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Festivals of Japan: Jidai Matsuri in Kyoto

The Jidai Matsuri is held every October 22, which is the anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto.

By 3 min read 3

The Jidai Matsuri in Kyoto is a beautiful and elegant festival that is regarded as one of Kyoto’s three most famous festivals along with the Aoi Matsuri and Gion Matsuri.

The Jidai Matsuri (時代祭り), also known as ‘The Festival of the Ages’ is not an old festival as you would expect of one held in the ancient capital of Kyoto, but is quite recent in origin, only dating back to 1895 (which is regarded as pretty new in Kyoto).

The festival can trace it roots back to the relocation of the Japanese capital to Tokyo in 1868. Kyoto fearing that it would lose its glorious past after losing its status as the capital of Japan, decided to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Heian-kyō, the old name for Kyoto. To inaugurate the first Jidai Matsuri in 1895, the magnificent Heian Shrine was built to enshrine the spirit of Emperor Kanmu, who was the founder of Kyoto in 794 and its first emperor.

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The Jidai Matsuri is held every October 22, which is the anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto, and is a festival that can be enjoyed and appreciated by people of all ages.

Festival Highlights

The Jidai Matsuri features a large procession that travels from Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace) to Heian Jingu Shrine. The historical re-enactment takes place in the afternoon and lasts around 2 hours with the parade travelling along Oike Street and Sanjo Street from the Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine.

The highlight of the festival is the amazing costumes which range from the 8th century (Heian Period) to the 19th century (Meiji Period). These costumes give the festival its proud name of ‘The Festival of the Ages’. More than 2000 people dress in authentic costumes that represent various periods in Japanese history and characters from Japan’s feudal past.

These include samurai, military and historical figures and warlords. The historical costumes and characters displayed in the parade highlight the close to 1100 years of history of Kyoto as Japan’s capital. The procession is divided into different eras with the parade beginning with characters from the Meiji Restoration in 1868, and continuing in reverse chronological order until the Heian Period in 781.

The Jidai Matsuri begins in the early morning with mikoshi (portable shrines) of the first and last Kyoto Emperors brought out of the Old Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) for people to pay their respects, and continues into the afternoon with the historic procession.

The Jidai Matsuri in Kyoto is a truly unique and interesting festival that celebrates the wonderful culture and history of the ancient city of Kyoto.

Access:

Location: Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
When: October 22
Time: Procession leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace around noon and arrives at Heian Shrine around 2:30 pm.
Cost: FREE with paid seating available

You can reach Kyoto from Tokyo on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen with the fastest Nozomi train taking 140 minutes. The Kyoto Imperial Palace is located 5 minutes’ walk from Imadegawa Station. You can reach Imadegawa Station by taking the Karasuma Subway Line from JR Kyoto Station.

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