Kyoto's Aoi Matsuri, one of the city's three main festivals, was held Friday on a scaled-down basis, with the colorful procession that has been a major tourist attraction canceled amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers decided in March to cancel the procession on an 8-kilometer route in the ancient Japanese capital, which usually involves about 500 participants dressed in traditional aristocratic-style costumes of the Heian Period (794-1185) and drew 47,000 spectators last year.
The festival, which dates back about 1,500 years, is said to have begun as a way to pray for a good harvest. It is held at Kyoto's Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrines.
On Friday, Shinto priests in traditional costume gave offerings at the main hall of Shimogamo Shrine and prayed for the peace of the nation and an end to the epidemic.
The procession usually departs from Kyoto Imperial Palace and ends at Kamigamo Shrine after passing through Shimogamo Shrine. An "imperial princess," a feature of the procession, was not chosen from the public this year.
Japan lifted a state of emergency over the virus outbreak in 39 out of 47 prefectures on Thursday, but Kyoto was not among them because of the relatively higher infection number. It has so far reported about 360 COVID-19 cases.
The two other main festivals in Kyoto are Gion and Jidai festivals.