The annual Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession (あいの土山斎王群行) will be held on March 25, 2012. If you like kimono, you gotta see this festival. It’s a small, but very elegant and colorful matsuri in Koka’s Tsuchiyama area. A Saio princess dressed in a beautiful, juni-hitoe, 12-layer kimono will be carried in a palanquin escorted by a bevy of women in kimono. They also dance along the procession route. This is actually an extension of Kyoto’s famous Aoi Matsuri.
The Saio princess was an unmarried, young Imperial princess, often the Emperor’s daughter, who was appointed (by divination) to be the High Priestess of Ise Grand Shrines in Mie Prefecture from the 7th to 14th centuries. For about 660 years, over 60 Saio princesses served at Ise Grand Shrines. The new Saio princess traveled from Kyoto to her Saiku palace near the Ise Shrine. The journey took 5 nights and 6 days, and passed through Tsuchiyama in Shiga Prefecture. Held on the last Sunday in March, this festival reenacts the Saio Gunko procession in Tsuchiyama to Tarumi Tongu which was one of the five palaces where the Saio lodged along the way. The Saio princess is selected among volunteer women from Koka.
The festival starts at 11:30 am with the Saio princess carried on a palanquin arriving at a small park called Yume no Ogawa next to Ono Elementary School. She purifies herself at a small stream in the park. Then they gather inside the school gym for the Departure ceremony.
The procession will depart the school at 1:30 pm and proceed on foot on the old Tokaido Road to Tarumi Tongu (垂水頓宮). Tongu means temporary palace. There were five of them for the Saio princess between Kyoto and the Saiku palace in Ise. The one in Tsuchyama is a National Historic Site, although nothing remains of the palace. From 886 to 1264 (378 years), a total of 31 Saio princesses lodged at Tarumi Tongu.
The procession will stop and dance twice at 2 pm at Ichiba Kumin Hiroba square (市場区民広場) and at 2:40 pm at Maeno Community West Hiroba Square (前野集会所西広場). Great photo ops at these two stops. The procession will arrive Tarumi Tongu at 3:40 pm where a short ceremony will be held. The festival ends at 4 pm.
Getting there: Take the “Aikuru” bus from Kibukawa Station (JR Kusatsu Line and Ohmi Railways). In about 30 min., get off at Ono Higashi-guchi (大野東口) and walk to Ono Primary School nearby.
*In the case of rain, the festival will be held inside the school gym.
View Koka, Shiga Prefecture in a larger map
Video link: http://youtu.be/Xz_ryfa5dT4
More photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=733
Official site and schedule: http://www.kouka.ne.jp/~w1085116/saiou/15/15_schedule.html