Graceful Heian Procession and Bright GreeneryAoi Festival15 May 2013 - Sightseeing/Events
The Aoi Festival, the first of Kyoto's three major festivals, took place on May 15 in Kyoto City, surrounded by fresh greenery. The procession of people in elegant Heian Period costumes proceeded with at a deliberate pace, as the leaves of "Futaba Aoi," or Asarum caulescens, inserted in their crowns or costumes swung back and forth. The spectacular scene attracted approximately 20,000 visitors who lined up along the route, according to the Kyoto Prefectural Police figures at 11:00 a.m.
In the summer-like sunny weather that reached 25.1 degrees Celsius at 10:33 a.m., according to the Kyoto Local Meteorological Observatory, the approximately one-kilometer long procession with 511 participants, 40 cows and horses and two ancient oxcarts, departed from the Kenrei-mon Gate of the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto.
After the main procession consisting of "Konoezukai-dai," or imperial guard division, in courtly apparel, the "Nyonin-Retsu" procession, which was made up of the gallant "Munanori-Onna" shrine maidens on horseback, the court ladies in the vivid costumes called "Myobu" and other women, followed. The ox handlers, dressed in ancient red costumes called "Suikan," walked prettily along the ancient oxcarts decorated with wisteria flowers. When the "Oyoyo," a wheeled palanquin carrying the Saio-dai, Maiko Nagase, in her multilayered "Junihitoe" kimono, appeared, the audience cheered even more enthusiastically.
After arriving at Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyo Ward, the participants of the procession attended the shrine ritual, and in the afternoon, they headed toward Kamigamo Shrine in Kita Ward.
The Aoi Festival is an annual festival of Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines, which is said to have originated from an event held to pray for a rich harvest and universal peace in the 6th century. It has the official name of "Kamo Matsuri."(translated by Galileo, Inc.)