Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages)

An absolutely resplendent procession faithfully re-creating various eras, moving like a picture scroll of the ages

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An event that started from the commemoration of the 1000 years of history of the former capital of Kyoto. The procession that faithfully realizes everything down to the clothing, hairstyles and makeup of those eras is exactly like a living picture scroll.
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A festival that started as a revitalization project for Kyoto

The Festival of Ages is one of Kyoto’s three great festivals which include the Aoi Festival and the Gion Festival, and began in 1895 to revitalize Kyoto whose spirit had been lost following the turmoil of the late Tokugawa Era and the transfer of the capital to Tokyo, and to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the Heian-kyo (the former name of Kyoto). It’s held every year on October 22nd, the day that the capital was moved to Heian-kyo in 794 and therefore the birthday of Kyoto. Citizens’ groups from all over Kyoto run the event with 20 sections representing the 8 eras of the Meiji Restoration, Edo, Azuchi-Momoyama, Muromachi, Yoshino, Kamakura, Fujiwara and Enryaku which include cows and horses and 2000 participants. With the sounds of taiko drums and flutes by the Yamaguni-tai squad in the lead, the procession takes approximately 3 hours to pass. Furthermore, at the end of the parade, the divine spirits of Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei, enshrined deities at Heian-jingu Shrine, ride the Horen mikoshi through the streets of Kyoto to view the lives of the citizens, with the purpose of the festival being for the citizens to pray as one toward the destination of Heian.

A procession whose traditional techniques of the old capital fascinate

In the procession, historical figures such as Ryoma Sakamoto, Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Lady Murasaki and Sei Shonagon parade, while groups of common folk clad in clothing representing each era vividly revive the lifestyles of those times, truly resembling a moving picture scroll of the ages. With 12,000 examples of clothing and furnishings along with all of the materials, dyes, designs and detailed background research behind the hairstyles and makeup, the traditional techniques of the old capital are re-enacted faithfully. The procession departs from Kyoto Imperial Gardens at 12 noon and arrives at Heian-jingu Shrine at around 2:30 p.m. You can sightsee for free at the departure point of Kyoto Imperial Gardens and can take photographs without including the modern architecture, so the area is recommended for taking photos that resemble a Heian picture scroll.

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Reviews

3 years ago
An amazing display of Japanese traditional dress!
If you are interested in Japanese history, and in particular Japanese traditional dress, Jidai Matsuri should be on your must-see list. The parade showcases all manner of dress, from the Meiji restoration all the way back to the Heian Period, and includes styles from all classes of life - from warriors and aristocrats, to historical figures and commoners. Viewing from the Imperial Palace or Heian Shrine locations is particularly memorable, as the dress in combination with the traditional surroundings feels as though you've been sent back in time. Along with the dress, the parade features traditional means of transportation, such as horses and cattle-drawn carts. It also has amazing omikoshi - large portable shrines that help spirits travel throughout the city. All in all it was a wonderful experience to witness, and is unique in the fact that its the only Japanese festival I can think of to feature such decorative and interesting clothing from so many historical eras. Just be sure to arrive early, as the viewing areas get packed, especially near the Heian Shrine and Imperial Palace. Its less crowded along the city streets.
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