Jidai Matsuri – The Japanese “Festival of the Ages”

Every year on October 22nd in Kyoto, Japan the Jidai Matsuri festival is held, celebrating the country’s long and complex history. This popular event consists of parades and historical re-enactments and participants dress in authentic costumes that evoke various periods in Japanese history.

Origins of the Jidai Matsuri Festival

The Jidai Matsuri festival first began when the Japanese capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1868. During this time the Emperor of Japan, his family and thousands of government officials were also relocated Tokyo. The city government of Kyoto was afraid that people would lose interest in the city, so they created the festival to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the city’s founding.

In order to celebrate the city’s history, a costumed procession was held representing people of every era throughout the history of Kyoto. The parade leaves from the Kyoto Gyoen Park at 12pm and it slowly makes its way down Karasuma-dori toward Sanjo-dori, then it progresses down Jingo-do toward the Heian-Jinja Shrine. The line of parading costumed people is very long and it usually takes around one hour for the entire procession to pass any one point.

Jidai Matsuri Festival in Kyoto, Japan
Musicians in the Jidai Matsuri Festival parade: Photo credit: Ingamar Zahorsky via photopin cc

History in Motion

Attending the Jidai Matsuri festival is like visiting a colourful living, breathing museum. It is a great opportunity to take a look at the accessories, fittings and costumes associated with Kyoto’s past. As you see these traditionally clad locals, surrounded by the old streets and architecture of Kyoto, you will feel like you have been transported back in time. The costumes in the parade proceed in reverse chronological order, from the Meiji Era of 1868-1912 all the way back to the Heian Era from 794-1185. All of the costumes have been beautifully recreated in painstaking detail and the colours are accurate to their respective time periods.

Jidai Matsuri Festival
Warriors in traditional clothes: Photo credit: gintacat via photopin cc

The costumes also include the traditional style of weapons, including bows and arrows and long handled samurai swords, as well as rifles from the Meiji Era. People of all ages participate in the event, from children to the elderly.

If you are fascinated with Japanese history and culture, this will be a wonderful travel experience and a great way to see the traditions of the past in action.

Tips for Watching the Parade

  • The event begins at noon at the Imperial Palace. However, it is recommended to show up early so that you can get the best seats and watch the participants preparing.
  • A great spot to watch the action is near the end of the parade route at the Heian Jingu, as there is a beautiful tree-lined boulevard here.
  • If you miss the event, you can always catch the smaller version that takes place in Tokyo on National Culture Day on November 3rd, at the Senso-Ji Temple.
  • Give yourself a few days at least to explore and appreciate Kyoto. This city has beautiful architecture, many interesting temples, fantastic cuisine and much more.
  • Book your hotel in Kyoto early, as accommodation is difficult to obtain over the festival

Have you been to the Jidai Matsuri Festival? Let us know about your travel experiences in the comments below.

About Kelly Dunning

Website: http://global-goose.com/

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run Global-Goose.com, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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