Imagine around 500 people, all wearing imperial kimonos from the Heian period, parading down the streets of Kyoto. In the first such ceremony of the Reiwa Era, the Aoi Matsuri was held in the old capital on May 15.
Known as the Hollyhock Festival in English, the Aoi Matsuri is one of the three major festivals of Kyoto. The star of the show is a young woman called Saio-Dai, who leads the parade.
The Saio-Dai was originally a woman from the imperial household who was affiliated with the shrine and would carry out rituals during the event. The ceremony, which takes place at the Kamo shrines — Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine, specifically — is thought to have started in the 6th century.
These days, a different young woman from Kyoto is chosen to play the role in the festivity every year. The first Saio-Dai of the Reiwa Era is Rika Ono, a 23-year-old from Kyoto’s Saikyo ward.
The parade set off from the Imperial Palace at 10:30 A.M. on May 15, with men and women holding bunches of leaves and a little cart decorated with flowers at the head of the procession.
The parade then headed towards Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine, proceeding for a total of eight kilometers, making it a great event for tourists who want to get a feel for the traditions of Kyoto.
(Click here to read the related article in Japanese.)
Author: Arielle Busetto, JAPAN Forward