Aoi festival

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The Saiō-Dai carried in her palanquin

The Aoi Festival or Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) is one of Kyoto's most three famous festivals.  The other two are the Gion Festival and Jidai Matsuri. The Aoi Festival takes place on May 15 each year. The main attraction of the festival is a large parade in Kyoto. Over 500 people dress in the aristocratic style of the Heian Period (794-1185) for the parade. They walk from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. Aoi is Japanese for "Hollyhock" The festival is named after the Hollyhock leaves that are worn by the people in the parade.

History[change | change source]

The Aoi Matsuri began in the 7th century. This was before Kyoto was made the national capital in 794. Its exact origins are not known. It is likely that natural disasters were happening, These were believed to be caused by the deities of the Kamo Shrines. After the Emperor made offerings to the gods, the disasters ended and a tradition was begun. The festival's official name is Kamo Matsuri because of the shrines.

The festival grew in popularity. During the Heian Period, when people used the word festival, they meant the Aoi Matsuri. In modern time, the parade shows the high regard the festival have. There are people riding horses, large bouquets of flowers, decorated carts pulled by oxen, and many women in kimono with the year's Saiō.

Saiō[change | change source]

The Saiō was a young female member of the imperial family. She was the high priestess of the Kamo Shrines. During festivals, the Saio performed rituals at the shrines. In modern times, an unmarried woman from Kyoto is chosen each year to be Saio. She must go through purification ceremonies before the festival. She is taken through the procession on a palanquin.