During my most recent visit to Kyoto, I was fortunate enough to attend the Jidai Matsuri Parade.
This Parade serves as a living testament to the history of Kyoto.

The Jidai Matsuri is one of three major festivals in Kyoto, and is held annually on October 22.
The Heian Shrine (a 2/3 scale model of the original imperial palace) was built in 1895, and the festival originated the same year to commemorate of the 1100th anniversary of Emperor Kammu's decision to transfer the capital to Kyoto in 794. Kyoto was known at that time as Heian-kyo.

Both the Heian Shrine and the Jidai Matsuri honor the memory of Emperor Kammu (reigned 781-806) and Emperor Komei (1847-1866), the first and last emperors of Kyoto.

The Jidai Matsuri transcends through time in a reverse chronological order. Starting in the mid 1800's and traveling back through time over one thousand years.

The parade begins with a Victorian Carriage in which ride Japanese and Foreigners, this symbolism represents Japan opening it's doors to the outside world in the mid 1800's.

Next comes the Royal Army who during the Meiji restoration defeated the Tokugawa Shogunate in order to restore power to the Meiji Emperor and his court.

Edo period is represented as a delegation from the Tokagawa Shogunate, paying a visit to the Emperor. Tokagawa Ieyasu, in 1600 won the battle of Sekigahara, this assured his power as ruler of Japan. He became Japan's first Shogun, the title of which was bestowed upon him in 1603 by the Emperor. Under the Tokagawan rule Japan was closed to the world for the next 250 years.

A visit from Toyotomi Hideyoshi to the emperor in 1590 is depicted by a large ox cart. Hideyoshi rose to power during the warring states or Sengoku Period. He continued the work of his Lord Oda Nobunaga, in uniting Japan. He was also known as being responsible for the rise in popularity of the Tea Ceremony or Chado.

Next arrives Oda Nobunaga, who entered Kyoto in 1569 and proclaimed to fight in the emperors name. He was known for his desire and success in uniting Japan under one Banner. He fought many battles including those against the Budhhist Monks, until his death at the hands of one of his own generals in 1582.

It is interesting to note that here the parade jumps back in time to Kusunoki Masashige, skipping some 200 years. All history pertaining to the rule of  the Kamakura Shogunate or Ashikaga Takauji have been omitted. This period and these rulers are purposely omitted, as this parade is a tribute to Kyoto and it's Emperor, not Japan as a whole.

The procession jumps back in time now to Kusunoki Masashige, a Samurai in the 1300's whose loyalty was with the Emperor Go-Daigo. Go-Daigo had planned to overthrow the Kamukura Shogunate, for which he was exiled. The emperor escaped due to the aid of Kusunoki, who latter died in battle with the forces of Ashikaga Takauji's in 1336. In Tokyo, a statue of Kusunoki is erected in honor of his selfless devotion.

Last are the Yabusame Archers who represent the Kamakura Period (1185 - 1333).  Yabusame is a Shinto tradition based on military practicality. The Yabusame Archers were required to shoot targets from galloping horses.

Over 12,000 historical artifacts are used and every reproduction has been made with the utmost care to ensure historical accuracy. The value of these costumes and accessories has been estimated at around $25 million.

The parade procession is immense, consisting of approximately 3000 participants and stretching over a mile long. The Parade begins on the grounds of Kyoto Gosho, the old Imperial Palace, and winds through the city over a three mile route ending at the Heian Shrine.

The parade lasts for around five hours, so if you plan to attend schedule the entire day.


While impossible to depict the entire parade, I have included a few photographic highlights.




The parade begins with this Victorian Carriage. It carries Japanese and Foreigners, which represents Japan opening it's doors to the outside world in the mid 1800's.


Izumo-no-Okuni (far right)  originator of the art of Kabuki.


The oxcart represents visit paid to the emperor by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590.


Oda Nobunaga 1569