Magnificent procession in Kyoto's Aoi Festival

Magnificent procession in Kyoto's Aoi Festival
An Aoi Festival procession is seen in Kyoto on May 15, 2014.

About 500 people wearing splendid ancient costumes and traditional makeup parade through the main streets of Kyoto.

The festival is called Aoi Matsuri because aoi (hollyhock) leaves are used as ornaments not only on the people's costumes, but even on cows and horses.

The festival reenacts the procession of officials delivering the Emperor's message and offerings to the two shrines of Shimogamo and Kamigamo.

As a result, the most important position held in the parade is the messenger on horseback wearing a gold sword at his side, who is followed by a train of attendants.

The highlight of the procession is the parade of women accompanying the proxy of the Imperial princess serving the deities. The role of this heroine is selected from among all unmarried women living in Kyoto.

She must dress in the formal style of the Imperial court: 12 layers of kimono, weighing 30 kilograms in total.

In Japanese classical literature, the word matsuri used to refer to this Aoi Matsuri. Watching this procession, which faithfully observes ancient traditions, you will almost feel as if you have slipped back into the 10th century.

At 10:30, the procession leaves Kyoto Imperial Palace, where the Emperor used to work and reside until 1869, stops by at Shimogamo Shrine and finally arrives at Kamigamo Shrine around 3:30 p.m.

Upon arrival of the procession, dance performances and horse events take place.

(Information from the Japan National Tourism Organisation website:

Aoi Matsuri:

Place: Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto

Kamigamo Shrine in Kita Ward, Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto

Date: May 15

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