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Kansai | Kyoto | Kyoto City

Aoi Matsuri

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Aoi Matsuri

The Kyoto Aoi Festival recreates a procession where over 500 people dressed in Heian Era clothes are delivering a message and offerings from the Emperor to the two Kamo Shrines. According to old records the messenger would be on horseback with a gold sword at his side as he led the procession. Part of the long train is another important figure, the High Priestess. Before the high priestess was chosen from the sisters related to the Emperor and served the Kamo Shrines. Today they are picked among the unmarried women in Kyoto. The high priestess performs the rituals at the shrines and prior the festival they must go through a purification ceremony. She is then carried on a palanquin while wearing many traditional kimono layers.

In the morning the festival begins at the Gosho Imperial Palace and firsts stops at Shimogamo Shrine. After the rites are performed, the procession continues to Kamigamo Shrine. Once the final rites are completed the Yabusame (horseback archery) demonstrations begin. The horseback archery course utilizes the grassy areas outside the main shrine. These horses run at full speed while skilled archers dressed in traditional attire fire arrows at a target from the steed. By around 5pm the Kyoto Aoi Festival comes to a close.

Kyoto Aoi Festival can trace its origins back to the 6th century as it is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki. During that time terrible weather was ruining the crops in the area and diseases were rampant upon the population. Diviners from that time said that it was the divine punishment of the deities from the Kamo Shrines. It was then the Emperor sent his messenger on a galloping horse with offerings for the deities. There were times when the festival did not happen due to governmental transition or war. The current festival has been annually held since 1953.



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