Location: Kyoto Gosho, Kyoto, Japan
Date: 22 October
Level of participation: 2 – shed a tear for Kyoto’s former glory
Compared with the former Japanese capital’s other major festivals, the Aoi and Gion Matsuris, Jidai Matsuri is a newcomer. It began in 1895 to raise the city’s morale after the Imperial Court shifted to Tokyo.
The main event is the historical parade, featuring period costumes from eras dating back to 794, when the city began its 1000-year tenure as capital. The parade starts at the city’s final imperial palace, Kyoto Gosho, which was built only 14 years before Tokyo grabbed the glory. The mikoshi (portable shrines) of the first and last Kyoto emperors are joined by more than 2000 people during the 4.6km procession to Heian-jingu, a Shinto shrine built to imitate earlier palaces. It takes more than an hour for all the participants to pass one point.
Like a museum on legs, the garb on display provides a crash course in 1000 years of Japanese history. Costumes range from kimonos of the Heian period, which began in 794, to military uniforms worn under Meiji, the modernising emperor who shifted the power base to Tokyo.
Essentials: if you miss the Kyoto Matsuri, a smaller version takes place in Tokyo’s Senso-ji temple precincts on National Culture Day (3 November).
Local attractions: with more than 2000 temples and shrines, three palaces and dozens of gardens and museums, Kyoto offers what many Westerners long for in Japan.
More info: www.kyotoguide.com
See other festivals in October here.