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
Highlights of Aoi Matsuri
The Roto no Gi grand parade of Aoi Matsuri is separated into two major groups. There is the Honretsu, featuring a person acting as the representative of the emperor called the chokushi, and the Saio Dairetsu, featuring a person acting as the lady of the royal family, otherwise known as the Saio.
The main feature of the festival is the chokushi. The point of the Roto no Gi procession represents the chokushi delivering the words of the emperor from Shimogamo Shrine to Kamigamo Shrine. In the Honretsu, you will find mostly men dressed as the chokushi on the horse along with police officers and government officials. They make their way down the streets in a stern atmosphere.
*This photo does not depict the chokushi.
Unlike the Honretsu, the Saio Dairetsu is mostly composed of women and has a very festive feel to the procession. The Saio refers to an unmarried lady of the royal family that serves Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine. The lady dressed as the Saio wears the traditional formal wear, the junihitoe kimono and makes her way down with miko priestesses that serve the Saio. The gorgeous costumes the women wear are a sight not to be missed.
Spots to See the Aoi Matsuri
Kyoto Imperial Palace
The best place to watch the parade would be at the Kyoto Imperial Palace. You would be able to see the procession against buildings from the Heian era along with the mountains of Kyoto.
Shimogamo Shrine's Tadasu no Mori
The Tadasu no Mori is a forest within the grounds of Shimogamo Shrine. From this spot, you won't see skyscrapers in the background and you'll be able to take scenic photos more authentic to the Heian period.
The Kamo Kaido is a street that runs on the right-hand side of the Kamo river. This is one of the few areas that is less crowded and you would be able to see the procession among the trees.
Why not immerse yourself in the wonders of the imperial court of the Heian period along with the culture of Kyoto through the Aoi Matsuri?
** Travel times and expenses are based on publicly available information and are current as of March 2017. They may be subject to change.