Mar. 16, 2022 UPDATE

Sharing Kyoto went to Aoi Festival on a very fine day in Kyoto

Sharing Kyoto writers went to see what the Aoi Festival is all about! The historic figures riding horses were awe-inspiring.
Mika[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

On May 15th, Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines hold their annual festival which is known as Aoi Matsuri Festival. Aoi Matsuri Festival is regarded as one of the three main festivals in Kyoto. Aoi (Asarum Caulescens, species of wild ginger) leaves are the keynote of the decoration. They are found on the court dresses, on the carriage and even on the heads and clothes of the participants (referred to the official brochure of Aoi Matsuri Festival). Aoi Matsuri Festival is a large parade in Kyoto, in which over 500 people dressed in the aristocratic style of the Heian Period (794-1185) walk from the Imperial Palace to Kamigamo Jinja Shrine.

 We were very fortunate that we could get a parade seating tickets at Kyoto City Tourism Association as it was very crowded on the festival day. So now, let’s have a look at this popular festival in Kyoto!

▼Click here for more details about the event

※Due to the coronavirus, it has been decided to cancel the event. The related events of Aoi Matsuri at Shimogamo Jinja Shrine and Kamigamo Jinja Shrine will be held by the shrine officials in 2022.

the entrance of Kyoto Imperial Palace. It was about 9AM but there were so many visitors already!

Here’s the entrance of Kyoto Imperial Palace. It was about 9AM but there were so many visitors already!

They sell long-established sweets and goods
There are many vendors inside of Kyoto Imperial Palace. They sell long-established sweets and goods.

Can you see how crowded it was?!
Can you see how crowded it was?! (But believe me, it was worth visiting!) There were about 80,000 people gathered to see this traditional parade on that day.

So finally we have arrived at our seat!

So finally we have arrived at our seat!

the parade seating tickets
If you purchase the parade seating tickets, English and Japanese brochure would come along.

many visitors holding parasol
Before the festival, there were many visitors holding parasol due to the hot weather.

So the parade has started!
So the parade has started! There are men who wear clothes from Heian Era riding on the horses. These colorful eye-catching clothes are beautiful.

men who wear clothes from Heian Era riding on the horses

the government roles

These people who wear Heian Era clothes are supposed to have the government roles. Please check out the nicely trimmed horses, too! They also wear the noble accessories and walk with assistant next to them.

This is a carriage known as “Gosho-Guruma” (Oxcart). Since the Heian Era, this was used for the transportation of Emperors and courtiers of high rank. The roof and sides are colorfully decorated with wisterias, irises and plums (referred to the official brochure). It was fun as you hardly see an ox in our daily life.

artificial flowers

Colorful big umbrellas

carried by men

Colorful big umbrellas decorated with artificial flowers are carried by men. (It looks heavy…)


Finally, Saio-dai has arrived! The role of Saio-dai, the heroin of Aoi Matsuri, has been played by an unmarried woman selected from citizens since 1956. The Saio-dai is based on Saio, a Heian Period imperial princess who served and attached to both the Kamigamo and Shimogamo Jinja Shrines. Her Kimono is called “Juni-hitoe” and it weighs about 12 kilograms.

Aoi Matsuri Festival

looks beautiful

Aoi Matsuri Festival is over with this oxcart.

A comment from the staff
It was my second time to join this festival! It was great that we could have the parade seat so that we could enjoy one of the main three festivals closely. I suggest that you bring parasols or towels to hide from sunlight (Please close the parasol when the festival was started). This time, we have visited Kyoto Imperial Palace but the parade goes to Kamigamo Shine via Shimogamo Shrine, so please also visit there!

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