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May 14, 2019
Aoi Matsuri in Kyoto, the world's oldest festival
15th May, 2019 | at the Kamigamojinja and Shimogamojinja shrines, Kyoto
Aoi Matsuri in Kyoto has been called the world's oldest festival. Held at the Kamigamojinja and Shimogamojinja shrines,
it features a procession with 600 or so men, women and children dressed in costumes like those worn by nobles and members of the
Imperial court in the Heian Period (794-1185).
The men wear white or grey tunics with wedge shaped black hats and women wear bright orange kimonos.
Also featured in the procession are huge decorated carts pulled by oxen with orange-colored yokes and costumed riders on horseback
that shoot arrows at three targets 100 meters apart while riding at a full gallop.
The festival gets its name from the aoi or hollyhock leaves carried by the participants.
The festival dates back to a time when Kyoto was often ravaged by floods and local people asked the gods for help.
When relief appeared the people showed their thanks by throwing a festival.
The central act of the festival is the offering of aoi leaves as a sign of respect to gods of Kamigamo and Shimogama shrines.
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