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Aoi Matsuri / Kyoto / Events at Shimogamo Shrine

Regarding Aoi Matsuri, the Events at Shimogamo Shrine is as follows.

Yabusame Ritual May 3

The 500-meter horseback archery range employed for this ceremony is located in the middle of the Tadasu-no-mori forest, and riders galloping down the range shoot arrows with tips shaped like turnips at targets along the course of the range. Dressed in the traditional costume of the Heian Period, the riders display their exquisite skill as they race down the range.


(Yabusame(流鏑馬))

Saio-Dai Misogi Ceremony May 4

(Saio-Dai (斎王代) Misogi Ceremony)

Including the Saio-Dai, the women who will participate in the Aoi Matsuri procession go through a purification ceremony at the Mitarashi River in which a human-like doll, called the Kamishiro, is floated down the river, dispelling their sins and purifying them. The ceremony is conducted at Kamigamo Shrine every second year and this year, 2009, the ceremony was held at Shimogamo Shrine.

Mikage Matsuri May 12
 
(Mikage Matsuri)

In the Mikage Matsuri, the official Aoi Matsuri festival priests go to Mikage Shrine to pick up the deities and bring them to the Shimogamo shrine. More than 100 people dressed in Heian Period costumes form the ceremonial procession, which is considered to be the most ancient Shinto ceremonial procession in Japan. On the way, the graceful ancient Azuma-asobi (a play-like performance with dance and music) is enacted in an open space of the Tadasu-no-mori forest.

Aoi Matsuri (Kamo Matsuri) May 15
 
(Amoi Matsuri/Kamo Matsuri)

It is noted in the history of the country that during a period of poor crops about 1,400 years ago (540 - 572 AD), when famine and illness spread throughout the country, the Emperor Kinmei dispatched an imperial procession to take part in the Shinto ceremonies at Shimogamo Shrine. The procession held during the Aoi Matsuri features people dressed in the most formal wear of the time, called ikansokutai, and the ceremonial robes of Japanese court ladies, known as junihitoe. The highlight of the procession is the elegant atmosphere of the greenery in the unforgettable Tadasu-no-mori forest. After the procession arrives at Shimogamo Shrine, the Imperial Messenger's prayers for peace are read and other ceremonies are conducted, such as the viewing of the sacred horse, called the hiki-uma, the Azuma-asobi (a play-like performance with dance and music), and the sacred horse races.

By T.S. on May 8, 2010
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