And then the main day of the Aoi Festival, May 15th, arrived.
Kamo Festival is also the oldest festival still practiced in Japan.
In the Asuka period3, the people of Japan were suffering from numerous natural disasters4, so the Emperor at the time, Emperor Kinmei, consulted renowned soothsayers, who provided the solution: “Offer prayers to the deities of Kamo”.
That was the beginning of the Kamo Festival.
During the transition to the Heian period, Emperor Saga sent his favorite daughter, Imperial Princess Uchikonai, to serve as a shrine maiden in Kamo Shrine. Since then, the ritual of offering one’s body to the gods and serving as the “Saiō” became the Aoi Festival, celebrated throughout the whole country.
The imperial princess sits on a palanquin to dedicate herself to the gods, and the populace celebrates.
That is the shape of the Aoi Festival. In modern times, an unmarried lady living in this imperial capital is chosen to be the “Saiō representative” in place of the actual Saiō. That lady sits on the palanquin and plays the leading part of the festival.
After learning of the festival’s history, I thought again that it must be such an honor to serve as the representative.
While a lot had happened, Saori-san resolved herself and took the leading role this year.
Wrapped in a jūnihitoe, she became an especially beautiful Saiō representative who caused sighs of admiration from the crowd as she exited the old imperial palace.
I could feel some strength in her countenance, meaning that she had probably moved on.
With her superlative beauty, the news of the Aoi Festival, which usually only circulates in the Kansai region, was picked up by national news this time, causing Saori-san to even receive requests for an appearance on TV, but that is a story in the near future.
While I gazed at the figure of the Saiō representative Saori-san from the
stands along with Holmes-san, I felt thankful that the incident of the
threatening letters was solved without complications— as a comfortable breeze
blew past, in days of Aoi.
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- The Gion Festival originated as part of a purification ritual to appease the gods thought to cause fire, floods and earthquakes. During the Festival, floats and mikoshi (portable shrines) are paraded around the city.
- Also known as Jidai Matsuri, Festival of the Ages is commemorates the founding of Heian-kyō (Kyoto) in 794.
- A period lasting from 538 to 710, characterized by the introduction of Buddhism from China, which led to significant artistic, social and political transformations in Japan.
- According to historical documents, a succession of disastrous rains with high winds ruined the grain crops, and epidemics had spread through Japan.