Gorgeous Heian Period Court Procession Amid Fresh GreeneryAoi Festival in Kyoto
The Aoi Festival, the first of Kyoto's three major festivals, took place spectacularly throughout Kyoto City colored by the fresh green on May 15. Under a clear sky, the elegant procession reenacting the Heian Period court proceeded at a graceful pace through the streets of the ancient capital and fascinated people watched along the streets.
The Aoi Festival is an annual festival of Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine, and formally called "Kamo Festival." It is a traditional festival, even appearing in the classic work "The Tale of Genji," and is said to have started in the sixth century.
Around 10:30 a.m. when the sunlight was growing strong, the procession of approximately 500 people departed from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kamigyo Ward. The "Roto no Gi" procession traveled approximately eight kilometers in total. The leaves of "Futaba Aoi," or Asarum caulescens, which decorated their costumes, swung back and forth as the procession headed toward Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyo Ward, passing through Marutamachi-dori and Kawaramachi-dori Streets.
The "Norijiri," or jockeys, an ancient oxcart, and others proceeded at the head of the column, followed by the "Konoezukai-dai," or an imperial guard serving as an acting imperial envoy, and rode a horse which was wearing a silver mask. In the women's procession, cheers of "Beautiful!" arose from the roadsides when the 63rd "Saio-dai," Shiho Sakashita from Sakyo Ward and dressed in elegant "Junihitoe," or traditional multi-layer court costume, appeared on the "Oyoyo," or an exclusive wheeled palanquin, accompanied by "Myobu," or court ladies, "Munanori-Onna," or shrine maidens on horseback, and others.
The procession reached Shimogamo Shrine before noon and the "Shato no Gi" ritual took place there. In the afternoon, the procession walked again to Kamigamo Shrine in Kita Ward.
According to the Kyoto Local Meteorological Observatory, the highest temperature recorded was 30.4 degrees Celsius, making it the first summer day of the year in Kyoto City. The turnout was approximately 51,000, which was 1,000 more than last year, according to the Kyoto Prefectural Police.(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)