Aoi Festival


Aoi festival (Aoi matsuri)

***** Location: Kyoto
***** Season: Early Summer
***** Category: Observance


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Aoi matsuri 葵祭 あおいまつり Aoi festival
matsuri (まつり)"the festival"

kita no matsuri 北祭(きたのまつり)"festival in the North" (of Kyoto)

Kamo no aoi 賀茂葵(かものあおい)"hollyhock from Kamo"
Kamo no matsuri 賀茂祭(かものまつり)Kamo festival

kake aoi 懸葵(かけあおい)"sticking hollyhock"
in the hair

aoi kazura 葵鬘(あおいかずら)"hollyhock wig"
..... moro kazura、諸鬘(もろかずら)
hair decoration with hollycock

moroha aoi 双葉葵(もろはあおい)hollyhock with two leaves
..... kazashigusa かざしぐさ
..... morohagusa もろはぐさ

Annual grand festival
May 15 at shrine 賀茂別雷神社, Kamo-wakeikazuchi jinja, in the compound of shrine Kamo jinja 賀茂神社.

In former times it was held according to the lunar calendar, on the first day of the cock in the fourth lunar month.

The name "Festival in the North" contrasts with the other big festival in Kyoto, in the south, at shrine Iwashimizu Hachimangu.

The homes on the way of the procession decorate their fences, robes and hari with hollyhock branches.

Biologically, Kamo Aoi is slightly purple, Aristolochia gigantea, and has been used in the family crest of many famous samurai, including the Tokugawa clan.


The Aoi Matsuri or "Hollyhock Festival," is one of the three main annual festivals held in Kyoto, Japan. It is a festival of the two Kamo shrines in the north of the city, Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine. The festival may also be referred to as the Kamo Festival.

According to the ancient historical record known as the Nihon Shoki, the festival originated during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (r. A.D. 539, 12th month, 5th day - 571, 4th month, 15th day). The ancient records known as the Honchō getsurei (本朝月令) and Nenchūgyōji hissho (年中行事秘抄) reveal that a succession of disastrous rain and wind had ruined the grain crops, and epidemics had spread through the country. Because diviners placed the cause as owing to the divine punishment of the Kamo deities, the emperor sent his messenger with a retinue to the shrine to conduct various acts to appease the deities, in prayer for a bountiful harvest. These included riding a galloping horse.

This became an annual ritual, and the galloping horse performance developed into an equestrian archery performance. According to the historical record known as the Zoku Nihongi (続日本記), so many people had come to view this equestrian performance on the festival day in the 2nd year of the reign of Emperor Mommu (r. 697-707) that the event was banned.

In the ninth century, Emperor Kanmu established the seat of the imperial throne in Kyoto. This represented the beginning of the Heian Period in Japanese history. Emperor Kanmu recognized the deities of the Kamo shrines as protectors of the Heian capital, and established the Aoi Matsuri as an annual imperial event.

The festival saw its peak of grandeur in the middle of the Heian Period, but this waned in the Kamakura Period and the following Muromachi Period, and as the nation entered the Sengoku Period, the festival procession was discontinued. In the Genroku era (1688–1704) of the Edo Period, it was revived, but in the 2nd year of the Meiji Period (1869), when the capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, observance of the festival procession stopped. In Meiji 17 (1885), it was again revived as part of a government plan to enliven Kyoto. All but the rituals at the shrine fronts were discontinued from 1944, due to World War II. At last, the festival procession started to be held again from 1953. The Saiō-Dai 斎王代 festival princess tradition was initiated in 1956.

The festival has been called Aoi festival for the hollyhock leaves used as decoration throughout the celebration. These leaves were once believed to protect against natural disasters.

Festival events

There are two parts to Aoi Matsuri: the procession and the shrine rites.
The procession is the lead by the Imperial Messenger. Following the imperial messenger are: two oxcarts, four cows, thirty-six horses, and six hundred people. The procession starts at 10:30 of May 15 and leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace and slowly works its way towards the Shimogamo shrine and finally the Kamigamo shrine .

There are two main figures of Aoi Matsuri: the Saiō-Dai and the Imperial Messenger. The Saiō-Dai is a woman who is chosen from the sisters and daughters of the emperor to dedicate herself to the Shimogamo shrine. The role of Saiō-Dai was to maintain ritual purity and to represent the Emperor at the festival. Now, the role of the Saiō-Dai is played by an unmarried woman in Kyoto.
Also featured at the Kamo no matsuri are horse races (kurabe-uma) and demonstrations of mounted archery (yabusame).
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


kusa no ame matsuri no kuruma sugite nochi

rain on the leaves
after the floats of the festival
have passed

Tr. Gabi Greve

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo . 1764

rainfall on the grasses
just after the festival cart
passed by

Tr. Sawa and Shiffert

After the festival car
Has passed by
The rain on the grasses.

Tr. Blyth

Blyth comments:
Today is the day of the festival and though it is raining, the festival car is decorated as usual, and passes by the poet as he stands on the roadside. After it has creaked past, only the pattering of the rain is heard, the grasses on the road side flinch or bow or stand immovable according to their nature. Rain-drops stand motionless on the flowers or hesitate and run along the stems and leaves. It requires a whole village with its remote antiquity, the festival and the car to pass ponderously by, before the rain on the grasses can be properly appreciated.


ji ni ochishi aoi fumiyuku matsuri kana

they step on the leaves
fallen on the ground -
festival parade

. - Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 - .

Related words

***** . Kamo Shrine Festivals
including umakurabe and yabusame  

***** . Mikage matsuri at Aoi Festival

***** . nansai 南祭(なんさい)South-Festival
at Iwashimizu Hachimangu, Kyoto

***** . hollyhock 葵 (あおい) aoi
garden hollyhock, garden mallow, great mallow, holy mallow

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1 comment:

Gabi Greve said...

Green Shinto
has been carrying a series on the run-up to the Aoi Festival parade this Wednesday (May 15). Amongst some of the dazzling pre-events are horse archery and martial arts at Shimogamo, horse races at Kamigamo, purification of the Saio-dai (this year at Shimogamo), and today the Mikage-sai when the kami is brought down from Mt Mikage to renew the energy prior to the big parade.
Pictures and report at


Dougill John