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Jidai Matsuri Festival

Jidai Matsuri Festival

What is the Jidai Matsuri Festival?

Jidai Matsuri Festival known as one of Kyoto’s biggest festivals, along with Aoi Matsuri Festival in May and Gion Matsuri Festival in July, is organized by Heian Jingu Shrine. In 1895 Kyoto celebrated the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of the capital “Heian-kyo” and Heian Jingu Shrine was then founded in memory of this event to enshrine Emperor Kanmu who transferred the capital from Nagaoka (southwest suburb of present Kyoto) to Kyoto. The commemorative shrine festivals were held from October 22 to 24 with the support of “Heian Kosha” which was established by Kyoto citizens consisting of each school district in order to manage and preserve the shrine. The festival originates a procession in these festivals displaying traditional costumes of each period of Japanese history. The procession was held on October 25, the following day of a series of commemorative shrine festivals; however from 1896 the procession came to be held on October 22 every year, the day of which the capital was transferred to Kyoto.

Jidai Matsuri Festival has various shrine rites towards the procession: Sanyaku Senjo-sai on October 15: main paraders offer a prayer to the shrine, Zenjitu-sai on October 21: flowers are offered to the shrine, Shinko-sai on October 22: the spirits of the deities are transferred to sacred carriages to join the procession, Anzaisho-sai on October 22: sacred food and flowers are presented to the deities before the procession begins from the Kyoto Imperial Park, Kanko-sai on October 22: when the procession reaches the shrine, a prayer is offered to indicate the completion of the festival.

About the Jidai Matsuri Festival Procession

Jidai Matsuri Festival’s procession represents the major historical events in reverse chronological order from the Meiji Restoration in early 19 century to the Heian period in 8 century. The first procession in 1895 was made up of 6 groups; however it consisted of 8 groups in 1921, 10 groups in 1932, and in 1950 when a procession of women was added to it to be a much larger-scale procession of 2,000 people.

The spirits of Emperor Kanmu who transferred the capital to Kyoto and Emperor Komei the last Emperor who ruled Kyoto ride the sacred carriages called “Gohoren” to see if Kyoto is secured, developed and prosperous; the processions of each period are attached to them. The procession starting with the Meiji Restoration is made up of 8 periods: Edo (1600 – 1868), Azuchi Momoyama (1568 – 1600), Muromachi (1338 – 1573), Yoshino (1333 – 1392), Kamakura (1192 – 1333), Fujiwara (794 – 1185), Enryaku (782 – 806), consisting of 20 groups and as many as 2,000 people and about 70 horses and oxen, extending for about 2km. Each 12,000 costume and ceremonial item which adds colors to the festival is the absolute pinnacle of the work of Kyoto artisans. They made it possible to utilize ancient materials and techniques based on thorough research for the perfect recreation even including a single thread. The festival is unique to Kyoto which had been the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years with the concentration of historic events in Japan.

The Route of the Procession

Kyoto Imperial Palace1200→Sakaimachi Gomon1215→Karasuma Marutamachi1230→Karasuma Oike1250→Kawaramachi Oike1320→Kawaramachi Sanjo1330→Sanjo Ohashi1340→Sanjo Jingumichi1410→Heian Jingu Shrine1430

The time in ( ) is the estimated arrival time of the head of the procession. For the entire procession to pass a single location takes about 2 hours.

Detail of the Jidai Matsuri Festival Procession


People had enjoyed the peaceful reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate for almost 300 years, but meanwhile the principle of advocating reverence for the Emperor became popular among the people and drove them to a strong movement to revive the imperial government.
Many young farmers in Yamaguni Village in Kyoto Prefecture volunteered to participate in this movement. They formed several corps and joined the Imperial Force against the Shogun’s army.

EDO PERIOD1600-1868The Deputy of the Tokugawa Shogun used to visit the Emperor in Kyoto from Edo (ancient Tokyo) on the occasions of such important Imperial functions as the New Year ceremonies, coronation, etc.
Footmen who carry spears and traveling boxes toss them from one carrier to another while marching.

After many lords had fought one another, with great desires to conquer the whole country, Hideyoshi Toyotomi brought the whole country under a single authority.
This group of the procession represents the most brilliant scene from the period Hideyoshi Toyotomi, accompanying his son Hideyori, on the occasion of the celebration of his son attaining manhood, when he paid a visit to the Emperor with many subordinates.

The light battle armor and other costumes of the samurai warrior class in this period are depicted.
The Ashikaga shogunate includes mounted magistrates and styles not seen in other processions worn by those representing court nobles, doctors, and others in higher professions.

When the exiled Emperor Godaigo was returning to Kyoto, General Kusunoki, who devoted himself to bringing victory to the Emperor, went to Hyogo (near Kobe) to welcome the Emperor. This represents his victorious procession to Kyoto.

Yabusame is a shooting contest of mounted archers held since the Heian period. As ex-Emperor Gotoba attempted to regain sovereignty from the Kamakura military government, he gathered warriors from neighboring provinces on the pretense of training them for this contest. This group of the procession are in hunting clothes. Their feet are covered with deer skin.

After the middle of the Heian period, the Fujiwara family practically monopolized all the high official positions of the government. They enjoyed a prosperous, refined and romantic life.

The 3rd mounted person is General Tamuramaro Sakanoue, who subdued rebels in Oshu (the northern part of Honshu Island). This procession depicts his triumphant return.


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