Take a Glimpse Back in Time at One of Kyoto’s Oldest Festivals

Feast your eyes on millennia-old cultural traditions at a ritual told of in the Tale of Genji

Travelers visiting Kyoto in May should make special plans to attend the Aoi Festival, one of the most significant of the city's many time-honored events. Officially known as the Kamo Festival, the celebration features an impressive procession of floats, ox-drawn carts, and over 500 people dressed in the lavish costumes of the Heian period (794-1185) aristocrats.

Marvel at the scene as they march from Kyoto Imperial Palace through the sacred Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines, adorned in the aoi (asarum caulescens, a species of wild ginger) leaves that give the festival its common name. To get the best views, visitors are encouraged to purchase reserved seating tickets in advance.

The grand procession lasts for roughly one hour. After the procession itself, explore the shrines and other buildings decorated with aoi leaves, and you'll feel as if you've traveled back to the Japan of yore.