Festive Kyoto – Day 5

Festive Kyoto – Day 5

Today was an unusual confluence of festival events, with the annual Aoi Matsuri and the Mifune Matsuri both falling on the same day.   Matsuri is basically the Japanese word for Festival and Kyoto’s festivals are some of the most elaborate in Japan, with spectacular costumes, floats, horses, drums, and more.   They’re not festivals in the sense of all day eating. carnival booths, fireworks, etc.   The festival activities are, like much of Japan, quite structured and predictable.  We took in both in a whirlwind day.

Starting at promptly 10:30, the first elegantly clad marcher in the Aoi Matsuri parade came around the corner of the Imperial Palace on a well-worn route.   Down the main road in front of the palace past first, a small band of adorable school kids (in assorted green, yellow and blue hats), then past those seated in the bright sunshine today, then on around a set course to the Kamigamo Shrine.   We got pictures of a wide range of horses in their finery, marches in assorted outfits, princesses under their gaily decorated umbrellas and a few floats being carried or horse-drawn.   We walked through the palace grounds towards the Shrine but the crowds got too thick, so we hopped a bus to western Kyoto, to Arashiyama.

In Arashiyama the second festival was taking place just a little later in the day.  Again a parade from a shrine, only this one went to the edge of the water, where everyone boarded decorated boats and paddled about in the river.   Lots more picture taking opportunities.   One segment where they played traditional music and women danced on the boats.  There was  boat with a big drum; not sure what that was for.    We understand the various boating parties “paraded” around in the water for two hours.

Both festivals had people lining the routes a few deep.   The weather was delightful, if a little hot when we were not in the shade.   Our guide was happy to describe some of the history of the festivals, they all harken back to some long-ago tradition but frankly I don’t remember which tradition and why so I’m not going to try to write it up like an expert.  Here is good information about the Aoi Festival and the Mifune Festival.

Kyoto today was busy, happy and festive.

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