

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Night dancing during Gion Matsuri (祇園祭), Yamaguchi.

This is one of Yamaguchi’s bigger summer festivals. Essentially it’s a smaller version of the hugely popular (and just general huge) Gion Matsuri that happens around the same time in Kyoto each year. There are many separate events that comprise of the festival, but one of the highlights is the dancing competition which trails as a parade through the 
商業街 (shougyougai/shopping street) as many university and community groups try to impress the judges by performing the same traditional dance in unison. 

There are some pretty sweet traditional costumes to see during the Gion festival. My personal favorite were the two in the last picture, with the young girl. Hats off to the poor people who volunteered to dress up as the giant red and green balls beside her (traditional Yamaguchi-area Ouchi lacquerware characters) in the 30˚+ humidity.

Good times; my Community Activities class also took part in the dance (I managed to avoid showcasing my bad dancing skills by using the ‘but someone has to take pictures’ excuse). My classmates are the ones dressed up in the red ‘happi’ (the traditional, loose festival coats) that say 山口県大学 (Yamaguchi Prefectural University) on the sides. 

 

Night dancing during Gion Matsuri (祇園祭), Yamaguchi.

This is one of Yamaguchi’s bigger summer festivals. Essentially it’s a smaller version of the hugely popular (and just general huge) Gion Matsuri that happens around the same time in Kyoto each year. There are many separate events that comprise of the festival, but one of the highlights is the dancing competition which trails as a parade through the 
商業街 (shougyougai/shopping street) as many university and community groups try to impress the judges by performing the same traditional dance in unison. 

There are some pretty sweet traditional costumes to see during the Gion festival. My personal favorite were the two in the last picture, with the young girl. Hats off to the poor people who volunteered to dress up as the giant red and green balls beside her (traditional Yamaguchi-area Ouchi lacquerware characters) in the 30˚+ humidity.

Good times; my Community Activities class also took part in the dance (I managed to avoid showcasing my bad dancing skills by using the ‘but someone has to take pictures’ excuse). My classmates are the ones dressed up in the red ‘happi’ (the traditional, loose festival coats) that say 山口県大学 (Yamaguchi Prefectural University) on the sides. 

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