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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kyoto Aoi Matsuri Shrine Maiden Announced

Aoi Festival Saio Maiden斎王代に長瀬摩衣子さん 第58代・左京出身

The selection of the Saio (shrine maiden) for this year's Aoi Matsuri (Festival) was announced in Kyoto yesterday.

Maiko Nagase, a twenty-year-old college student born and raised in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, was named as the 53rd such maiden.

Aoi Matsuri is one of the Three Big Festivals - Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri are the other two - and takes place every May 15.

It is not a loud, drunken, sensual - i.e., typical - Japanese festival. It is rather a long parade of 500 or so people dressed in period costume. Dressed in Heian Period (794 - 1185) clothing, the festival winds its way from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines.

All of those taking part will be wearing hollyhock, which is the meaning of "Aoi."

Traditionally, a young woman from one of Kyoto's elite families is chosen to be the Saio maiden, and it is a great honor. Nagase's father is the president of Kyoraku, a local plastics manufacturer.

For photo buffs, it is a fun day out. Be warned though: it is crowded and not much happens.

Cyclists should park and walk. Police are going to be out en masse, and many places will be unpassable.


On May 15, the procession departs the Imperial Palace at 10:30, crosses the Kamo River at around 11:15, and arrives at Shimogamo Shrine at 2:20 pm. The last leg is up to Kamigamo Shrine, with an estimated arrival time of 3:30 pm.

Photo © Kyoto Shinbun


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