Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Kyoto's Aoi Matsuri Festival - Access And Schedule (2017)
Aoi Matsuri is one of Kyoto's three largest festivals and has been around since the Heian period. Find out the best ways to go and see the majestic procession of 500 people in historical costumes.
Written by Mayu
What Is the Aoi Matsuri?
Aoi Matsuri, or the Hollyhock Festival, is an annual festival held on May 15th between Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine in the city of Kyoto. It is one of the three major festivals of Kyoto along with the Gion Festival in July and the Jidai Matsuri held in October.
The main highlight of Aoi Matsuri is the Roto no Gi. It is a major procession consisting of over 500 people dressed in royal costumes dating back to the Heian period (794 - 1185) who parade around the streets of Kyoto. This festival got its name from the futaba aoi (*1) leaf that is the symbol of the two shrines. In this festival, the people attending the procession, their belongings, and even the animals are adorned with the futaba aoi leaves. Unlike standard Japanese festivals, there are no yatai (*2) performances included.
In the procession, you will find a troupe of musicians performing with instruments from the Heian era along with large carriages called gosho guruma parading throughout the town and bringing back the Heian period atmosphere to the modern times. In this article, we have gathered information regarding the dates, access, and highlights of this traditional festival that revives the historical royal lifestyle of Japan.
*1 futaba aoi (hollyhock): A perennial plant that grows in the mountains of Japan. The leaves are in a shape of a heart and are used as a symbolic emblem of Shimogamo shrine and Kamigamo shrine.
*2 yatai: A massive carriage used in Japanese festivals that are commonly operated by men. The name varies according to areas and is called hikiyama, dashi or danjiri.
Dates of the Aoi Matsuri (2017 Edition)
Held on the same day every year, the 2017 schedule of the Aoi Matsuri is as follows:
Date: May 15th, 2017 (Monday) 10:30-15:30