Friday, 23rd May 2014
In Events In Japan,
Kyoto celebrated its legendary Aoi Matsuri at the weekend (May 16th ), with thousands taking to the streets in order to witness one of the ancient capital's three most prominent festivals.
The event's main attraction is an extravagant parade that marches from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines, with participants dressing up in traditional aristocratic-style uniforms and carrying floats.
As the festival predates Kyoto's establishment as the capital, its precise origins and purposes are unknown, although historians speculate it was likely carried out to appease disasters caused by the Kamo deities.
Often said to be the oldest event of its kind in Japan, Aoi Matsuri dates back to the seventh century and takes its name from the hollyhock leaves worn by participants in the procession.
The sight is often something to behold, with horses and other animals taking part in the march.
While the parade is certainly the climax of the matsuri, it is worth timing your visit to be in Kyoto in the days leading up to it, as you'll witness a plethora of exciting events at various shrines including horse races and the purification of the Saio and her attendants.
Paid seating is available along the parade route and at the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the Shimogamo Shrine, at a price of 2,050 yen at the palace or 1,000 yen at the shrine. These can be obtained at Lawson and Ministop convenience stores.
Those hoping to attend without reserving seating are advised to get to the parade route early or risk not being able to see the glorious costumes and extravagant floats, as this is an immensely popular event.
Other famous Kyoto festivals worth timing your holiday for include the Gion Matsuri and Obon, the Festival of the Dead, which sees the giant Kanji symbols inscribed on the surrounding mountains set alight with bonfires.
Written by Graham McPherson