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Kyoto Jidai Matsuri
A Stately Pictorial Procession Chronologizes Kyoto's History
Japan Atlas
10/22/2004

Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages) is annually held on October 22. It started in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the transfer of the capital to Kyoto in 794, known at that time as Heian-kyo. As one of the three big festivals in Kyoto, along with the Aoi Matsuri and the Gion Matsuri, it is popular among the residents of the city as well as among many people in Japan, and about 150,000 people line the route to view the procession.

The central event in the festival is the Jidai Gyoretsu, a resplendent procession. In the procession, participants wear costumes representing the styles of each historical period starting with 1868 when the capital was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo and going backward to 794 when the capital was moved to Kyoto.

Led by a gallet fife and drum corps, the sumptuous and gorgeous procession comprises about 2,000 people and extends for about 2 km (1.24 miles). The spectacle also includes the charming junior geisha (maiko) and women dressed in the beautiful kimono of the imperial court. Proceeding along a 4.5km (2.8 miles) route (Miyako-Oji) from the Kyoto Imperial Garden to Heian Shrine, the parade lasts for nearly five hours.

In commemoration of the 1100th anniversary of the transfer to the Heian-kyo capital, Heian Shrine was constructed and Jidai Matsuri was instituted as an event on the shrine's ritual calendar. This splendid spectacle captivates spectators with its lavish celebration of the glories of bygone days, presenting the history of Kyoto, and accordingly the history of Japan, much like a picture scroll.

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