Aoi Matsuri

Aoi Matsuri
The Aoi Matsuri, also known as the Hollyhock Festival, is an annual festival that has been held in Kyoto, Japan since the late 6th century. It is one of the three largest festivals in the city of Kyoto, along with the Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages) and the Gion Matsuri (the Gion Festival).

The term matsuri refers to Japanese festivals and holidays, primarily those of Shinto origin. Festivals vary from area to area, they are typically sponsored by local shrines or temples. Notable matsuri feature spectacular processions with elaborate floats and attract thousands of tourists. Some of the most famous matsuri are held in the cities of Akita, Fukuoka, Himeji, Kawasaki, Kishiwada, Komaki, Kyoto, Miki, Nagoya, Okayama, Osaka, Tokyo, and Toyama.

The roots of Kioto’s Aoi Matsuri can be traced back to the reign of Emperor Kinmei (539–571). According to The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki), when the grain crops were ruined by heavy rains and harsh winds, the Emperor sent a messenger to the shrine to appease the deities and pray for a bountiful harvest. Among the gifts offered by the messenger were hollyhock leaves. This became an annual ritual.

The Hollyhock Festival saw the pick of its grandeur during the Heian Period when Emperor Kanmu shifted the capital to Kyoto. He proclaimed the Aoi Matsuri an annual imperial event designed to appease the deities that protect the capital. The festival has waned and revived for centuries. The modern celebration was established in 1959 and has been held each spring ever since. The festival used to be held on the 15th day of the 5th lunar month, but now it takes place on May 15.

The highlight of the festival is the procession led by the Imperial Messenger and featuring oxen, cows, horses and six hundred people. The participants are dressed in traditional clothes of the Heian Period adorned with hollyhock leaves. Another important figure in the festival alongside the Imperial Messenger is the Saiō-Dai played by an unmarried woman from Kyoto. The main highlights of the Aoi Matsuri include horse races and demonstrations of yabusame (mounted archery).

Kyoto Hollyhock Festival





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