Sunday, June 12, 2005

Aoi Matsuri 葵祭

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This famous carriage, the 'Gosho Guruma', was the Heian Period Air Force One, used to transport the Emperor and courtiers of high rank.

Aoi Matsuri, or the Hollycock Festival, is the most ancient festival in the world, and one of Kyoto's 3 most famous. It began in the 6th century under the reign of Emperor Kinmei, which was plagued by natural disasters. An oracle explained to the emperor that the gods of Kamo's shrines were angry because of the people's ingratitude and impiety, and so to appease them, Kinmei instituted this festival. When the storms calmed down and the people reaped a bountiful harvest, the festival was seen as a success and thus passed down through the generations.

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A low ranking courtier walks beneath a hanagasa, or flowered umbrella.

The procession of 511 Heian period courtiers is beautful, that is, if you can see any of it. Since its inception people from all over the country have thronged the parade route to steal a glimpse of royalty, and that tradition continues today. Seats lining the parade route can be bought for about 20 dollars, but by the time I figured that out, they were all sold out.

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Aoi Matusri has been on my list of things to do in Japan ever since my Gaidai days, when my friend Misaki showed me a picture from when she had been a princess in the procession. I'm glad I went, but truth be told, it can't hang with Kurama Himatsuri or the Kishiwada Danjiri matsuri! Those are festivals! Huge torches and festival floats, half naked men running around drinking sake, life threatening fetes of float maneuvering and torch carrying skill...Now thats what I'm talking about. There is nothing festive or spontaneous about Aoi matsuri. It is strictly an amazing photo op, which I was unable to take advantage of due to my pocket sized point and shoot whose 3x optical zoom was no match for the distance between the action on myself.

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A high ranking courtier in many layered kimono typical of the Heian Period.

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The festival procession.

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A young, high ranking courtier.

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Note the hollycock leaves dangling from their hats. All participants donn the holycock leaf, hence the name of the festival.

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Perhaps you are wondering why this otherwise tough looking Japanese-stlye Legolas is sporting pink. Their is no stigma in Japan for boys who wear pink, or say things are cute, or own things like Power Puff Girls pencil cases. Or ask for the Hello Kitty stickers when I bring Spiderman ones. Most Japanese men are quite feminine, if only because its the stylish thing to do. Obviously there is a very long tradition behind all of this that I know absolutely nothing about EXCEPT: Back in the day, SOME warriors wore pink. SOMETIMES. But as you can see in my pictures, most of them did not. The end.

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A young warrior on his trusty steed, NOT wearing pink.

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On the way to Kamigamo shrine we ran into a little neighborhood festival. Following the narrow, winding streets overflowing with kids in happi coats, I could hear their chants, flutes, and drums trickling through the alleyways like the sound of rainwater tripping over stones in willowy riverbeds. I snapped a few shots as they stopped for a break at a school playground.

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Tell me that guy on the right isin't pimpin'.

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The procession starts at the Imperial Palace and winds its way past Shimogamo Shrine before arriving here, at Kamigamo shrine.

9 comments:

raeanna maggard said...

hey girl it's raeanna your cousin looking at your pictures i'm loving it just loveing it.. soo i'm in florida with chris your bro, my mom and my grandma, your dad was here but went home yesterday well i have to go i love you soo much write back on my yahoo okay talk to you later bye!!!

Lindizzy said...

Wow, those pictures are AMAZING! It may not have been as exciting as kurama and Danjiri, and I know you'd love to have a super dooper telephoto spy lens so you could get national geographic-worthy shots, but those are really good! I'm sure you had to work a little harder at it, but you had fun, right? You should really go pro! Seriously, you should try to at least publish a story or write a short living guide or something. You are so talented! I promise to go to Gion Matsuri, there's no way I wanna miss out on more festive fun. Keep updating the blog!
Lindz

MOM said...

I'm so excited. Your Blog is back. I missed it. Great Pictures. You are an amazing photographer. I'm with Lindsey! I love hearing of your adventures. Wish I was back in Japan. All your friends should visit.

LUV
MOM

Nick Coutts said...

Great shots! It looks like it is very similiar to the Jidai Matsuri, which is another of Kyoto's amazing events. It's quite a trip from Gifu, isn't it?

Melissa said...

Nick! I saw your pictures from Jidai Matsuri! Those were great shots! These are not:( But thanks anyways! I've never been to Jidai Matsuri, but I will definately go this fall! Will you be back in town? Kyoto is never too far away :)

Nick Coutts said...

Melissa,
I'll be back in Kyoto around the last week of August, and it can't come soon enough. Several of your shots really caught my eye, so I think you're too hard on yourself. When do you think you'll make it to Kyoto next?

Melissa said...

Nick,
I'm going to Kyoto for Gion Matsuri! I need to get me a new camera :) You're coming back at the end of August? Just in time for Obon! How long will you stay?

Nick Coutts said...

I should be there for close to four months. I'll be applying for the JET program soon afterward, as I will finally be a college graduate come this December, so hopefully I'll be able to spend more time in Japan.

Make sure you check out the festival the night before, as I've heard everyone gets all dressed up to see the mikoshi or whatever they're called . I'll have to live vicariously though you while I'm stuck in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I have met a wonderful girl from Kioto, her name is Sayuri. I have saw the Kyoto´s web and it is a veru pretty city.
Francisco