When you hear “Himeji” you probably think of the beautiful “Himeji Castle” which is certainly what Himeji is most famous for. However, there are other things to discover and enjoy!
One of them is the yearly “Himeji Yukata Festival” (姫路ゆかたまつり） that takes place in late June:
What is the Himeji Yukata Festival?
The Himeji Yukata Matsuri takes place every June in Himeji City (Hyogo Prefecture map) near the famous Himeji Castle.
The city – and especially the castle – is well worth a day trip from nearby Osaka or Kyoto.
Himeji Yukata Festival is held for the local god of Himeyama of Osakabe Shrine (長壁神社). The tradition goes back to a ceremony that took place about 260 years ago.
At that time Himeji Castle was already built on the former grounds of Osakabe Shrine, so common people couldn’t visit and pray at the shrine anymore. When the current lord of Himeji Castle, Masamine Sakaibara, had to go to Niigata, he moved the shrine from the hill (Himeyama) to downtown Himeji so that everyone could easily access it.
Therefore, a ceremony for moving the shrine and the god was held in summer. As this took place on a very short note the citizens of Himeji didn’t have enough time, but also not enough money, to get their formal kimono ready. Instead they were allowed to wear their yukata which was nothing that you could wear in public at that time. Those were the origins of the yukata festival.
At first it was simply called “Yukata Matsuri“, but then more and more “yukata festivals” kept popping up everywhere in Japan and it was finally renamed to “Himeji Yukata Matsuri“.
Why you should visit:
With around 200,000 visitors and around 800 food stands it is said to be the biggest festival of this kind in Western Japan.
Not only will you see many Japanese girls and women wearing colorful and beautiful yukata, but there are also several events you can enjoy such as a yukata parade, a yukata fashion show and various dance and music performances on stage.
You can hang out with friends or eat delicious Japanese food at one of the food stands.
Or you can just check out the latest yukata fashion trends!
Another great thing is that several facilities will be free of charge during the festival such as:
- Kokoen Garden
- Himeji City Zoo
- Himeji City Museum of Art
- Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History
- Himeji City Museum of Literature
The Shinki Bus (神姫バス, Himeji City Bus) will cost only half and the shops in the shopping arcade leading from the train station to Himeji Castle will offer a lot of discounts. It’s also a great chance to buy a cute yukata for cheap!
Source: Japanese Wikipedia
Yukata (浴衣) designs and colors have changed a lot in the past decades.
Younger people often didn’t like the traditional wear, but with trendy colors and cute designs it has become very popular again.
The Himeji Yukata Festival is a great opportunity to check out the latest fashion trends.
In recent years yukata that look like pajamas seem to be very popular among young girls.
You’ll also find a lot of “weird” accessories and not just the traditional flower in the hair and geta shoes.
At most summer festivals you’ll notice that the majority of women wears yukata, but most men dress casually.
I don’t know why, but maybe the “updated design” worked well for the girls, but not for the guys.
It’s also much easier to dress up nowadays. A lot of girls just buy a “ready-to-go” obi. The ribbon is already there and you can just wear it like that. It saves a lot of time and maybe nerves.
I noticed that in recent years dark yukata (black, dark-blue, violet) with flower patterns in pink are extremely popular among young girls!
If you scroll through the photos you’ll see a lot of them. Do you like that kind of style?
Another great thing about the “Himeji Yukata Matsuri” is that it’s held near the magnificent Himeji Castle – the most beautiful castle in Japan if you ask me.
You can take great photos of Japanese people wearing colorful yukata with the castle in the background. Unfortunately it was still covered while undergoing renovation works that lasted until spring 2015.
I have taken a lot of photos as I went to the festival in 2012 as well as this year (2013).
I’ve chosen a few to present you here and I hope you’ll enjoy them. Maybe you can feel the atmosphere of a Japanese summer festival a bit through the photos.
There’s also a video I took in June 2012 while strolling through the festival grounds with food stands and other attractions. It’s shaking a lot (my camera is not good for taking videos), but I hope you’re still able to watch it without getting too annoyed!:
If you’re wondering about the voice in the background, there’s a haunted house and they try to attract customers. Of course, that’s mainly meant for young children.
Also, there aren’t that many people yet and only a few are wearing yukata in this video. Later it became really crowded and more people in traditional wear popped up.
Even the little ones are dressed up. As you can see they’re not wearing geta. They’re very cute, though.
So many cute and beautiful yukata! It seems like the little girl wants to wear her mother’s geta?
Another cute mother-daughter dress-up. Even the colors match. I think it’s good that kids aren’t forced to wear geta.
Even sandals are acceptable! This girl looks so adorable and she doesn’t seem to feel uncomfortable at all.
This is a very common picture: She’s all dressed up and he came in casual clothes.
Here’s yet another example. Well, at least the women get all the attention that way.
A rather rare sight, but so much better if you ask me! He’s also dressed up and I love their style!
Here’s another rare example. As I mentioned earlier the guys wear quite simple and traditional designs.
A pajamas-yukata next to a rather normal yukata.
Here are some more. At least they blend in well. Outside of a festival you’d think they’re walking around in their pajamas. What do you think about them?
As you can see flower patterns and certain colors are most popular.
That’s a bit more like the traditional style. At least they’re wearing geta and flowers in their hair. Never mind that green alien bag thingie.
You won’t find colors like that so often (anymore) which is why it caught my eye.
light-blue yukata are also popular, but not as much as the dark colors. Do you like it? Would you wear it?
And finally a non-flower pattern. I love the butterflies!
I took this photo on a whim. I really like the yukata in the foreground. I’m in love with the colors and in that combination they look great. This is definitely something I would wear. How about you?
It was only the end of June, but already relatively hot. Shops used this chance to hand out uchiwa (Japanese fans) with their advertisement printed on them. On the left fan you can see “Shiromaruhime“, the cute mascot of Himeji!
I really like both styles a lot, but the one on the right seems more traditional and I think the combination of black and red is great!
Another butterfly pattern. However, I like the yukata on the left better because of the nice colors.
Of course not everyone is wearing a yukata, but some people are still dressing up in their very own way.
You’ll find various styles.
The beauty club. I don’t know but this looks like it’s out of a Japanese drama or something. And look at her socks!
Certainly a rather unique style.
She was also in the video. Did you see her? No? Go back and watch it again. (^_-)
There are also a lot of delicious snacks. These waffle chocolate sticks were especially popular.
On summer festivals there are many things little kids can enjoy.
If the parents don’t want the kids to catch real fish, then this is a good alternative.
And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this tour through the Himeji Yukata Matsuri of June 2012 and 2013.
Himeji Yukata Festival Visitors’ Information:
If you consider going, then you can combine it with a visit of Himeji Castle and some other sightseeing spots I mentioned above that will be free of charge during the festival.
The Himeji Yukata Matsuri won’t start before 4:30pm, so you can spend the morning and early afternoon with sightseeing. The festival itself as well as all mentioned sightseeing spots can be easily reached from JR Himeji Station. All of them are just a short walk away and you might also want to stroll through the shopping arcade that leads from the station to the castle and see if you can find any discounted products or even a nice yukata.
What do you think? Is this a festival worth visiting?