A stately procession of Kyotoites and animals re-enacts the delivery of the Emperor's message to two of Kyoto's most important shrines.
In mid-May Kyoto's beloved Aoi Matsuri (hollyhock festival) comes to life. This is the annual festival of Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines. Dating back more than 1,000 years, the highlight of the festival is a 700 metre long parade representing the delivery of the Emperor's message to the two shrines. Over 500 Kyotoites take part in the parade wearing traditional Japanese costumes and accompanied by cows and horses all decorated with the hollyhock motif, the city's emblem. The procession leaves the Imperial Palace (where the Emperor used to live until 1869) at 10:30, stopping at Shimogamo Shrine and eventually reaching Kamigamo Shrine at 15:30 where dance performances and horse races take place.
Thousands of people line the streets to watch this, one of Kyoto's top three festivals, so go early to get a good road side spot! Alternatively InsideJapan can arrange reserved seats for you along the procession route so you won't have to fight the crowds for a good view.
When to go: The hollyhock festival takes place on 15th May.
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