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Jidai Matsuri Festival
October 22

A Picturesque Procession of Kyoto's 1, 200 Years of History

The Jidai Matsuri Festival, or ''Festival of Ages,'' is one of Kyoto's three biggest festivals (the other two are the Aoi Matsuri Festival in May and the Gion Matsuri Festival in July). In 1867, Kyoto City held the first Jidai Matsuri Festival: a colorful, exotic costume party dedicated to the Old Capital's 1,200-year history.

*Photo courtesy of Jeremy Hoare; www.kyotophotogallery.com

The first festival marked the opening of Heian Shrine, a 2/3 scale model of Kyoto's original imperial palace. The shrine was specially built to enshrine the spirits of Emperor Kammu (reigned 781-806), who set Kyoto as the national capital in 794, and the city's last reigning emperor, Emperor Komei (reigned 1847-1866).

Today, after more than 140 years, the Jidai Matsuri Festival continues to be a major focus of pride for the city of Kyoto. For most visitors, the festival's biggest attraction lies in the grand parade in which participants are dressed in accurate costumes from almost every period of Japanese history covering twelve centuries of Kyoto history and social development, as well as famous historical figures such as famous samurai lords and literati.

The processions of renowned ladies from different periods are some of the highlights of the Jidai Matsuri Festival as, from head to toe, the clothes and hairstyles that were in fashion at the time have been reproduced just as they were. All the hairstyles are made by professionals called yusoku biyoushi, an occupation engaged in studying traditional events, manners, customs and costumes, and passing them onto future generations.

The festival itself begins at 7:00 in the morning on the 22nd with the transferal, on sacred palanquins (covered seats carried on poles on the shoulders of two or four people), of the imperial spirits from Heian Shrine to the Old Imperial Palace.

At 12:00, the southern central axis of the Old Imperial Palace becomes a massive stage of the ages. A grand costume parade consisting of 2,000 people, about 2 km in length, will start to move across the city to Heian Shrine. Each group in the procession represents a different period of Kyoto's history, starting from the Meiji Restoration period (around 1868) and ending with the Heian period (794-1185). More than 12,000 pieces of furniture, costumes and tools have been recreated based on thorough historical research. It offers visitors a special chance to experience the splendor and detail of Kyoto's amazing history.

*In case of rain, the festival will be postponed.

Other Jidai Festival Related Events

Oct. 15
Senjo Receiving Ceremony

From 13:30, about 500 people who will participate in the procession come to the Heian Shrine and pray for a safe and successful festival. After the ceremony, a shrine priest gives out appointment letters.

Oct. 15
Celebratory Dance ''Ashi-gatame''

From 15:00, a folk line dance will be performed in the precincts of the Heian Shrine by 300 female dancers all wearing the same costume.

Oct. 21
Festival Eve Flower Dedication Ceremony

From 10:00, flowers are presented to the deities at Heian Shrine.

Oct. 22
Daigokuden Festival & Kanko Festival

From 16:00, when all the groups in the procession have arrived at Heian Shrine, the Horen (second palanquin) is settled in the Daigoku-den Hall and a representative offers prayers. Then the spirits of the deities are brought back to the shrine's main hall signaling the end of the festival.

The Jidai Matsuri Festival parade viewing seat tickets
2,050 yen (reserved seating with a brochure)
*Seat tickets (3,500 yen) with English earphone guidance are also available on Oike Street.
Venue: Kyoto Imperial Park / Oike Street / Jingu-michi Street

Ticket available at: Kyoto Tourist Information Center (Kyo Navi: 8:30-19:00 daily); Kansai Tourist Information Center Kyoto by JTB (10:00-18:00 daily); www.tourist-information-center.jp/kansai/en/kyoto/ ; *Additional fees may apply depending on the agents.