Like Gorgeous Picture Scroll of Heian PeriodAoi Festival in Verdurous Kyoto15 May 2015 - Sightseeing/Events
The Aoi Festival, the first of Kyoto's three major festivals, was held on May 15 in Kyoto City, which was filled with the pleasant smell of young leaves. With "Futaba Aoi" or Asarum caulescens, swinging back and forth, the roughly-800-meter-long procession, consisting of 511 participants in court costumes, as well as 40 cows and horses, proceeded along the streets of the ancient capital, reenacting picturesque scenes of the Heian Period.
The Aoi Festival is an annual festival of Kamigamo Shrine in Kita Ward and Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyo Ward. It is officially called the "Kamo Festival" and appears in "The Tale of Genji" and "The Pillow Book," two literary works of the Heian Period.
At 10:30 a.m., under a cloudy sky, the procession departed from the Kenrei-mon Gate of the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kamigyo Ward. In the main procession, the "Konoezukai-dai," or an imperial guard serving as an acting Imperial Envoy, dressed in courtly apparel rode a horse with a silver mask, and an ancient oxcart proceeded as it was led by ox handlers. The handlers were adorable children dressed in ancient costumes called "Suikan." In the women’s procession, court ladies called "Myobu" or "Uneme" walked in showy dresses, adding elegance to the festival. Cheers arose from the roadsides when the "Oyoyo," a wheeled palanquin, approached carrying Yusa Shirai, a 26-year-old woman from Sakyo Ward who served as the 60th "Saio-dai," or festival heroine, and was dressed in a multilayered "Junihitoe" kimono.
The procession stopped at Shimogamo Shrine, and then arrived at Kamigamo Shrine around 3:30 p.m. After stepping down from the palanquin, the Saio-dai with an entourage of small girls walked gracefully along the approach to the main hall. In the "Shato no Gi" ceremony held at the same shrine, the imperial envoy made an offering to the shrine's deity.(translated by Galileo, Inc.)