Obon (お盆) is the Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to their family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves. During this time, the ancestor’s spirits are supposed to revisit the household altars.
The Tanabata legend tells of two lovers, Hikoboshi (Altair star) and Orihime (Vega star), who are separated by the “river of the heavens” (Milky Way) and are only allowed to meet once a year, on the night of July 7.
The event called Tanabata (Star) Festival relates to a romantic folk tale telling the story of the couple stars, the Lyre and Altair of Aquila that can only meet once a year on the night of July 7th (this day is called “Tanabata”). On this day, people of all ages will write their wishes on a strip of paper called “Tanzaku” and hang them on bamboo trees.
In the evening of July 24th, the three mikoshi from Otabisho (the temporary abode of the deities) are taken back to the Yasaka Shrine. These three mikoshi (portable shrines) bearing the kami of Yasaka Jinja are borne aloft and carried back to the shrine in an event known as Kanko-sai.
The Sagi Odori (Heron Dance) is one of three devotional dances performed by local school children during both the Omukae Chochin (Welcome Lantern) parade and the Hanagasa (Flower Hat) parade during Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri.
The Hanagasa Junko or Flower Hat Procession that takes place on July 24 is a rather new event of the Gion Matsuri. It was originally meant to replace the second procession but stayed on when this later procession (Ato Matsuri) was reinstated in 2014.