Aoi Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in Kyoto, Japan. It is a celebration of piety and purification from Japan’s ancient history, still carried out at Kyoto’s Kamo shrines today. The festival celebrates the two Kamo shrines of Kyoto—Kamigamo and Shimogamo, and takes place on May 15th every year. The name of the festival comes from Futaba Aoi, which means hollyhock in Japanese.
The festival’s main attraction is a grand procession in Kyoto, in which over 500 people dressed in the aristocratic style of the Heian Period (794-1185) walk from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. The procession includes oxcarts, cows, horses, and six-hundred people holding hollyhock leaves, led by an Imperial Messenger. The Aoi Matsuri is one of Kyoto’s three most famous festivals, along with the Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri.
The Aoi Matsuri is a unique and fascinating cultural experience. The festival is a great opportunity to witness traditional Japanese customs and costumes. Visitors can see the procession, which is the highlight of the festival, and watch the participants in their aristocratic attire.
Aoi Matsuri is one of the three main annual festivals held in Kyoto, Japan, the other two being the Festival of the Ages (Jidai Matsuri) and the Gion Festival. The festival dates back to the Heian period and is believed to have started during the reign of Emperor Kinmei in the 6th century. The festival was initially held to pray for good harvests and to appease the gods.
During the festival, a procession of people dressed in traditional Heian period costumes walks from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. The procession is led by a woman dressed as the Saio-Dai, the imperial princess who served as the high priestess of the Ise Shrine. The procession is accompanied by musicians playing traditional Japanese instruments such as the taiko drum and the shakuhachi flute.
The festival’s name comes from the aoi (wild ginger) leaves that are used to decorate the costumes of the participants in the procession. The aoi leaves are believed to have a purifying effect and to protect against evil spirits.
It is held annually on May 15 and is dedicated to the deities of the Kamo Shrines. The festival dates back to the Heian period (794-1185) and has been held continuously for over 1,000 years.
The significance of Aoi Matsuri lies in its historical and cultural significance. The festival provides a glimpse into the aristocratic culture of the Heian period, which was characterized by its elegance and refinement. During the festival, over 500 people dressed in the aristocratic style of the Heian period walk in a parade from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. The costumes are meticulously crafted to reflect the fashions of the time, and the parade is a living history lesson that transports visitors back in time.
Aside from its cultural significance, Aoi Matsuri also has a spiritual significance. The festival is a way for the people of Kyoto to express their gratitude to the deities of the Kamo Shrines for the blessings they have received throughout the year. The festival is also believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the city of Kyoto and its residents.
Preparations and Festivities
The Aoi Matsuri is a festival that has been celebrated in Kyoto for over a thousand years. It is held annually on May 15th and is one of the three most famous festivals in the city. The festival is held to pray for a good harvest and to purify the city. The preparations for the festival start several months in advance.
One of the most important preparations is the creation of the festival’s costumes. The costumes are modeled after the aristocratic style of the Heian period and are made from silk. Over 500 people participate in the parade, and each participant wears a costume that is unique to their role in the procession. The costumes are made by hand and can take several months to complete.
Another important preparation is the decoration of the shrines. The festival is held at two shrines in Kyoto, the Kamigamo Shrine and the Shimogamo Shrine. The shrines are decorated with hollyhock leaves, which are the keynote of the decoration. The leaves are found on the court dresses, on the carriage, and even on the heads and clothes of the participants in the parade.
The main event of the festival is the procession. The procession starts at the Imperial Palace and ends at the Kamigamo Shrine. The parade is led by an Imperial Messenger and includes oxcarts, cows, horses, and over 500 people dressed in traditional Heian-era clothing. The procession is a sight to behold and attracts thousands of spectators every year.
After the procession, there is a ceremony held at the Kamigamo Shrine. The ceremony includes offerings of food and sake to the gods. The festival concludes with a traditional Japanese dance performance.
The procession starts at 10:30 a.m. from the Kyoto Imperial Palace and continues through the streets of Kyoto to the Shimogamo Shrine and finally to the Kamigamo Shrine. The procession is made up of two parts: the imperial messengers’ retinue and the Saio-Dai, a young woman who in the Heian period was an imperial princess.
The procession route is over 8 kilometers long and takes about 5 hours to complete. The procession is led by the imperial messengers’ retinue, which is made up of about 500 people dressed in traditional Heian-period costumes. They are followed by the Saio-Dai, who is carried in a palanquin and is accompanied by her attendants. The Saio-Dai is a central figure in the procession and is considered to be the embodiment of the kami or spirits that are worshipped at the Kamo Shrines.
The procession route is lined with spectators who come to watch the procession and catch a glimpse of the Saio-Dai. Reserved seats are available behind fences for those who want to sit and watch the procession comfortably. However, many people prefer to stand and watch the procession as it passes by. The procession stops at the Shimogamo Shrine for two hours where ceremonies are performed before continuing to the Kamigamo Shrine.
The Aoi Matsuri Festival is one of the most important and oldest festivals in Kyoto. It celebrates the two Kamo shrines of Kyoto—Kamigamo and Shimogamo. The name of the festival comes from Futaba Aoi, which means hollyhock in Japanese. The hollyhock is a symbol of the festival and is used in the decorations for the Saio-Dai’s palanquin and the costumes of the participants in the procession.
The Sum Up
Overall, the Aoi Matsuri is a fascinating festival that showcases the rich history and culture of Kyoto. It is a must-see event for anyone visiting the city in May. The festival is a testament to the enduring traditions and customs of Japan, and it is a reminder of the importance of preserving these traditions for future generations.