Aoi Festival, Elegant Imperial Picture Scroll in Fresh Greenery15 May 2016 - 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 elegant procession displaying the reproduced court attire of the Heian Period proceeded about eight kilometers at a graceful pace, as the leaves of "Futaba Aoi," or Asarum caulescens, inserted in their crowns or costumes, swung back and forth. For the first time in five years the festival date fell on Sunday. Along the street, approximately 80,000 visitors, or 15,000 more than last year, stood admiring the gorgeous procession like an imperial-court picture scroll, according to the Kyoto Prefectural Police.
Around 10:30 a.m., the roughly-800-meter-long procession consisting of about 500 participants, as well as 40 cows and horses, departed from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto.
Led by the "Konoezukai-dai," or an imperial guard serving as an acting Imperial Envoy, riding a horse with a silver mask, the main procession carried offerings for deities. It was followed by the "Saio-dai Retsu," or the festival heroine's procession, which marked its 60 anniversary this year. Waka Nishimura, the 61st "Saio-dai," dressed in elegant "Junihitoe," or traditional multi-layer court costume, and holding a Japanese cypress fan, proceeded elegantly on the "Oyoyo," or a wheeled palanquin. She was accompanied by "Myobu," or court ladies in semi-formal outerwear, and "Munanori-Onna" shrine maidens on horseback. An ancient oxcart, also referred to as "Gosho-guruma," with creaking wheels was led by adorable ox-handling children dressed in red ancient costumes.
The procession stopped at Shimogamo Shrine, Sakyo Ward, and then went to Kamigamo Shrine, Kita Ward. In the "Shato no Gi" ceremony held at both shrines, offerings were made to the deities. Alongside Tadasu-no-Mori forest and Kamo-kaido Street filled with viewers, the gorgeous costumes stood out in contrast to the bright flush of the fresh greenery.
The Aoi Festival is an annual festival of Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine. Its formal name is "Kamo Festival," and has its origin in the sixth century. It appears in classic works "The Tale of Genji" and "Essays in Idleness."(translated by Galileo, Inc.)