An ancient festival full of elegance – a magnificent procession dating back 1,000 years reproduced in Kyoto
Some 500 people wearing splendid ancient costumes and traditional make-up parade through the main streets of Kyoto. This festival came to be called Aoi Matsuri because aoi (hollyhock) leaves are used as important ornaments on the parade.
This festival reproduces the procession of officials delivering the Emperor’s message and offerings to the two shrines of Shimogamo and Kamigamo. In this light, the most important position held in the parade is the messenger on horseback wearing a gold sword at his side, who is followed by a train of attendants. The highlight of the procession is the parade of “Saio” – women accompanying the proxy of the imperial princess serving the deities.
The role of this heroine is selected from among all unmarried women living in Kyoto. She must dress in the formal style of the imperial court, in other words, 12 layers of kimono, weighing 30 kg in total.
In Japanese classical literature, the word matsuri used to refer to this Aoi Matsuri. Watching this procession which faithfully observes ancient traditions, you will almost feel as if you have slipped back into the 10th Century.
At 10:30, the procession leaves Kyoto Imperial Palace, where the Emperor used to work and reside until 1869, stops by at Shimogamo-jinja Shrine and finally arrives at Kamigamo-jinja Shrine around 15:30. Upon arrival of the procession, dance performances and horse events take place.