The Aoi festival held on the 15th of May every year in Kyoto is drawing near. Before the actual date of the festival, many preparations and pre-ceremonies has to be done. One of these is the misogi purification ceremony that was held today. In this ceremony, the “Saio-dai” purifies her mind and body by ceremoniously washing her hands at the Shimogamo shrine. Normally it is done in the little stream found at the shrine, but due to today’s prospects of rain, it was moved under roof. She further wipes her hands gently with a special paper and prays for the festival to be performed without troubles.
The original Saio was a young female of the Imperial Household who served at the Kamo shrines during the Heian period (794-1185). Nowadays, the Saio is represented by a selected unmarried woman with ties to Kyoto. She thus becomes the Saio-dai, or “Saio substitution”. This year’s Saio is portrayed by the 26 year old flight attendant Yusa Shirai. During the festival she will be heavily dressed in imperial court formal style clothing weighting up to 30 kg.
Read more about Aoi Matsuri and the Shimogamo shrine at their official website.