The sake name of the world comes from the Aoi crest of the Tokugawa family. Here, we will introduce the story of Kamo Shrine, the Tokugawa family, and Enshu Yamanaka Sake Brewery, which are closely related to Aoi.

Aoi, the plant that meets God

Aoi Matsuri is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto. Officially called the Kamo Festival, it is a festival held at Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine, which are counted as the oldest shrines in Kyoto. In the Heian period, the word “matsuri” meant the Kamo Festival, and it has been an important festival for the people of Tokyo since ancient times. Aoi is the symbol of this festival. The crest of both shrines is Futaba Aoi, and during festivals, people involved wear Aoi and decorate their homes, a tradition that has been passed down to the present day.

So why did Aoi come to be considered sacred in the first place? Its history dates back to more than 2,600 years ago. It is said that Kamowake Ikazuchi-no-Okami, the deity enshrined at Kamigamo Shrine, descended after decorating Koyama near the shrine with hollyhocks. As a result, hollyhock became a sacred herb to pray for the appearance of God.

During the reign of Emperor Kinmei, the country was in great chaos due to poor harvests and epidemics, and I asked the gods for a way to solve the problem. At that time, the message was ``Let the Aoi decorate the horse and run the festival''. In other words, do the same thing as when the god of Kamigamo Shrine descended. It is said that when they hurriedly and politely retrieved the tree, the crops bore fruit and the country regained its calmness. This is the origin of the Aoi Festival.

Aoi often appears in Heian literature such as The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book. For example, in the stanza of ``Kusa wa'' in The Pillow Book, there is a passage that reads, ``Aoi, Itoyo Kazashi. In today's language, it means ``Aoi is very good. I can tell. In addition, Aoi wrote "Afuhi" in kana, which was interpreted as "meeting God". Furthermore, the interpretation has expanded to include encounters between people, and Aoi is often taken up as a word in Japanese poetry.

Aoi connects people and gods. Aoi connects people. Enshu Yamanaka Sake Brewery of "Aoi Tenka" got a relationship with Kamigamo Shrine because of the introduction of "Aoi". Thankfully, we were able to dedicate the Aoi world through a special prayer and the distribution of the Futaba Aoi plant.

The family crest of the Tokugawa family is the three-leaf hollyhock, which is familiar from the inro of Mito Komon. Enshu, where our sake brewery is located, has a deep connection with the 300-year history of the Tokugawa River, and the representative brand Aoi is named after this.

By the way, why did the Tokugawa family choose Aoi for their family crest? Kamigamo Shrine mentioned above is also deeply related here. The Matsudaira and Honda families of Mikawa Province believed in Kamo Shrine, and used the Aoi as their family crest. The Tokugawa family, which descended from the Matsudaira family, changed the design of the Futaba Aoi to adopt the family crest of ``Maru ni Mitsu Aoi''. In order to enhance dignity, Ieyasu strictly prohibited the use of Aoi crest by other families, not just Mitsuha Aoi. By the way, the three-leaf Aoi rarely exists in the actual two-leaf Aoi, and the three-leaf Aoi is said to be fictitious.

Kamigamo Shrine and the Tokugawa family connected by Aoi

Do you know the ritual called "Aoi Tsukai"? In 1610, Kamigamo Shrine presented Aoi to Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sunpu Castle. With this as the beginning, envoys from the Aoi-shi began to visit Edo Castle every year to present the Aoi, which grows wild in the precincts, to the Tokugawa Shogunate and others. By maintaining the relationship with the Tokugawa family as a shrine, it seems that there was a meaning to support the shrine's construction, which costs a lot of money. On the other hand, the Tokugawa family must have aimed to solidify their authority by showing a special connection with the historic Kamigamo Shrine.

The ceremony of the Aoishi was discontinued for a long time with the return of power to the Emperor, but in 2007, it was revived for the first time in 140 years. On the anniversary of Tokugawa Ieyasu's death, Kamigamo Shrine presented Aoi to Kunozan Toshogu Shrine in Shizuoka City, where Ieyasu is enshrined. This ceremony is included in the Shizuoka Festival, which is held in April every year, and conveys that culture to the present day.

Supporting the Aoi Project

In recent years, Aoi, which is indispensable for the Aoi Festival, has been declining. Citizens worried about this raised Aoi and dedicated them to the shrine. The "Aoi Project" started from these efforts. In 2010, the “NPO Aoi Project” was established in the Kamigamo Shrine office, and since 2020 it has been operating as the “General Incorporated Foundation Aoi Project”.

This project initially started with the students at Kyoto Municipal Kamigamo Elementary School. Then, in the following year, Aoi increased threefold. Due to its reputation, it has gradually spread to neighboring elementary schools and elementary schools in other prefectures, and now it is spreading to junior high schools and high schools, and even to companies that are interested in the environment.

By growing hollyhocks, we can protect ancient culture and pass on precious nature to the next generation. Enshu Yamanaka Sake Brewery also agrees with this initiative and carefully nurtures the aoi planted by Kamigamo Shrine. We will keep you updated on our progress on our website, so please check back from time to time.