Festival of the Ages – Jidai Matsuri

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Saturday was the Jidai Matsuri (Fesival of the Ages) in Kyoto, a huge procession with over 2000 participants that winds its way through the streets from the Imperial Palace to the Heian Shrine. The mikoshi (portable shrine) that is carried through the streets is said to contain the spirits of Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei, the first and last emperors of Kyoto before the capital was moved to Tokyo.

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People of all ages participated in the procession, dressed in costumes representing eras and characters of the region’s history, from the 8th century to the 19th century. Some are dressed as specific historical characters but, of course, I couldn’t tell when or if this was the case. The festival itself is comparatively recent, first held in 1895.

The procession was much larger than we had expected – we didn’t stay in the same spot for the entire thing, but the procession took well over an hour. Many of the horses were less impressed with the stop-start nature of the procession.

It was fantastic to see all of the costumes, and the incredible craftsmanship that goes into them, so many different colours, textures, fabrics…it felt like an elaborate museum display come to life. I loved seeing the weapons too – longbows, quivers of arrows, swords and spears. As with Osaka Castle, I probably would have got more out of it if I had an understanding of the history, but it was a great experience regardless.

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