May 20, 2010

Aoi Matsuri (by Kana Suda)

The first years of the full-time program at KTS visited the Gosho (the Kyoto Imperial Palace) to observe the Aoi Matsuri (“hollyhock” festival) procession, which was held on Saturday, May 15th.

Aoi Matsuri is one of Kyoto’s 3 major festivals, along with Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri. It is also the oldest existing festival in Kyoto, and is held annually on the 15th of May.
With much thanks to Mr. Tara’s advice, we arrived at the Sakaimachi Gates an hour prior to the start of the parade, and were fortunately able to stand in the front row of the observation area. The procession lasted for approximately an hour, during which countless men, women, and children gracefully glided past us, in their delicate, classic Kimonos. The designs of the kimonos replicated that of which were worn by nobilities during the Heian Period, and looked quite different from what we are accustomed to today. Unlike what most people would expect from a “festival”, the Aoi Matsuri procession was carried out in a very quiet and noble atmosphere (except for the voices of the hundreds of excited spectators and policemen). Even the horses and oxes were beautifully “dressed” with ornamental head pieces and colorfully woven ropes, and made me really feel the sensitive nature of the Japanese culture.

After the last of the parade had left the gates of the palace, Mr. Tara took us to a very nice steakhouse for lunch, and going along with his recommendation, I ordered Hayashi-rice (onions and beef cooked in demi-gras sauce and poured over rice) – it was delicious! Class was dismissed after lunch, but the majority of us decided to go visit the various exhibitions and galleries scattered around Kyoto City. Mr. Tara was kind enough to join us for the whole day, and he shared his insights with us regarding the culture of Kyoto (he also gave us a quick tour of some of his favorite bars and restaurants as we passed by them on our way to the galleries!!). An exchange student from Korea was also able to join us, and as we usually don’t get to talk to her during school, this was a wonderful opportunity to get to know her.

So, I have blabbered on for some length, but what I really want to say is that we had a great time getting in touch with the beautiful culture and art of Kyoto, and Mr. Tara, we very much enjoyed your company. Thank you!

For those of you who want to know more about Aoi Matsuri, here are a few links:

Kyoto Prefectural Government, Division of Tourism
Japan National Tourism Organization