Japan History: Torii Suneemon

photo credits: japanworld.info

Torii Suneemon (1540 - 1575) was a Japanese samurai of the Torii family, known for his courage and for the incredible value demonstrated in the battle of Nagashino (1575). Of his youth, it is known that he was an ashigaru soldier who served Okudaira Sadamasa, a vassal of Tokugawa Ieyasu and master of the castle of Nagashino.

On June 17, 1575, after failing to capture Yoshida Castle in Toyohashi, 15,000 of Takeda Katsuyori's samurai attacked Nagashino Castle in modern Shinshiro City, Aichi Prefecture. Nagashino with only 500 men, was built on top of a cliff, where the Ure and the Kansa rivers divided and served as a natural moat. It was a strategically important castle, guarding the Tokugawa against the threat of northern Takeda. Takeda Katsuyori, son of the famous Takeda Shingen, was busy reaching the capital, Kyoto, in an attempt to gain control of the nation.

To get to Kyoto, they first had to conquer Mikawa and Owari, lands held by allies Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga. Nagashino Castle was important as it threatened the supply lines of the Takeda clan.

photo credits: asianartscollection.com

The Takeda forces had surrounded the castle, and the brave Torii volunteered to leave the castle, swim along the river and cut off the nets drawn near the enemy. Later he would have to walk 25 km from Okazaki and call Tokugawa Ieyasu. After warning him and requesting reinforcements, Torii quickly returned to Nagashino where he was captured as he tried to return to the castle.

The story tells of how Torii Suneemon had been tied and crucified with straw ropes in plain sight to his compatriots from Nagashino castle. "Tell them reinforcements will not come, tell them to give up the castle and get out!" one of his captors hissed. Torii looked up at the castle shouting: "Men from the castle of Nagashino... Don't give up! Ieyasu's men are coming! Wait a little longer!" Following his exploit, he was silenced by a spear stuck in the stomach.

The forces of the Tokugawa clan and the Oda allies eventually arrived on the scene a week later with 38,000 soldiers, creating an important turning point in the history of Japan and the samurai war, the battle of Nagashino and Shitaragahara.

It is interesting to know that a Takeda Samurai, Ochiai Michihisa, was so impressed with Torii's loyalty and courage that in a battle he displayed a flag with the image of the crucified Samurai. That flag is now kept in the Tokyo University library.

The martyr Torii was promoted posthumously to the samurai class and his family continued to serve the Okudaira clan until the end of the Edo period. He entered the history books as one of the most courageous and faithful Samurai.

photo credits: japanworld.info

A curiosity: on the Lida line a railway station was opened bearing the name of the brave Samurai, a place not far from where he was crucified.

TENOHA Special Event: Arte su Marte

Another special event is waiting for you at TENOHA this Thursday, May 23 from 6 pm, along with an aperitif that you can't miss.

Arte su Marte is a project that merges the arts of painting, sculpture, photography and design with music, presenting new artists and live performances that will surely become an important source of inspiration.
Its mission is both to create an unique atmosphere with all the arts brought together and to promote emerging artists.

In addition to the exhibition, there will be the possibility of expressing anyone's imagination and personal art thanks to white canvases on which you can paint, write and become an integral part of the exhibition.

To participate, click the link below to RSVP:


Aperitivo Nori•Nori

Together with this event there will be, as every Thursday, the exclusive TENOHA's aperitif "Nori • Nori".

The expression ノ リ ノ リ means "to be in a good mood / cheerful" or even "to be hyped", because it's a moment in which all the tensions of the day disappear leaving the space to the real Happy Hour. Here you can enjoy exclusive cocktails and unmissable delicacies that you can only find here at TENOHA together with your favorite friends.

So what's better than having this special Happy Hour accompanied by this fusion of arts? We are waiting for you!

Where / When

When: May 23rd
Hours: 18.00 - 23.00
Where: Via Vigevano 18, Milan
Nori nori aperitif: € 12

Japan Italy: "An Italian in Japan" the serie - Michela Figliola

Warm Cheap Trips, Michela Figliola and her experience

A few months ago we launched the column "An Italian in Japan" where we interview our compatriots in the land of the Rising Sun. Few succeed in realizing the dream of going to live in Japan and we want to share with you the experiences of those who succeeded! Today we present Michela Figliola, a very Italian girl who lives and works in Japan!

JIB: Tell us who you are shortly

M: Michela, from Brescia, in fact from Franciacorta, in love with travels. At the age of 28 I decided to leave my permanent position in Italy and move to Japan, a country that I love very much and where, despite its oddities, I feel at home.

JIB: Where does your passion for Japan come from?

M: I don't really remember what triggered it. I have always been attracted by the East, by its very different culture and its traditional landscapes. A series of events made me increasingly familiar with Japan and its classical culture and I was bewitched more and more every day. I still love to discover its history and deepen its many cultural nuances.

JIB: You have moved to Japan since a while now, what are the steps you took to live in this country?

M: The dream of moving here was born about 6 years ago, on the first trip. From there I evaluated the various options, including that of starting my own business. In the end, especially for a monetary issue, I fell back on the classic student visa to learn the language and then find a full-time job once here.
Although less expensive than the visa business, the Japanese school is still not cheap, so it took me a few years to save enough to afford school and expenses in Japan. Together with a work permit and working for 28 hours a week, you can partially cover your daily expenses.

JIB: Tell us about one of the funniest experiences you had since you lived in Japan.

M: More than fun experiences, these are meetings: once I met a pig with a rainbow tuft, while I was walking through the streets of the Asakusa area. While on another occasion, coming out of an izakaya near home, I met the famous Sailor Suit Old Man, the old man dressed as a schoolgirl!

JIB: Your blog, warmcheaptrips.com, what it was born of and how you developed the idea until it got to what it is today

M: The blog was born in 2015, after yet another trip organized in detail in autonomy, struggling to find the answers I was looking for. At the suggestion of a friend who asked me to pass her one of my old itineraries so that she replicate it, I decided to put everything that was hidden on my PC online and help other people to travel.
I have always loved writing, as well as traveling and initially, the blog was a way to show what I could do, a sort of portfolio about who I am and how I approach things.
Then over time it became something more professional and I started investing more and more time in it, in order to give useful and interesting information to readers, specializing in cultural itineraries, historical journeys and of course, Japan, especially the less known one.

JIB: From the point of view of a westerner, what are the difficulties and the differences that you have found in the first times in Japan compared to Italy

M: Personally, having started with a lot of preparation on all those that can be thorny aspects for the Italians, I didn't have great difficulties. I feel very comfortable and in line with the Japanese attitude. The only thing that every now and then jars a little about me is the total lack of elasticity that in some cases would be useful for solving problems quickly and easily. Or the fact that they rarely express their real opinion and say things between the lines. Reasoning differently from ours, we are not always able to grasp the real point of the situation.

JIB: Many think that Japan is a totally different land from Italy but instead we have found many more similarities than we can imagine. What do you think about it? What are the strongest similarities?

M: Let's say that for many things the two countries resemble each other very much, above all it is impressive how similar they are to being on opposites.
We say that the major similarities are mainly the love for beauty and aesthetics, especially in clothing and in posture. But also in the kitchen: simple flavors, but rich in taste, where the elements that make up the dish have a perfect balance.
There are strong traditions and a lot of attachment to regional cultures and dialects, as well as the playful way in which they divide the country into North and South (or better, east and west) because of different habits and attitudes!

JIB: Projects for the future?

M: Now I am waiting for the new immigration visa, if it doesn’t arrive, I will return to Italy for a year and I will look for work in some company that can offer me a future transfer.
Obviously, I hope that everything goes well and can continue to stay here, working for the current company that deals with the organization of tours and events in Tokyo and the management of Social Networks on behalf of other activities. In parallel I would like to continue my blog, continuing to write about travels both in Japan and around the world.

JIB: How is Italy seen in Japan?

M: They love everything that is Italian, and they often see Italy as a symbol of elegance and refinement. And they have the idea of a very stereotypical Italian man: always full of compliments and attention that fills his woman with flowers and gifts. Lately, however, Italy is seen as a dangerous country to travel to, because of the thefts and scams of which the Japanese are often victims!

JIB: May in Japan, what's special about this month in the land of the Rising Sun?

M: This year there was the "mega golden week", a series of national holidays that offer about a week of pause from work, but in 2019 it was particularly long because there was the change of Emperor! The Heisei era ended on April 30 and the new Reiwa era began on May 1st, when Prince Naruhito ascended the throne.

JIB: Do you think there is a future for even closer collaboration between the two nations?

M: The interest in Italy by the Japanese is very high, and the interest of the Italians towards Japan increases more and more. Not only from a tourism point of view, but also from an economic point of view and from the exchange of goods, so yes, we will certainly move towards an even closer collaboration between the two countries.

JIB: Do you ever miss Italy? Do you plan to return here permanently?

M: I was fine in Italy too, but I'm better here. Thanks to technology it is still very easy to communicate with Italy so I never feel nostalgic. Sometimes, however, I suffer terribly from the lack of some homemade foods or dishes, but fortunately, there is still a lot of great food here too!

JIB: Give a greeting and advice to all our readers

M: Japan is a fantastic country to visit, don't limit yourself to the great classics, but explore the less traveled areas. Here you will experience the true essence of Japan and you will be able to fully enjoy its culture and tradition. To better understand this country, you have to open your mind, stop judging what seems different and let yourself get carried away by Japan. Always be respectful of the country you are visiting, almost as if you were a ghost, especially if you visit less touristy areas.
Instead, if you are thinking of moving to Japan, study its history and focus on what could be negative aspects of everyday life. Do not trust those who say that everything is perfect! I love it, but I know that for many other people many things could weigh a lot, especially those who are very attached to Italian culture and human relationships as they are in Italy. Here the relationships are extremely different, be aware of them before you decide to transfer!

Follow Michela

Website: warmcheaptrips.com
Instagram: @warmcheaptrips

Japan Tradition: Sanja Matsuri

photo credits: Yoshikazu TAKADA

The festival of the three temples

The Sanja Matsuri (三社祭) is one of the most famous festivals, largest and "wildest" festivals in Tokyo dedicated to the Shinto religion. The festival is held in honor of Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari and Hajino Nakatomo, the three men who founded the Sensō-ji temple.

The Sanja Matsuri is held on the third weekend of May at the Asakusa temple and the sumptuous parade involves three mikoshi (portable temples), dances, traditional music and lasts about three days.

Like most Japanese festivals, the Sanja matsuri is also a religious celebration dedicated to the spirits of the three men, founders of the temple. This festival seems to have been born in the 7th century and is also known as "Kannon Matsuri" and "Asakusa Matsuri" and with a different shape than today.
The modalities in which today's Sanja Matsuri is organized were established during the Edo period when in 1649 the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu commissioned the construction of the Asakusa temple.

If you happen to be around Asakusa during the festival days, you can feel an atmosphere full of energy. People flock to the streets surrounding the Sensō-ji temple to the sound of flutes, whistles and taiko (traditional Japanese percussion).

photo credits: Atsushi Ebara, Yoshikazu TAKADA

The Mikoshi

The main attraction of this festival is the three mokoshi belonging to the Asakusa temple. These three elaborate temples in black lacquered wood have the function of being a miniature and a portable version of the Asakusa Temple. Decorated with sculptures and golden leaves, they weigh about a ton and are transported by long poles held together by ropes. For each mikoshi there is a need for about 40 people for safe transport and during the day, around 500 people participate in the transport of each temple.

The "parade" of these mikoshi is perhaps the most important moment of the day and the streets are crowded as they pass. As they are also transported, they are agitated and made to bounce strongly, because it is said that this leads to intensifying the power of the Kami inside and that it helps to increase luck in the respective neighborhoods.

While the three main mikoshi are the most important objects in the streets during the Sanja Matsuri, there are about 100 other smaller mikoshi scattered in the neighborhood on Saturday. Many of these temples are also transported by women or children.

photo credits: KMrT, Leo U

Day after day

The Sanja matsuri, is a festival that lasts several days and begins on Thursday with an important religious ceremony. This function requires the priest responsible for the temple to perform a ritual that makes the Kami of the three founders of the temple move from within into the three mikoshi. The latter will then be the protagonists of the parade that will last all weekend in Asakusa.

By opening the three small doors of the mikoshi the three spirits are invited to enter the miniature temples where they will stay for the duration of the festival. The interior of these mikoshi is also concealed from the public by a thin cotton curtain.

photo credits: Yoshikazu TAKADA

But the actual parade begins on Friday, known as Daigyōretsu (大 行列) which literally means "great parade".
The famous procession goes down via Yanagi Street and continues to the Nakamise-dōri up to the Asakusa temple. This festival is also well known for the sumptuous costumes of the participants, but also for the geishas and city officials who wear hakama, traditional Japanese clothes.
In the evening, six mikoshi from the most central neighborhoods are sent in procession on the shoulders of several dozen people.

photo credits: Hong Seongwan, Yoshikazu TAKADA

The following day, Saturday, about 100 mikoshi belonging to the 44 districts of Asakusa gather at the Kaminarimon and then leave on parade via the Nakamise-dōri in the direction of Hōzōmon. Once here they pay their respects to Kannon, the goddess of Mercy. Later, the mikoshi are taken to the Asakusa temple where the Shinto priest blesses them and purifies them for the coming year. Once the ceremony is completed, these small portable temples are transported back to their respective neighborhoods.

However, the most important event of the Sanja Matsuri takes place on Sunday. It is in this day in fact that we can see the parade of the three mikoshi belonging to the Asakusa Shrine. They march along the Nakamise-dōri to arrive at the Kaminarimon on Sunday morning. These three mikoshi enclose the three spirits of the three founding men of the Sensō-ji temple and, during the final day of this festival, they come to visit and bring blessings to the 44 districts of Asakusa.
When evening arrives, the three mikoshi find their way back to the Asakusa temple creating another great procession that lasts until late at night.

photo credits: ageless foto, Yoshikazu TAKADA

Yakuza Show

This festival of monumental size, also allows to mix fringes of the population that usually remain very detached. It is indeed common to find the Yakuza performing in fundoshi, without shame or fear, proudly showing their tattoos. In the eyes of a westerner, not accustomed to Japanese culture, this could almost seem like a comic scene. However, don't dare to laugh if you don't want bad luck to hit you!

photo credits: Hong Seongwan, syasya_akemi

Japan Tradition: Kanda Matsuri

The festival held on odd-numbered years

photo credits: dydo-matsuri.com

In the middle of May on every odd-numbered year, the Kanda Matsuri (神田祭) takes place in Tokyo’s Kanda. Together with the Sanno Matsuri and the Fukagawa Matsuri, Kanda Matsuri is one of the three most important Shinto festivals being held in Tokyo. It is also one of the three largest festivals of Japan together with Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri and Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri.

The origin of Kanda Matsuri dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867), when the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu ruled over Edo, now modern day Tokyo. It is for this reason that Kanda Matsuri is also sometimes known as Tenka Matsuri (Tenka meaning shogun).
The celebration of this festival also doubled as a demonstration of prosperity under the new regime.

photo credits: xin beitou, Atsushi Ebara

At the same time, the Sanno Matsuri took place to celebrate the new political center and its rulers. Because of the long and extravagant preparations, competition between the two festivals grew, and eventually, it was decided to celebrate them in alternate years. Under this new rule, Kanda Matsuri was to be celebrated in the middle of May on odd numbered years , while the Sanno Matsuri would be celebrated in the middle of June on even numbered years.

Today, Kanda Matsuri is celebrated in honour of the gods residing in the Shinto shrine called Kanda Myojin that can be found nestled among modern buildings in one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in Tokyo, Chiyoda ward. The shrine is dedicated to 3 deities: Daikokuten, the god of good harvest and matrimony, Ebisu, the god of fishermen and businessmen and Taira no Masakado, a revered samurai of the 10th century who was deified.

photo credits: rove.me, bill ben

Celebrating prosperity and good fortune

Like most other festivals, shinto rites are an essential part of the preparations. On the eve of the main procession, the kami (gods) of the shrine are invited to enter the three finely decorated mikoshi (portable shrines) through these rituals. At 8 a.m. on the day of the festival, these mikoshi are paraded through the streets of Kanda, continuing down to Nihonbashi, followed by Otemachi, and finally Akihabara, before returning to the temple at around 7 p.m. This procession is typically accompanied by an immense crowd of people, along with musicians, priests riding on horseback and many other participants wearing colorful, traditional clothes.

photo credits: nlgwest , Kemy Shibata

At the same time, there is a smaller three-hour long secondary procession being held. This is attended by men on horseback dressed as samurai, characters from folk stories, musicians, and dancers who depart from Arima Elementary School in the early afternoon and proceed north towards the Kanda Myojin shrine.

The next day following the festival is dedicated to the procession of mikoshi from various neighbourhoods in the Kanda and Nihonbashi district. Each of them contains an ujigami, guardian deities who, on this occasion, are housed in mikoshi to bless the residents of the area as they are paraded through the streets.

photo credits: Eugene Kaspersky

Many small curiosities

Those who were born and raised in Edo were called “Edokko”. Edokko had a peculiar personality and they were said to be very open and cheerful people. All these characteristics were, and still are, reflected in the Kanda Matsuri, a festival full of energy.

The procession with all its main elements also recalls the celebrations for Tokugawa's victory in the battle of Sekigahara, which cleared the path to the shogunate that led to a long period of peace and prosperity in Japan. Originally, townspeople would dress up and give thanks to the shrine through lavish performances of Noh theater.

photo credits: tokyoexcess.blogspot.it, xin beitou

During the Edo period, the parade with its beautiful decorations would pass by Edo Castle, giving common people a rare chance to enter its grounds.
Most of the original floats, which had been used since the early days of the festival, were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and in the bombing of WWII.

photo credits: viajejet.com, fastjapan.com

Japan Italy: Far East Film Festival 21 ~ Report

photo credits: fareastfilm.com

"We live on opposite sides of the world and we were afraid that our film would not be understood. But the world speaks a single language: that of love ... ».
We decided to start our article with this phrase by the actress Crisel Consunji after the triumph of the film Still Human at the Far East Film Festival 21. Because this sentence represents the truth, there is only one language that unites the whole world and it is that of love.

photo credits: gacktitalia.com

It is therefore certainly a common thought, that of not being understood, that the Eastern vision of cinema can somehow not be understood by the Western world. The Far East Film Festival has still given light to this world that while it seems so far away from us, it really isn’t and, on the contrary, the similarities are many.

The film Still Human, directed by Oliver Chan and the lead actor Wong, who had already been awarded the Golden Lifetime Career Award, won the Far East Film Festival 21 and the critics' award. In second place we find the Chinese black comedy Dying to survive by Wen Muye and in third place the Korean Extreme Job by Lee Byoung-Heon.

photo credits: scmp.com

Melancholic by emerging director Tanaka Seiji won the White Mulberry for first feature films while Fly me to the Saitama by the great director Takeuchi Hideki won the MYmovies award.

photo credits: mymovies.it

photo credits: mymovies.it

photo credits: aficfestival.it

The Far East Film Festival 21 ended with exorbitant numbers: 9 days of programming. 77 films, 3 world premieres, 14 debuts, 60,000 thousand spectators, over 20,000 participants in city events and 1600 accredited (journalists, teachers, students, ambassadors of other festivals), coming from over 20 countries: Italy, Holland, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, United States, France, Belgium, Switzerland, China, Canada, Spain, Hong Kong, Japan, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Norway, South Korea, Czech Republic, Brazil, Sweden and Serbia. Over 100 appointments including the Cosplay Contest, with over 20 thousand presences. We must not forget the very active Facebook community of the festival with 30 thousand fans involved.

photo credits: japanitalybridge.com

It was not only the Festival of the East but also of the whole world. Attendance came from anywhere.
Japan Italy Bridge attended as a media and we were able to witness an aggregation of people, including film buffs, experts, enthusiasts, journalists who were not afraid of the rain and the cold and enthusiastically participated in all the events and the projections.
A great enthusiasm that was also noticed in the talks held by the directors and actors, huge participation and curiosity to know how the works were born and how they came to life.

photo credits: japanitalybridge.com

As far as we are concerned, with GACKT ITALIA, one of our projects, we followed the creation, the rise and the great success of Fly me to the Saitama step by step, translating and sharing articles, interviews and videos for months now. It was, therefore, a great thrill to be able to see the film we talked about for so long here in Italy, to hear the audience's laughter and the silences in intense moments. It was a bit like seeing the complete evolution of a creature after having followed it since its birth. Great excitement also in the interview to Takeuchi Hideki, director of the movie, that we were able to realize who with humility, sympathy and professionalism shared with us his point of view enthusiastically.

photo credits: japanitalybridge.com

photo credits: japanitalybridge.com

This Festival is the demonstration that aggregation is possible, that one can live in serenity despite the different cultures. That sometimes a different thought can open the mind and make you discover new horizons and maybe become even more interesting than what you can have seen or heard so far. This festival had not only much to show, but also a lot to teach. We look forward to seeing you at the next edition, always in Udine, for the Far East Film Festival 22, from April 24th to May 2nd, 2020! Do not miss it, it will surely be an experience that will make you come back home enriched and why not ... even more in love with this world so distant and yet so close that is the Far East.

Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 04 – Takeuchi Hideki

On the occasion of the Far East Film Festival, we had the honor and pleasure of being able to interview Takeuchi Hideki, director of "Fly me to the Saitama" (翔んで埼玉 - Tonde Saitama), presented in Italy during the festival for its European premiere!

Takeuchi Hideki made his debut working for Fuji Television and in 1996 he directed the first of his series for this TV station. In 1998 he won the award for best director at the Television Drama Academy Awards for "Just a Little More, God" but the awards won didn't stop there.

His movie debut came in 2009 with the dramatic two-part musical comedy Nodame Cantabile. Takeuchi Hideki continues to alternate between the big and small screen with Thermae Romae and two television series, passing with great ease from the historical drama to the brilliant comedy.

Thermae Romae has achieved such a resounding success in the Japanese box office that Takeuchi-san created the sequel, Thermae Romae II, released on April 26, 2014 and previewed after a week at the 16th Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy.

This year, the director returned to the Far East Film Festival with "Fly me to the Saitama", a brilliant and somewhat surreal comedy about the parochialism that exists between Saitama and Tokyo, starring singer and actor GACKT-san and actress Fumi Nikaido, supported by other famous names within the cast. Fly me to the Saitama, also won the MyMovies.com award for best film acclaimed by the public.

The one with Takeuchi-san was an interesting and entertaining interview that tells the backstage of the film, curiosities and perspectives for future collaboration between Italy and Japan. Enjoy the video and we are curious to know your feedback!

Japan Tradition: Aoi Matsuri

The Hollyhock Festival

photo credits: mutabi.wordpress.com

One of Kyoto’s three most well-known festivals, Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) takes place every year on the 15th of May. The name of this festival derives from the hollyhock leaves that participants in the festival’s parade carry with them as they walk down the designated route. In Japanese, “Aoi” (葵) refers to the “alcea rosea” or, as the namesake of this festival, the “hollyhock”. This plant produces brilliant colours and beautiful flowers, and its leaves are believed to have the power to prevent natural disasters.

The main attraction of this festival is a grand parade that involves more than 500 people dressing up in the aristocratic styles of the Heian period (794 - 1185 CE).
This annual parade starts from the Imperial Palace, and the participants will walk down the road until they arrive at Kamo Shrine. This name refers to the shinto sanctuary complex that consists of Kamigamo shrine and Shimogamo shrine.

photo credits: amanohashidate.jp, Nobuhiro Suhara

The Origins

The festival first started during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (539 - 571CE), when a period of heavy rains ruined the harvest and an epidemic spread through the country.

It was believed that these tragedies came about because the Kamo deities wanted to punish the people. Thus, the emperor sent a messenger to the temple with offerings and to perform various rituals in order to appease these deities. Part of these rituals also required the riding of a galloping horse.

photo credit: Alex Hurst, Clement Koh

This became an annual event with the intention of preventing further disasters. However, during the reign of Emperor Monmu (697 - 707CE), it was suspended due to the huge amount of people joining to watch the rituals. In the 19° century, Emperor Kanmu established the seat of the imperial throne in Kyoto and this represented the beginning of the Heian period in Japanese history. The emperor recognised the Kamo deities as protectors of the capital and reestablished the Aoi Matsuri as an annual imperial event. The festival was sometimes discontinued in some periods of Japanese history, especially during World War II, but it was actively resumed in 1953. The Saiō-Dai tradition in this festival was also initiated in 1956.

photo credits: regex.info

The characters of the Festival

There are two main characters in the Aoi Matsuri: the Saiō-Dai and the Imperial Messenger.
The Saiō-Dai is a woman chosen from the sisters and daughters of the emperor to dedicate herself to the Shimogamo Shrine. The role of the Saiō-Dai is to maintain spiritual purity and represent the Emperor at the festival. Today the Saiō-Dai is chosen from all unmarried women of Kyoto. She wears twelve layers of silk robes (jūnihitoe), finely colored in the traditional style of the Heian court. To maintain ritual purity the Saiō-Dai has to go through several ceremonies of purification before the festival’s parade.

photo credit: Hong Seongwan

The Imperial Messenger, on the other hand, conducts the procession of the festival by riding a horse. During the Heian period, he would be a Fifth-Rank courtier holding office of middle or lesser capitan. He was also typically a man destined for high office. His role was to read the imperial edict and present the emperor’s offerings. During the Heian period, the Saiō-Dai and the Imperial Messenger would be accompanied by ten dancers and twelve musicians.

photo credits: Hisanori

Celebrations Today

The parade starts at 10:30 a.m. on May 15th at Kyoto’s Imperial Palace. It then slowly departs for two important stops: the Shimogamo Shrine, where the procession should arrive at 11:15 a.m., and the Kamigamo Shrine, where they will arrive at 3:30 p.m. The Saiō-Dai and the Imperial Messenger perform their rituals at these stops. The Saiō-Dai pays her respects to the deities, while the Imperial Messenger intones the imperial rescript, praising the deities and requesting their continued favor.

photo credits: Slugicide, find-your-jpn.com