Kyoto’s Summer Magic: A Guide to Gion Matsuri Festival and Hidden Culinary Gems
Kyoto’s Summer Magic: A Guide to Gion Matsuri Festival and Hidden Culinary Gems
July 11, 2024

While Kyoto dazzles with its array of enchanting sights, it’s during the summer months that the city truly comes alive with the Gion Matsuri. Imagine a festival so captivating, so steeped in history, that it compels travellers from all corners of the globe to experience its month-long splendour. This festival’s vibrant floats, traditional music, and captivating processions epitomise Japan’s rich heritage. As you immerse yourself in the festivities, explore Kyoto’s hidden culinary gems that perfectly complement this extraordinary celebration. Join us in uncovering the delights of Gion Matsuri and the exquisite flavours of Kyoto’s best-kept secrets.

Gion Matsuri: The Heartbeat of Kyoto’s Summer Festival

Gion Matsuri, which spans the entire month of July, is one of Japan’s most famous festivals. Originating in 869 AD, this annual celebration was initially a purification ritual to appease the gods during a plague. Today, it has evolved into a grand festival featuring magnificent floats known as “Yamahoko” that parade through the streets of Kyoto. The festival peaks with the grand procession of floats “Yamahoko-Junko” and “Mikoshi-Togyo” on July 17th and 24th.

Each float is intricately decorated with tapestries, textiles, and carvings, telling a story from Japanese history or mythology. The atmosphere is electrifying as the floats move through the city, accompanied by traditional music and chanting. In the evenings, the streets are lined with food stalls, offering an array of Japanese street food that enhances the vibrant atmosphere.

Hidden Culinary Spots Near Gion Matsuri Area

While the festival is a feast for the senses, the culinary scene around Gion Matsuri offers a different kind of indulgence. Here are some hidden spots to savour Kyoto’s culinary delights:

Kyomachiya Pause

Tucked away in a traditional Kyomachiya (townhouse), Kyomachiya Pause offers a cosy and atmospheric ambience, providing an inviting and intimate setting perfect for escaping the festival’s hustle and bustle. The menu features everything from fresh sashimi to succulent beef steak, all prepared with meticulous attention to detail. It’s an ideal spot for a relaxing meal after a day of festivities.

Gyozadokoro Takatsuji Sukemasa

Beloved by locals, Gyozadokoro Takatsuji Sukemasa is a hidden gem specialising in gyoza (Japanese dumplings). Known for incorporating Kyoto vegetables, pork, and green onions into their fillings, they distinguish themselves by using a dashi base and Kyoto miso, steering away from conventional Chinese spices to achieve their signature Kyoto umami flavour.

The restaurant’s cosy atmosphere and delicious gyoza, perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, make it a must-visit. Pair your meal with a cold beer for the ultimate Kyoto experience.

Zoronpa Muromachi Bukkoji

For a unique dining experience, head to Zoronpa Muromachi Bukkoji, known for its teppanyaki skewers. Watch as skilled chefs prepare your meal before you, grilling skewers to perfection. Aside from wine, they also serve a wide range of sake, including  a rare-edition sake from Tsuki no Katsura, an esteemed brewery in Kyoto with a history spanning almost 350 years. The lively atmosphere and delectable flavours make this spot a hidden treasure in Kyoto’s culinary landscape.

Seaburanokami Nishiki Ten

If you’re a ramen enthusiast, Seaburanokami Nishiki Ten is the place to be. 

Renowned for their ramen topped generously with pork back fat, their name translates to “Goddess of Pork Back Fat.” This ramen strikes a perfect balance, enriched with back fat without greasy aftertaste.  

This unique ramen shop, born in Kyoto, offers rich and flavorful bowls of ramen that are sure to satisfy you. The broth, infused with local ingredients, and the perfectly cooked noodles create a symphony of flavours that will leave you craving more.

Gion Matsuri is not just a festival; it’s an experience that encapsulates the essence of Kyoto’s cultural and culinary heritage. From the grandeur of the float processions to the intimate charm of hidden restaurants, every aspect of Gion Matsuri invites you to explore and savour Kyoto’s rich traditions. So, mark your calendars, immerse yourself in the festivities, and embark on a culinary journey through the hidden gems of Kyoto this summer.