Seeing Jidai Matsuri

By | Category: Travel destinations
image of Junihitoe

Junihitoe – a twelve-layered kimono

If you ask people about Kyoto they might tell you that it is old capital of Japan; that it is the cultural heart of the country and that spring is the best time of the year to visit because of the cherry blossom.

But how many know the annual Jidai Matsuri festival, which commemorates the relocation of the Japanese capital from Kyoto to Tokyo in the nineteenth century and, is one of the city’s most celebrated events.

Taking place each year on 22 October, Jidai Matsuri, also known as the “Festival of the Ages honours the city’s historical ties to the Emperor and ancient Japanese culture.  But what was once a very domestic celebration now attracts visitors from Asia and much further afield.  More and more people are booking visits to Japan in October so that they can deliberately be there when Jidai Matsuri occurs.

The festival’s origins lie in the Meiji Restoration of 1868, whereby the Emperor of Japan and the Imperial family, the Imperial Palace and thousands of government officials and subjects were transferred to the new capital city of Tokyo. The day is most known presently for the Jidai Gyoretsu – the highly atmospheric historic pageant.

Proceedings begin with crowds paying homage to the portable shrines (known as mikoshi), which are brought out in front of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. This is followed by a five hour procession through the city by 2,000 participants parading through the streets. Revellers are dressed in complex and striking period costume, which are authentically reproduced with great care using traditional, handcrafted techniques. Different participants plan their costumes to symbolise a particular era in history.

Some even go further by wearing costumes that represent a notable character from the past. Among the crowds, people dressed as samurai, geiko, military figures and peasants from the most ancient eras to the Meiji era can be spotted.

The parade covers over four kilometres of Kyoto and fills the whole afternoon, towards the end of which women dressed in Jūnihitoe, the most intricate twelve-layered kimono, adorn the streets with their grace and beauty.

To end the celebrations, the mikoshi, which represent both Emperor Kanmu and Emperor Kōmei, are carried to the final landmark at the Heian Shrine.

Then the costumes are carefully packed away until next year. But whilst the costumers disappear the planners sit down and start working in the next Jidai Matsuri.

For more about Kyoto, click here.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , ,