The Aoi Matsuri(葵祭), or "Hollyhock Festival," is one of the three main annual festivals held in Kyoto, Japan, the other two being the Festival of the Ages (Jidai Matsuri) and the Gion Festival. 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. It is held on 15 May of each year.
Japanese festivals are traditional festive occasions. Some festivals have their roots in Chinese festivals centuries ago, but have undergone great changes as they mixed with local customs.
Kyoto, officially Kyoto City, is the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture, located in the Kansai region of Japan. For over a thousand years, Kyoto was the former Imperial capital of Japan but is now a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area.
The Jidai Matsuri is a traditional Japanese festival held annually on October 22 in Kyoto, Japan. It is one of Kyoto's renowned three great festivals, with the other two being the Aoi Matsuri, held annually on May 15, and the Gion Matsuri, which is held annually from 17 to July 24. It is a festival enjoyed by people of all ages, participating in its historical reenactment parade dressed in authentic costumes representing various periods, and characters in Japanese feudal history.
According to the ancient, presumed historical and regarded as accurate with some fantastic embellishments, record Nihon Shoki , the festival originated during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (reigned CE 539 - 571). 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 rains with high winds ruined the grain crops, and epidemics had spread through the country. Because diviners placed the cause on divine punishment by 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.
The Nihon Shoki (日本書紀), sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second-oldest book of classical Japanese history. The book is also called the Nihongi. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical record of ancient Japan. The Nihon Shoki was finished in 720 under the editorial supervision of Prince Toneri and with the assistance of Ō no Yasumaro dedicated to Empress Genshō.
Emperor Kinmei was the 29th Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.
Kamo Shrine is a general term for an important Shinto sanctuary complex on both banks of the Kamo River in northeast Kyoto. It is centered on two shrines. The two shrines, an upper and a lower, lie in a corner of the old capital which was known as the "devil's gate" due to traditional geomancy beliefs that the north-east corner brought misfortune. Because the Kamo River runs from the north-east direction into the city, the two shrines along the river were intended to prevent demons from entering the city.
This became an annual ritual, and the galloping horse performance developed into an equestrian archery performance. According to the historical record known as the Shoku 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 Monmu (r. 697–707) that the event was banned.
Yabusame (流鏑馬) is a type of mounted archery in traditional Japanese archery. An archer on a running horse shoots three special "turnip-headed" arrows successively at three wooden targets.
The Shoku Nihongi (続日本紀) is an imperially commissioned Japanese history text. Completed in 797, it is the second of the Six National Histories, coming directly after the Nihon Shoki and followed by Nihon Kōki. Fujiwara no Tsugutada and Sugano no Mamichi served as the primary editors. It is one of the most important primary historical sources for information about Japan's Nara period.
Emperor Monmu was the 42nd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.
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.
Emperor Kammu was the 50th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Kammu reigned from 781 to 806.
The Chrysanthemum Throne is the throne of the Emperor of Japan. The term also can refer to very specific seating, such as the Takamikura (高御座) throne in the Shishin-den at Kyoto Imperial Palace.
The Heian period is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height. The Heian period is also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art, especially poetry and literature. Although the Imperial House of Japan had power on the surface, the real power was in the hands of the Fujiwara clan, a powerful aristocratic family who had intermarried with the imperial family. Many emperors actually had mothers from the Fujiwara family. Heian (平安) means "peace" in Japanese.
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 festival princess tradition was initiated in 1956.
The Kamakura period is a period of Japanese history that marks the governance by the Kamakura shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura by the first shōgun, Minamoto no Yoritomo. The period is known for the emergence of the samurai, the warrior caste, and for the establishment of feudalism in Japan.
The Muromachi period is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1336 to 1573. The period marks the governance of the Muromachi or Ashikaga shogunate, which was officially established in 1338 by the first Muromachi shōgun, Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kenmu Restoration (1333–36) of imperial rule was brought to a close. The period ended in 1573 when the 15th and last shogun of this line, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, was driven out of the capital in Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga.
The Sengoku period is a period in Japanese history marked by social upheaval, political intrigue and near-constant military conflict. Japanese historians named it after the otherwise unrelated Warring States period in China. It was initiated by the Ōnin War, which collapsed the Japanese feudal system under the Ashikaga shogunate, and came to an end when the system was re-established under the Tokugawa shogunate by Tokugawa Ieyasu.
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.
There are two parts to Aoi Matsuri: the procession and the shrine rites.The procession is led by the Imperial Messenger. Following the imperial messenger are: two oxcarts, four cows, thirty-six horses, and six hundred people, all of which are dressed in traditional Heian period apparel decorated with aoi leaves. The procession starts at 10:30 on May 15 and leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace and slowly works its way towards the Shimogamo shrine and finally the Kamigamo shrine. When they finally arrive at both shrines, the Saiō-Dai and Imperial Messenger perform their rituals. The Saiō-Dai simply pays her respects to the deities and the Imperial Messenger intones the imperial rescript praising the deities and requesting their continued favor.
There are two main figures in the 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. She is dressed in the traditional style of the Heian court. Traditional Heian court dress for women would be wearing several layers of exquisitely colored silk robes. The Saiō-Dai wears twelve layers of the traditional style robes (jūnihitoe). To maintain ritual purity, the Saiō-Dai goes through several ceremonies of purification before the procession of the festival. The Imperial Messenger leads the festival procession on horseback. During the Heian period he would be a Fifth-Rank courtier holding the office of middle or lesser captain and was usually a man destined for high office. His role was to read the imperial rescript of the shrines and present the emperor’s offerings. During the Heian period, the Saiō-Dai and the Imperial messenger would be accompanied by ten dancers and twelve musicians.
Also featured at the Kamo no matsuri are horse races (kurabe-uma),and demonstrations of mounted archery (yabusame).
Yamashiro Province was a province of Japan, located in Kinai. It overlaps the southern part of modern Kyoto Prefecture on Honshū. Aliases include Jōshū(城州), the rare Sanshū(山州), and Yōshū(雍州). It is classified as an upper province in the Engishiki.
The Heian Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The Shrine is ranked as a Beppyō Jinja (別表神社) by the Association of Shinto Shrines. It is listed as an important cultural property of Japan.
Yasaka Shrine, once called Gion Shrine, is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District of Kyoto, Japan. Situated at the east end of Shijō-dōri, the shrine includes several buildings, including gates, a main hall and a stage.
The Kamo River is located in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. The riverbanks are popular walking spots for residents and tourists. In summer, restaurants open balconies looking out to the river. There are pathways running alongside the river on which one can walk along the river, and some stepping stones that cross the river. The water level of the river is usually relatively low; less than one meter in most places. During the rainy season, however, the pathways sometimes flood in their lower stretches.
The Gion Festival takes place annually in Kyoto and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It lasts for the entire month of July and culminates in a parade, the Yamaboko Junkō (山鉾巡行) on July 17 and July 24. It takes its name from the Gion district of the city.
Dengaku (田楽) were rustic Japanese celebrations that can be classified into two types: dengaku that developed as a musical accompaniment to rice planting observances and the dengaku dances that developed in conjunction with sangaku. The dengaku celebrated for rice planting was performed by villagers either at the New Year or during the planting season in early summer. It was only in the 14th century that these dances were brought to the cities and incorporated into Noh theater, notably by the playwright and actor Kan'ami. The instrument of dengaku is the sasara, a wooden percussive instrument clapper, though there are other instruments that can be used. In the Eiga Monogatari there is a detailed description of the rice-planting dengaku. After being brought to the aristocrats, dengaku flourished till the end of the Heian period and became the main performing art of the Kamakura and part of the Muromachi period.
The Twenty-Two Shrines of Japan is one ranking system for Shinto shrines. The system was established during the Heian period and formed part of the government's systematization of Shinto during the emergence of a general anti-Chinese sentiment and the suppression of the Taoist religion. It involved the establishment of the shrines as important centers of public life in Japan. It played a role in official imperial ceremonies such as the Practice of Chinkon. An extensive body of literature also emerged containing information about each shrine, including the shrine's origin, priestly dress, divine treatises, the system of shrine removal, subordinate shrines, and annual cycle of rituals, among others.
The Saiō Matsuri (斎王まつり) is a 2-day festival held on the first weekend of June in the town of Meiwa, Mie Prefecture in Japan. The Saiō Matsuri celebrates the town's history of once being an Imperial residence. The festival re-enacts the march of the Saiō and her entourage to the nearby Ise Shrine. The festival consists of over 100 people dressed in spectacular Heian period costume, marching down a section of the Ise Kada, the old Ise Pilgrimage road, toward the Saiku Historical Museum. 2006 saw the celebration of the 24th annual Saiō Matsuri.
A Saiō (斎王), also known as Itsuki no Miko (斎皇女), was an unmarried female member of the Japanese Imperial Family, sent to Ise to serve at Ise Grand Shrine from the late 7th century until the 14th century. The Saiō's residence, Saikū (斎宮), was about 10 km north-west of the shrine. The remains of Saikū are situated in the town of Meiwa, Mie Prefecture, Japan.
Kamigamo Shrine is an important Shinto sanctuary on the banks of the Kamo River in north Kyoto, first founded in 678. Its formal name is the Kamo-wakeikazuchi Shrine.
Shimogamo Shrine in Japanese, is the common name of an important Shinto sanctuary in the Shimogamo district of Kyoto city's Sakyō ward. Its formal name is Kamo-mioya-jinja (賀茂御祖神社). It is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan and is one of the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The term Kamo-jinja in Japanese is a general reference to Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine, the traditionally linked Kamo shrines of Kyoto; Shimogamo is the older of the pair, being believed to be 100 years older than Kamigamo, and dating to the 6th century, centuries before Kyoto became the capital of Japan. The Kamo-jinja serve the function of protecting Kyoto from malign influences.
The Hirano Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Kyoto. This shrine is known and popular for its gardens and many trees.
Nonomiya Shrine, or the Shrine in the Country, is a Shinto shrine in the Arashiyama district on the west side of the city of Kyoto in Kyoto prefecture, Japan, close to its bamboo forest. The specific site of the shrine changed somewhat over time, as the location of the shrine was fixed anew by divination when a new imperial priestess was to undergo purification before traveling to take up her duties at Ise Shrine.
Aso Shrine is a Shinto Shrine in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Aso is one of the oldest shrines in Japan. This shrine holds several Important Cultural Properties, including Ichi-no-shinden (一の神殿), Ni-no-shinden (二の神殿), and Rōmon (楼門).
Kamo clan is a Japanese sacerdotal kin group which traces its roots from a Yayoi period shrine in the vicinity of northeastern Kyoto. The clan rose to prominence during the Asuka and Heian periods when the Kamo are identified with the 7th-century founding of the Kamo Shrine.
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