First Aoi Festival in Reiwa EraEnchanting Picture Scroll of Heian Period
The Aoi Festival, the first of Kyoto's three major festivals, was held on May 15 in Kyoto City, for the first time in the Reiwa Era, or the name of the symbolic reign of the present emperor. The graceful procession reenacting the court refinement of the Heian Period proceeded through the verdurous streets of the ancient capital, enticing roadside viewers into a gorgeous picture-scroll-like world.
The Aoi Festival is an annual festival of Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine. It appears in "The Tale of Genji," a literary work of the Heian Period, which shows that the festival has been passed down through the ages. Although its official name is "Kamo Festival," it has come to be called "Aoi Festival" instead because the festival participants and shrine pavilions are decorated with "Aoi-katsura," or ornaments made of hollyhock leaves and katsura leaves.
At 10:30 a.m., the procession of approximately 500 participants set out from the Kenrei-mon Gate of the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kamigyo Ward. "Kimoiri" or festival facilitators attired in the nobility's everyday outfit "Kariginu," preceded the main procession called "Konoezukai-dai Retsu." In that procession, an ancient oxcart decorated with wisteria flowers and others moved forward with the sound of pea gravel crunching underfoot. Following the main procession, the "Saio-dai Retsu," or women's procession, made its way with court ladies in the forefront. Cheers arose when the "Oyoyo," an exclusive wheeled palanquin, approached carrying Rika Ouno, the 23-year-old woman serving as the 64th "Saio-dai," or festival heroine, and who was dressed in a multilayered "Junihitoe" kimono.(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)