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The Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) VOL.1

The Matsuri (Festival) Season is coming in Kyoto.
The Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) is celebrated on May 15 and is one of the three main annual festivals held in Kyoto, Japan.
Aoi Matsuri dates back to the 7th century. It became very popular in the Middle Ages, as a festival to top all others.
During the festival, emissaries leave the Kyoto Imperial Palace and proceed to Shimogamo Shrine (下鴨神社 ,Shimo-gamo-jinja) and then to Kamigamo Shrine (上賀茂神社 ,Kami-gamo-jinja), two shrines in the north of the city. Participants wear costumes of the Heian period.

(下鴨神社 ,Shimo-gamo-jinja)
(上賀茂神社 ,Kami-gamo-jinja)

The Aoi Matsuri is less a festival and more a spectator event. There are a few competitions of horseback archery and other historical pastimes. Many men with swords and bows walk around, acting as security.
A famous scene in the Tale of Genji takes place during the Aoi Matsuri.


Aoi Matsuri is a wonderfully elegant festival whose main part is celebrated on May 15. It was a ritual that began in the sixth century by Emperor Kinmei to gain the favor of the deities of the Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrines so that they could have a good harvest. The ritual has survived through the centuries and became one of the most celebrated festivals in Japan. Aoi Matsuri is a celebrated festival of a ritual to gain the favor of the deities of the Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrine that takes place over the course of several days with several different ceremonies to ensure that the people of Kyoto have a good harvest. Aoi Matsuri is celebrated on May 15 and is one of the three major annual festivals of Kyoto. The other two major festivals are Gion and Gidai Matsuri. Aoi Matsuri is also known as the Hollyhock Festival (matsuri means festival) and Kamo Festival (Frang, 2002; city Kyoto). It was named Aoi festival for the aoi (hollyhock) leaves which were once believed to protect against natural disasters (Frang, 2002). These leaves are used as decoration throughout the celebration. This festival is thought to be one of the oldest in the world and historians trace it back to the Heian period in the sixth century (Frang, 2002). Aoi Matsuri was so popular that for a while it was referred to as simply Matsuri (Aoi, 2009). The purpose of Aoi Matsuri was to pay homage to the Kamo deities so that they will continue to favor the people of Kyoto (Shively, 1999). Now it is a wonderful display of the Heian court tradition and is considered the most elegant of all the festivals in Japan (Aoi Hollyhock, 2009).  ...to be continued to VOL.2

By T.S. in Apr., 2009
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Author:T. SATOH