May brings fresh greenery to the Tadasu-no-mori, setting a beautiful scene for Shimogamo shrine’s flagship festival, the Aoi Matsuri. The festival commences on May 3rd with the Yabusame-shinji, a display of Heian period horseback archery. Donning the costumes of court nobles, the archers majestically aim and shoot targets throughout the forest. Two days later, another archery event, the Busha-shinji, brings archers attired in traditional samurai armor into the Tadasu-no-mori. Nearby, priests assemble at the Mitarashi river for the Misogi-no-gi, the preparatory rite of the Aoi Festival. In the past, female relatives of the Emperor participated in this ritual themselves as Saiou, or dedicators of the rite. Today, these imperial relatives are represented by a woman chosen from amongst the citizens of Kyoto to be the Saiou-daii or substitute of Saiou. For the festival, she wears a Jyuni-hitoe, a traditional 12-layer court costume, and accompanying women also dress in court attire.
On May 12th, the oldest religious procession in Japan commences at Shimogamo shrine. The Mikage festival welcomes the Aramitama, the fresh spirit of God, in the shrine on Mt. Mikage, one of the eastern mountains. Over a hundred people dressed in Heian period costumes march from Shimogamo shrine to the Mikage shrine, stopping to sing and dance in front of the sacred white horse in the Tadasu-no-mori.
May festivities reach a crescendo on the 15th, the date of the Aoi Festival. Formally known as the Kamo Festival, this celebration dates back to the reign of the Kinmei emperor in the year 545. The festival became so important that during the Heian period, the Japanese word for festival, matsuri, referred specifically to the Aoi Festival. Costumed people parade from the Imperial Palace in Kyoto to the Shimogamo shrine. When the procession arrives at Shimogamo, festivities commence. The leaders of the procession arrive on horseback, dismount before the first torii of the shrine, and take off their armor. They make offerings to the main temples and receive a sacred letter from the shrine priest. Afterwards, decorated horses trot before the gods in a rite known as Kemba. Dancers charm visitors in a rendition of Edo-period Azuma-asobi dancing, and the procession continues into the shrine. The courtiers holding flowered umbrellas, ox-drawn carriages and elegantly robed noblemen are all decorated with the namesake plant of this festival, the aoi.
The Procession Route
Kyoto Gosho 10:30 →Marutamachi-dori→Kawaramachi-dori
→Shimogamo Jinja Ar.11:40 Lv.14:20 → Kamigamo Jinja Ar.15:30
(Time stated above will be sometimes a little behind schedule.)
from インバウンドニュース – 訪日外国人インバウンドニュース速報まとめ http://ift.tt/2pKOddG