Gion Festival (祇園祭り）is a synonym for the sunmer in Kyoto. If you live in Kyoto for a long time, you will find yourself delighted only with watching the enormous Hoko (鉾) and Yama (山) of the festival. In my childhood, I often dreamed about living in one of those Gion festival communities since I was born in the Nishijin (西陣) district which is not in the area of the festival.
The origin of the Gion festival dates back to the Heian (平安) period. The emperor Seiwa ordered people to conduct a ceremony by setting 66 pieces of long swords at Shinsen-en (神泉苑) garden in order to cease the pandemics occurred all over Japan. The nnumber 66 represents the number of small countries in Japan at that time. Since then, each sword was developed into gigantic float today by the effort of Machishu (町衆, people in the Gion festival communities) and the festival has got the style today.
Each time I hear the sound of Gion Bayashi (祇園囃子), it makes me realize that I am from Kyoto. It comes home to me so much. I see Hoko and Yama everyday in this season, and it never bores me. Gion festival is the spirit of Kyoto residents. I just love it.