In May this year I was fortunate to be able to return to Kyoto with a party of students. The students were studying on a cultural studies project named ‘Kyoto Reportage’ and which involved interviewing people to discover personal stories. Later these stories could be assembled to build a joint identity of Kyoto.
We spent 6 days in Kyoto and during this time we visited the wonderful Kyoto Saga University of Arts and familiar places such as Kyomizu-dera, Sangjusangen-do, Gion and Arashyama but fortunately our visit coincided with a local festival – Aoi Matsuri. (Ctd below)
This festival takes the form of a long parade of around 500 people, horses and bullocks pulling decorated carts. The participants wore traditional costumes and the parade moved slowly from the Old Imperial Palace to the Shimogamo Jinja (Shrine) where there was a break. During this break time there were demonstrations of galloping horses, various rituals and stalls had been set up serving freshly cooked food, all amongst the trees. After lunch the parade started moving again and walked slowly in the rain to the Kamigamo Jinja (Shrine). (Ctd below)
The festival has been held since the 6th Century and the key parts of the festival are the Aoi leaves (‘Hollyhock’ in English), which decorate the dresses, the carriages, the heads and other clothes of the participants. It is a solemn and graceful festival and is truly fascinating. Unbelievably some people have written about the festival, describing it as boring and uneventful, which to me betrays the preconceptions many people have towards festivals. Many people in today’s society expect noise, loud music, rushing about and chaos when they attend festivals.
Once again I had the good fortune to be able to spend some time in this city and I was so pleased to be able to witness the Aoi Matsuri festival, one of the three big festivals of the city (Aoi, Gion, Jidai).
The students had a wonderful time and made some very enlightening interviews, taking photographs of their subjects along with sound recordings in many cases. They were later able to construct some very interesting presentations that attempted to construct an identity of their interviewees (or their personal interpretation of the subject’s identity).