Life & Lights in Southern Japan: Gion Matsuri and more from Kyoto & Osaka

As so often, it was by pure coincidence that I happened to be in the Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe metro area just in time for me to witness the main event of the Gion Matsuri, a major annual festival held in Kyoto: the Yoiyama parade. The largest of the floats in these parades can weigh up to twelve tons, be 25 meters tall, have wheels almost two meters in diameter and be pulled and manned by around 40 people. I must say that I expected the festival to be rather interesting, but my expectations were topped by far, and it was absolutely mind blowing to watch and be part of this.

As is only typical for Japan, different centuries seemed to clash as a result of this age-old tradition – traditional floats moving past office high rises, a 360 degree video being shot by a westerner in traditional Japanese clothing, and a Japanese man taking a break behind his float, calling a friend on his phone – if you look closely, you will see the clash of the ages wherever you look.

That night, back in my residence in Osaka, I got to witness a thunderstorm in the distance. Being the sucker for meteorology that I am (especially when I can combine it with an awesome photo opportunity), I found a way to prop open the fire escape door and climbed near the very top of the high-rise building I was in, in order to get the best possible view of the lightning activity. I am quite happy with the pictures that came out of my little adventure.

Speaking of night in Osaka, it is very bright indeed (which, I suppose, isn’t too surprising considering the number of people that live in the metro area being the second highest in the country just after Tokyo). Especially the Dotonbori area, filled with shops, restaurants and tourists is filled with neon signs, LED screens and lots of lights. It is well worth a visit if you are in Osaka, but don’t expect to necessarily get an “authentic” Japanese experience, but instead one that is considerably fueled by the tourism industry.

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