“Yasurai Matsuri Festival” is a festival held on the second Sunday of April every year at Imamiya Shrine, Genbu Shrine, Kawakami Daijingusha Shrine in Kyoto. Although the festival to be held at Imamiya Shrine is the most famous, there seems to be an official document that Genbu Shrine is the birthplace of “Yasurai Matsuri Festival”.
The origin of Yasurai Matsuri Festival is said to be the “goryoe” (ritual ceremony to repose of spirits of a deceased person) which went to calm the bad plague epidemic in the Heian era. It is the beginning of this festival that this “goryoe” and the “chinka-sai festival” (Shinto rituals wishing to quell the plague) that had been held since the Nara era were linked. In “chinka – sai festival” it is said that the petal of scattering cherry blossoms was regarded as the pesticide which causes plague because the epidemic often prevailed during the spring cherry blossoms. It has been thought that calming flowers leads to quitting an evil god.
At Imamiya Shrine, on the day of the festival, ujiko (shrine parishner) dressed as small demon, ogre, musicians etc, and it will be a queue, leaving Konenji Temple at 12 o’clock. The central presence of the queue is a huge red umbrella (“Hanagasa”: flower hat) which seems to be 2 meters in diameter.
“Hanagasa” itself is quite conspicuous. It is said that getting under this umbrella will expel evil. Because it seems that visitors along the roads are all under the umbrella, it seems to be enjoyable together.
At the main point, Ogre dances like jumping while striking a bell and a drum. Ogre costumes and dances are flamboyant hair style and fashion, and it feels contemporary. It is thought that such a great demon is one reason why this festival is said to be one of the three most eccentric festivals of Kyoto.
When arriving at Imamiya Shinto shrine around 15 o’clock, dancing is dedicated by small demons, red and black ogres in front of the shrine. The figure of children playing small demons are very adorable. Then demons walk around the precincts. The ogre who cause the plague is not poor but gives a place of activity and dedicates dance at the shrine. Even so, the kindness of the people in Kyoto can be felt.
“Yasurai Matsuri Festival” is a festival held in Kita Ward, Kyoto City. It is known as the Grand Festival held in “Imamiya-jinja Shrine” in Murasakino in Kita Ward.
“Yasurai Matsuri Festival” is a festival which serves as a forerunner of the spring festival of Kyoto, and is also called “Chinka Matsuri Festival” or “Yasurai” or “Yasuraibana” and is designated as an important intangible folk cultural property of the country.
“Yasurai Matsuri Festival” is known as the odd festival, and together with Kuramadera Temple’s “Kurama no Himatsuri” (Fire Festival of Kurama), Koryuji Temple’s “Uzumasa no Ushimatsuri” (Ox Festival of Uzumasa), it is counted as one of the three most eccentric festivals of Kyoto.
Contents of the festival, mainly around flower umbrellas decorated with cherry blossoms and camellia, while queues including redheads and black hair demons dance to accompany music, walk through the area of Ujiko (Shrine Parishner) and quell the plague.
“Yasurai Matsuri Festival” starts in the latter half of the Heian era, people in Kyo sang and dance to quench the flower’s spirit, and pray for a state of perfect health.
“Yasurai” is said to mean “Flower, rest peacefully.”
“Yasurai Matsuri Festival” is held every second Sunday in April every year. The venue will change as parades walk through the Ujiko area. The parade teams are called “Yasurai” and are divided into two. The team departing from Konenji Temple is called “Kozuke Yasurai” and departing from Kawakami Daijingu Shrine is called “Kawakami Yasurai”.
Two “Yasurai” will dedicate “Yasurai Odori Dance” at Imamiya-jinja Shrine and return to their starting point. They both leave at about 12 o’clock and arrive at Imamiya-jinja Shrine around 15 o’clock.
“Kozuke Yasurai” and “Kawakami Yasurai” circle around the hall, the point which “Yasurai Odori Dance” dancing at the three site in the precincts is not to be missed.
|Name:||Yasurai Matsuri Festival|
|Address:||Murasakinoimamiyacho 21 Kyoto Kita-ku, Kyoto 603-8243 Japan|
|Access:||Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma-sen Line “Kitaooji-eki Station” (25 minutes walk)|
|Tel:||(+81) 75-491-0082 (Imamiya-jinja Shrine)|