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News Head priest to resign over serving food and drinks at Gion Festival


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
The head priest of Yasaka-jinja is considering stepping down from the Kyoto City Tourism Association due to a disagreement over the association's decision to offer alcohol and food to tourists purchasing VIP seats for the renowned Gion Festival. He expressed that the festival is a sacred Shinto ceremony aimed at suppressing illnesses, not an event to be enjoyed with drinks and meals. The Gion Festival, celebrated in July in Kyoto, is one of Japan's top three festivals. As a member of the association's board, Nomura opposed the recent initiative to sell exclusive seats for the Yamahoko parade, which last year were priced at 400,000 JPY (approximately USD2,530), including alcohol and local cuisine.


This year, the premium seats, targeted at wealthy domestic or foreign visitors, cost 150,000 or 200,000 JPY. The Yamahoko procession is scheduled for 17 July, during the first half of the festival. According to Yasakajinja shrine, located in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward, Nomura earlier asked the association not to serve booze or food at the festival and sought a response to his request in spring. "The chief priest doesn't oppose the premium seats or the prices for the seats," an official at the shrine said. "He is insisting that he disagrees with people's attitude of thinking it's OK to eat or drink while watching the Shinto ritual Yamahoko procession," Nomura told the association through another priest on 6 and 11 June that he intended to vacate the director's post.

A uniquely Japanese controversy. A shinto head priest considering stepping down in a show of contrition for something as boring as a tourist initiative that hopes to cater to high-net-worth people by offering a slightly bougie experience.

Heaven forbid alcoholic beverages should be associated with a shinto shrine.

Meanwhile, every other shinto shrine in Japan...
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