Sponsored Link


Bookmark and Share

The Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) VOL.2

Aoi Matsuri was started by Emperor Kinmei in the sixth century to quiet the deities to save their precious harvest (Aoi, 2007). There were either great storms or an unripe grain that caused the people of Kyoto to pay attention to these deities (Aoi, 2007; Aoi, 2004). Whatever the case, the Kamo-deities were thought to be angry at the disrespect of the people and had put a curse on the city (Aoi, 2007).
A diviner determined that it was the deities enshrined at the Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines were the ones who were upset at the people of Kyoto (Aoi, 2007). In response to this, Emperor Kinmei had special rites performed at the two shrines to quiet the deities (Aoi, 2007). Then magically, either the storms cleared or the grained ripened and the harvest was saved (Aoi, 2007; Aoi, 2004). Later, in the ninth century, Emperor Kanmu recognized these deities as protectors and establishes Aoi Matsuri as an annual imperial event (Aoi, 2007).

There are two main figures of Aoi Matsuri: the Saio-dai and the Imperial Messenger (Aoi, 2006). The Saio-Dai is a woman who is chosen from the sisters and daughters of the emperor to dedicate herself to the Shimogamo shrine. The role of Saio-Dai was to maintain ritual purity and to represent the Emperor at the festival. Now, the role of the Saio-Dai is played by an unmarried woman in Kyoto (Aoi, 2009). She would be dressed in the traditional style of the Heian court. Traditional Heian court dress for women would be wearing several layers of exquisitely colored silk robes (Layered, 1995). The Saio-Dai wears twelve layers of the traditional style robes (Shimogamo, 2009). To maintain ritual purity, the Saio-Dai goes through several ceremonies of purification before the procession of the festival. The Imperial Messenger leads the festival procession on horseback (Aoi, 2009). During the Heian period he would be a Fith-Rank courtier holding the office of middle or lesser captain and was usually a man destined for high office (Shively, 1999). His role was to read the imperial rescript of the shrines and present the emperor’s offerings (Shively, 1999). During the Heian period, the Saio-Dai and the Imperial messenger would be accompanied by ten dancers and twelve musicians (Shively, 1999).


There are two parts to Aoi Matsuri: the procession and the shrine rites (Frang, 2002). The procession is the lead by the Imperial Messenger. Following the imperial messenger are: two oxcarts, four cows, thirty-six horses, and six hundred people (Frang, 2002). All of which are dressed in traditional Heian period costumes decorated with aoi leaves (Frang, 2002). The procession starts at 10:30 of May 15 and leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace and slowly works its way towards the Shimogamo shrine and finally the Kamigamo shrine (Shively, 1999). When they finally arrive at both shrines, the Saio-Dai and Imperial Messenger would perform their rituals. The Saio-Dai would simply pay her respects to the deities and the Imperial Messenger would intone the imperial rescript praising the deities and requesting their continued favor (Shively, 1999).
Please enjoy "The Aoi Matsuri" feeling by the Video provided by YouTube below.

The Aoi Matsuri in Kyoto 2007 (京都葵祭2007)

The main focus of Aoi Matsuri is on May 15, but the festival actually begins on May 3. It begins with an archery display performed on horseback at the Shimogamo shrine. This archery display part of the purification ritual for the procession as well as a display of skill. Also on May 3, the Saio-Dai is purified in a ceremony at Kamigamo shrine. Then, on May 12, the Mikage Matsuri is held (Aoi, 2007). This is when the official festival priests go to the Mikage shrine to pick up the deities and bring them to the Shimogamo shrine. (Aoi, 2007)

Aoi Matsuri started out as a ritual to gain the favor of the deities of the Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrines. Now it is a wonderfully elegant display of the rituals performed in the traditional Heian court style to gain the favor of the deities of the Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrine so that the people of Kyoto can have a good harvest.

By T.S. in Apr., 2009
Bookmark and Share



Sponsored Link
Sponsored Link
The Latest Articles
Monthly Archives
Sopnsored Link
Sponsored Link
Link List
Free Area
Link Area
ONLINE Counter
Latest Comments
Latest Trackback




Author:T. SATOH