Kyoto Shimbun 2014.5.15 News

Dewy Greenery Enlivens Ancient Capital
Aoi Festival, Heian Court Refinement Reenacted

The Aoi Festival, the first of Kyoto's three major festivals, stretched through Kyoto City on May 15. While swinging Aoi leaves, the procession reenacting the Court refinement of the Heian Period proceeded gracefully through the verdurous streets of the ancient capital.

According to the Kyoto Local Meteorological Observatory, the temperature was 19.4 degrees Celsius under a cloudy sky. At 10:30 a.m., the procession consisting of approximately 500 participants, as well as 40 cows and horses, set out from the Kenrei-mon Gate of the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kamigyo Ward, in a ritual called "Roto no Gi." In front of the main procession, the "Goheibitsu," or a chest set up as an offering to the gods, was carried. Despite a short, light sprinkling of rain, an ancient oxcart with creaking wheels and the "Konoezukai-dai," or imperial guard division, holding the highest position in the procession, advanced in a dignified manner.

The attractive "Saio-dai Retsu" with court ladies followed that procession. Following the court ladies called "Myobu" who walk on the graveled path, the "Oyoyo," a wheeled palanquin approached carrying the Saio-dai, Risako Ota, a sophomore at Kobe University, in her multilayered "Junihitoe" kimono. As the palanquin approached, spectators stood to take photos of her. According to the Kyoto Prefectural Police, as of 11:00 a.m., approximately 23,600 people were watching the procession along the street.

The participants in the procession attended the "Shato no Gi" service at Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyo Ward, then set off to Kamigamo Shrine in Kita Ward, Kyoto Prefecture, in the afternoon.

The Aoi Festival is an annual festival of Kamigamo Shrine in Kita Ward and Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyo Ward. Its formal name is "Kamo Festival" and the origin of the festival dates back to the 6th century.

(translated by Galileo, Inc.)

Photo= The Aoi Festival procession passes through Kyoto Gyoen garden amid the fresh greenery in the gentle rain (morning of May 15, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto)