The Gorgeous Emaki Parade of the Ages at Jidai Matsuri, One of the Three Big Festivals in Kyoto: Part 1

In this article, we introduce a big festival called “Jidai Matsuri” (Festival of the Ages), which is held in Kyoto on October 22nd. This festival captures the history of Japan by having a gorgeous parade, which catches our eyes. It is such a fun festival for both locals and tourists.

Hello! This is KOKORO MOYOU, and I’d like to share some local information about Kyoto.

Today, I am going to talk about Jidai Matsuri, which is one of the big three festivals in Kyoto. I went to the festival on October 22nd, 2015, and all these pictures were taken on that day. The festival takes place in “Kyoto Gyoen,” right by the Marutamachi Station.

What Is Jidai Matsuri?

Jidai Matsuri is one of the big three Kyoto festivals. It is a big festival that attracts a lot of tourists from both Japan and other countries. It is such a rare and unique festival, a parade with clothing and accessories that symbolize Japanese history. It looks exactly like Emaki, an illustrated narrative form invented during the 11th to 16th centuries in Japan. This parade is huge. It consists of 20 lines made up of around 2000 people, and around 70 cows and horses. The length of these lines totals 2 km.

The 12,000 pieces of festival tools, clothing and accessories used in this festival are reproduced based on strict research, and act as summary.The objects used in the festival are said to be very valuable.

Because this festival is also defined as Kyoto’s birth festival, it is held on October 22nd, every year. (In case of rain, they will postpone until the weather improves) October 22nd is said to be the day when the Kanmu Emperor moved the capital from Nara’s Heijokyo to Kyoto’s Heiankyo.

Here is how the festival started: In 1895, the Heian Jingu was built as a shrine to worship Kanmu Emperor. In the same time, they threw a huge festival to celebrate 1100 years of Heiankyo being the capital of Japan. For the festival, they planned a parade of the ages, from the period of Bakumatsu Ishin to the Birth of Heiankyo, as one of the celebration events. That is why the parade starts from Heian Jingu, goes around Kyoto Imperial Palace, takes a tour in the city, and goes back to Heian Jingu.

(Reference: “Hokyoban Kyoto Kanko Bunka Kentei Shiken Koushiki Text Book”)

Jidai Matsuri In Pictures

Now let’s see Jidai Matsuri in pictures!

Police officers on horseback also join the festival. It seems like a lot of work!

This is the flag at the head of the Jidai Matsuri.

The parade starts at noon from Kyoto Gyoen, and continues to Karasuma Dori, Miike Dori, Sanjo Dori, and Heian Jingu.

Starting from the recent period, the Meiji Ishin period, the parade continues to the older periods in the following order: the Edo period, the Azuchi Momoyama period, the Muromachi period, the Yoshino period, the Kamakura period, the Fujiwara period, the Heian period, and the Enryaku period.

1) The Meiji Ishin Period

The first period, Meiji Ishin, was a big turning point for Japan. The Edo Government lasted for 250 years, but they lost the big civil war with the Emperor Faction, which tried to make Japan an imperial nation again. After the end of the Edo Government, the emperor became the center of the nation, and they started a new government to modernize Japan. (For the history of the Meiji period, please read this article.)

This picture shows the “Ishin Kinnou (Samurais who were on the emperor’s side when the Meiji Ishin happened) Line”.

2) The Edo Period

Now let’s go back to the Edo period. The Edo period is an era when the Edo Government took control of the politics. In this era, there was a political system called “Sankin Kotai”, which orders every feudal lord in each area to go to Tokyo, where the government is, to work regularly. This systm was created to prevent the feudal lords from having too much power. The Edo period parade represents the Sankin Kotai system.

First, this is called Nagamochi (A wooden box used in the era to carry things).

The next is a palanquin. The design is so gorgeous that a lord can ride it.

This is Ms. Kazunomiya. She is an Imperial Princess who is the aunt of the Meiji Emperor. She decided to get married with Samurai Iemochi from the Edo Government in order to calm the tensions between the imperial family and the government.

This is Yoshino Tayu. Tayu refers to a geisha that belongs to the highest level. Yoshino Tayu’s fame is said to have reached all the way to China because she was the most beautiful and talented Tayu in Japan.

This is Ms. Izumono Okuni. She is said to be the founder of Kabuki.

The Edo period caused an intensification of indigenous Japanese culture because the “Sakoku Policy”, implemented at this time, shut down any communication with overseas nations.

Of course there is another horse here as well.

3) The Azuchi Momoyama Period

This is the Azuchi Momoyama period. During this period, the emperor had less power, and the Samurai from the civil war were governing each region of the country. After that, Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who won the competition, attained more power than the emperor, and they started taking control of the whole nation.

Let’s start with the parade of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Here, we saw a cow instead of a horse.

This is a backup cow.

The next is a parade for Nobunaga Oda.

This horse has thick legs. Although it doesn’t seem like a fast runner, it definitely looks powerful.

He’s got a sweet face.

One of the good points about this parade is that the armor and the clothing are of such high-quality.

4) The Muromachi Period

The Muromachi period is way before the Edo period, when Ashikaga Takauji governed Japan as he was assigned to the general by the emperor.

The first parade is based on the Muromachi Government.

The Muromachi period gives way to the Sengoku period, when the civil war happened. I saw more Samurai-like people wearing armors.

The scene changed suddenly a parade of Samurai to this gorgeous parade, which represented the manners and costumes of the Muromachi period.

There was even a child who played the Taiko drum! How cute.

This is Gawa Odori.

To be continued...

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Kyoto is the best for me, I believe Kyoto has all things of this world. I live in Kyoto, so I'll introduce a number of local information like shrines, temples, Teien(Japanese traditional gardens), Kouyou(autumn leaves), beautiful scenery of four seasons and Kyoto gourmet and so on...