Long connected with Kyoto's Geisha community centered in nearby Gion, bustling, colorful, downtown Yasaka Jinja lies at the very heart of much of the city's festive tradition. At New Year's, literally millions of people come to take a flame from the Shrine's sacred fire home. This is then used to cook the first meal of the coming year, thus ensuring future good health. In early April close-by Maruyama Park is full of tipsy merrymakers carousing under the pink cherry-blossoms. Yasaka Shrine is also central to the preparations and festivities connected with the annual Gion Festival.