Aoi Matsuri

The bus ride from Tokyo to Kyoto happened under the cover of darkness. The pale sunlight of the early morning signaled we had arrived in the once capital of Japan. The restaurants of Kyoto had yet to open their eyes for the morning rush so Sejan and I ate food from a convenience store as we waited in the brisk air for our hostel to open. 

Once the time came we began to make our way to our hostel. The train station that we arrived in dominated most of the view of the city but as we explored more Kyoto began to resemble a city from a 90's anime. 

We first heard of the Aoi Matsuri over some amazing buttered toast after check in. The couple next to us struck up a conversation and mentioned they were going to see the most boring parade in Kyoto. Which also just so happens to be one of the longest running festivals in the entire world. Aoi is Japanese for Hollyhock and the festival is named after the leaves of the flowers that are worn by members of the procession. 

The Aoi Matsuri began sometime in the 6th or 7th century and predates Kyoto becoming the capital in the late 8th century. To give some historical perspective this festival started around the same time Islam began. The Tang Dynasty has just begun its rule China, and the Byzantine empire started to shrink from outside threats. 


The procession starts at the southern gates of the Imperial Palace of Kyoto, there are paid seating at various points along the parade route but we just stood on the street. What made the Aoi Matsuri so interesting was that the people in the parade were completely silent. They file by you as if you aren't even there. A long continuous stream of people flow out of the gate, dressed in bright colors, some bearing only a hollyhock branch, while others carry large umbrella's or pull beautifully decorated oxen and horses along the route. 


Serendipity brought us to Kyoto on the day of one of its oldest festivals. I was excited to see what else Kyoto would share with us as we explored its beauty and history. Make sure you subscribe below so you never miss an addition to the Archive!