Updated: March 11, 2020
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Aoi Matsuri 2020: Impressive Festival Of Kyoto From The Heian Era

Kyoto City

Aoi Matsuri is one of the most ancient festivals of Kyoto, dating back to the Heinan period (8th century).

May 15, 2020(Fri)
Kyoto
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Aoi Matsuri

If you love the traditional, ancient side of Japan, you will love this festival of the former capital Kyoto!
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Aoi Matsuri is one of the three main festivals of Kyoto (the other two being the Gion Matsuri and the Jidai Matsuri). It's also called the Kamo Matsuri in reference to the two ancient shrines in the northern part of the city. It is one of the oldest festivals in Japan, dating back to the Heian Era (8th century). It's held every year on the 15th of May.
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葵(aoi)
Aoi refers to the hollyhock. The festival highlight is a procession of about 500 people wearing kimonos of the Heian Era and carrying floats and umbrellas adorned with hollyhocks.
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According to ancient records, the emperor of the time sent a horseback-riding messenger to the Kamo shrine to appease the gods from the epidemics that were ravaging the city. It was believed that the galloping horse put on such a show that the gods ended the epidemics. The equestrian show was repeated from then on. To this day, this is one of the highlights of the festival. Seeing the archer in traditional Heian clothing riding the horse and performing archery is quite amazing!
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Another point of interest is to see the "saio-dai" (斎王代), a young woman who undergoes a purification ritual and is then carried on a special float with the procession. The women has to be unmarried and is a representation of purity. She performs her duty
Enjoy the festival by gathering along the main streets of Kyoto and watching the procession go by. The place gets very crowded at good viewing spots so you better get their early! The procession starts at the former imperial palace at 10:30 on the 15th of May and goes up to the Kamo Shrines.
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賀茂神社 (kamo-jinja)
At the Kamo Shrines, the horseback riding messenger and the saio-dai will perform a ritual that is also very interesting to watch!

Lastly...

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If you want to take part in an ancient festival and learn more about the traditional, ritualistic side of Japan, this is an event you must attend if you are in Kyoto in the middle of May! The city has so much to offer.
tabikamome
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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