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Cool Japan / Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Leaf Crest Festival)


One of the traditional events named "Aoi Matsuri Festival" is coming soon here in Kyoto.
This is the annual festival of Shimogamo - jinja Shrine and Kamigamo - jinja Shrine. Its actual name is Kamo Festival. Along with the Gion Festival and the Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages), it is one of the three big festivals in Kyoto. Featured is a gorgeous parade in the style of the ancient Heian Court. Everything in the parade is adorned with the hollyhock leaf crest, also called "aoi" _ thus the name of the festival. The parade leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace at 10:30 in the morning. The 700-meter-long parade passes Shimogamo - jinja Shrine and heads for Kamigamo - jinja Shrine Shrine.

Date : May 15
Place : Course / Imperial Palace to Shimogamo - jinja Shrine to Kamigamo - jinja Shrine
Access : Imperial Palace / Next to Marutamachi Station on the Municipal Subway Line
Information : Aoi Matsuri Parade Preservation Society 075-254-7650

The history of the festival is as follows;
According to the ancient historical record known as the Nihon Shoki, the festival originated during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (reigned CE 539 - 571). The ancient records known as the Honchō getsurei (本朝月令) and Nenchūgyōji hissho (年中行事秘抄) reveal that a succession of disastrous rains with high winds ruined the grain crops, and epidemics had spread through the country. Because diviners placed the cause on divine punishment by the Kamo deities, the Emperor sent his messenger with a retinue to the shrine to conduct various acts to appease the deities, in prayer for a bountiful harvest. These included riding a galloping horse.

This became an annual ritual, and the galloping horse performance developed into an equestrian archery performance. According to the historical record known as the Zoku Nihongi (続日本記), so many people had come to view this equestrian performance on the festival day in the 2nd year of the reign of Emperor Mommu (r. 697-707) that the event was banned.

In the ninth century, Emperor Kanmu established the seat of the imperial throne in Kyoto. This represented the beginning of the Heian Period in Japanese history. Emperor Kanmu recognized the deities of the Kamo shrines as protectors of the Heian capital, and established the Aoi Matsuri as an annual imperial event.

The festival saw its peak of grandeur in the middle of the Heian Period, but this waned in the Kamakura Period and the following Muromachi Period, and as the nation entered the Sengoku Period, the festival procession was discontinued. In the Genroku era (1688–1704) of the Edo Period, it was revived, but in the 2nd year of the Meiji Period (1869), when the capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, observance of the festival procession stopped. In Meiji-17 (1885), it was again revived as part of a government plan to enliven Kyoto. All but the rituals at the shrine fronts were discontinued from 1944, due to World War II. At last, the festival procession started to be held again from 1953. The Saiō-Dai festival princess tradition was initiated in 1956.

The festival has been called Aoi festival for the hollyhock leaves used as decoration throughout the celebration. These leaves were once believed to protect against natural disasters.

By TS on May 3, 2012
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tag : Cool_Japan, Kyoto

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