The Aoi Matsuri, the so-called Hollyhock Festival of Kyoto, is one of Kyoto’s finest events. Around 500 people participate in the procession in Heian period dress. The photo above was taken by Okunomichi on May 15, 2018.
Green Shinto has posted a timely article on festivals in Kyoto that are postponed this year because of the pandemic. They include the Aoi Matsuri of May 15, 2020.
In Japan the emergency has coincided with the flowering of cherry blossom, symbolic of life’s brief beauty.
Green Shinto informs us that this festival began in the 6th century to appease the kami.
The festival is claimed as one of the oldest in Japan, with its roots in the sixth century according to the Nihon shoki (720). It may have been that an epidemic had spread through the country at a time of famine and earthquake.
An earlier post on Okunomichi mentions the Aoi Matsuri along with other ancient festivals. According to the Wosite documents as reported by WoshiteWorld, there were from Wosite Jomon times these seasonal festivals:
In the annals of the Wosite documents of Jomon Japan, annual festivals of the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth lunar months are mentioned as follows:
1/1 Hatsuhi, New Year’s Day
3/3 Momo no Sekku Peach Festival of Girls Day (Hinamatsuri)
5/5 Aoi Matsuri, Hollyhock Festival of Kyoto
7/7 Tanahata Matsuri, Star Festival
9/9 Kiku-kuri Matsuri, Chrysanthemum-Chestnut Festival
There is a wonderful video of the Yasurai Festival at Imamiya Jinja, in the same Green Shinto post.
We look forward to the resumption of the traditional observances next year.