Highlights of the Annual Two-Day Event at Seimei Jinja Shrine
The prestigious Seimei Festival takes place every year at the historic Seimei Jinja Shrine, located near Kyoto Subway Imadegawa Station. Established in 1007, the shrine is dedicated to the legendary astronomer and Onmyoji (Yin Yang sorcerer), Seimei Abe, who was a highly skilled practitioner of Onmyodo (way of Yin and Yang). This ancient occult divination system was based on the Taoist theory of the five elements and used Abe’s unique creation, the pentagram (Gobosei), as a prayer charm.
The festival is held over two days and includes several processions, making it an essential cultural experience for both locals and tourists alike. Following are some key highlights that festival attendees can look forward to.
First Day: Yoimiyasai Festival
On the first day, starting at 7 pm, the Yoimiyasai Festival commences with a ritual performed by a priestess for safety and good health in honor of Abe no Seimei. As a renowned astronomer, he utilized various “magic spells”, techniques, and rituals relating to Yin and Yang elements to protect the capital from disasters during his lifetime (920-1005). The festival attracts many visitors due to its rich history connected with Japanese folklore and being featured in novels, movies, and video games.
Second Day: Reisai Festival
The most important event at this shrine occurs on the second day when Reisai Festival begins at 10 am. As parishioners participate in tea ceremonies and offer floral tributes to the deity, onlookers are treated to a children’s parade with around 100 participants dressed in colorful festival attire. The shrine premises are bustling with various street stalls to bring alive the festive spirit.
Mikoshi Parade: A Cultural Extravaganza
One of the most awaited moments in the Seimei Festival is the Mikoshi (portable shrines) parade on the Reisai Festival’s second day. Participants carry these beautifully crafted shrines and walk around the neighbourhood from 1 pm to 5 pm, with additional rituals happening en route during the Otabishosai Festival.
Musical Processions and Ancient Traditions
Accompanying the portable shrines in their parade are skilled boy flutists, young girls in traditional Heian Period attire, and men dressed as ancient warriors with long-handled spears atop horses. These processions provide a unique backdrop that celebrates Japan’s historical customs and vibrant culture.
Street Stalls and Family Fun
Festival attendees can also enjoy a wide variety of street food stalls set up around Seimei Jinja Shrine. Additionally, there are several games available for children and adults to participate in, making it a memorable family-friendly event.
Connecting Tradition with Modern Culture
The Seimei Festival not only honors Abe no Seimei’s legendary life and his mastery over Onmyoudou but has also become a popular cultural event that connects ancient traditions to modern Japanese society. With its blend of processions, vibrant atmosphere, food, games, and historical significance, this festival remains an essential part of Kyoto’s annual events calendar. It’s one of the most anticipated Kyoto events in September.
If you’re in Kyoto during the harvest moon season, immerse yourself in the rich cultural traditions and enchanting atmosphere of Meigetsu Kangen-sai, a festival held at Shimogamo Shrine.