The Saio’s departure
The departure ceremony was performed by the emperor himself, who placed a boxwood comb in the Saio’s hair above the forehead, and told her never to look back at the capital. This comb was called the “farewell comb.”
The comb and box on display are reconstructions based on descriptions in an early 12th century document.
The Saio and her retinue of several hundred travelled the roughly 130 km distance from Kyoto to Ise in five nights and six days. The procession, called the Saio Gunko, was an important state event.
This diorama shows the procession route in red.
Once she had departed to Ise, the Saio was recalled back to the capital only when the emperor abdicated, or passed away. Although the length of appointment naturally differed from Saio to one person to the next, the longest serving Saio is recorded to have spent 30 years at the Saiku.
The Saio took the route shown in red back to the capital when the emperor abdicated. She took the route shown in yellow when the emperor died.