This is a Q & A based article that tells you everything you need to know about Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri, which is held in October 22nd.
Q1. What is Jidai Matsuri, and what do “Jidai” & “Matsuri” even mean?
A. Jidai Matsuri is a festival where you can see a large scale parade with about 2,000 people wearing historical clothes. Jidai means ‘era’ in Japanese, and Matsuri means ‘festival.’ The main feature of this festival is definitely the long procession (a 2 kilometers (1.24 miles)). The participants are divided into 20 groups, and each group wears clothing typical of a different era. The first group represents the voluntary army during the Meiji Restoration period, and the second one consists of representations of several important figures who were responsible for the Meiji Restoration. The groups continue in reverse chronological order.
Q2. Why is it so important?
A. The Kyoto Jidai Matsuri is one of the three most important festivals in Kyoto. Other two are the Aoi Festival and Gion Festival. Jidai Matsuri started in 1895, as a part of a memorial event marking the 1,100 year anniversary of the capital moving to Kyoto. The procession was organized by Kyoto locals. So, it is the festival to commemorate Kyoto. As explained in the answer to question No.1, you can see the typical cloths people wore from the Heian Period (when the capital was moved to Kyoto) to Meiji Restoration Period (when Japan was driven to modernization). There is no other occasions affording such an opportunity in Kyoto.
Q3. What is the schedule of the Jidai Matsuri festival?
Kyoto Jidai Matsuri starts at Kyoto Imperial Palace and ends at Heian Jingu Shrine. The main event, the procession, starts at noon on October 22th, and it takes the following route.
From Kyoto City Tourism Association
Q4. What is the highlight of this festival?
As explained above, the highlight of this event is the procession. And among the procession, pay a special attention to the group representing the Fujiwara Era. The real Maikos/Geikos from Gion Kobu district or Pontocho district (they take turns) join as the ladies of Heian.
Q5. Where should I go to see this procession?
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to see the procession. If you would like to watch the sacred Shinto ceremonies, you need to go to either Kyoto Imperial Palace (10:30) or Heian Jingu Shrine (the destination). However, if you just would like to see the procession, check out the map & time above and wait. Karasuma Oike intersection (right above Karasuma Oike Station (Subway Karasuma Line and Subway Tozai Line)) is one of the best places to see it, but be sure to get there at least 30 minutes before the procession arrives. If you would rather relax and still get a good view, reserve a seat beforehand. You can purchase a seat at the Tourist Information Center on the 2nd floor of Kyoto Station. It is 2050 yen per seat which comes with an official booklet (probably in Japanese).
Q6. What if it rains?
It will be postponed to the following day (October 23rd).
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