{travel} Things I Did In October: Jidai Matsuri

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As promised, today I want to talk a little about the Jidai Matsuri, a traditional Japanese festival that takes place annually on October 22nd. Jidai is the Japanese word for ages, and matsuri means festivalJidai matsuri can therefore be translated as Festival of the Ages. Alongside the Aoi Matsuri in May and the Gion Matsuri in July, it is one of Kyoto’s three most famous and biggest festivals, and popular among locals and tourists alike.

The festival was held for the first time in 1895; reason for its creation was the commemoration and celebration of the 1100th anniversary of the transfer of the capital city to Kyoto (known back then as Heian-kyo) in 794. One of my friends that I went to the festival with described it as a walking museum, which is super accurate in my opinion: the matsuri is essentially trying to reenact history through a two hour long parade (called jidai gyouretsu) from Kyoto Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine. In this parade, around 2000 people are wearing traditional costumes from a variety of Japanese time periods – starting with 1868, the year when the capital city was changed from Kyoto to Tokyo, and going back to 794, when Kyoto (or Heian-kyo) became the Japanese capital. So it’s really a great opportunity to see a variety of traditional Japanese clothing styles.

The procession begins at the Kyoto Imperial Palace at noon, around twelve o’clock, and it ends many hours later at the Heian Shrine. My friends and I decided to meet at a supermarket near the Imperial Palace at around ten or eleven o’clock, and to then walk to the palace together to find a good spot to watch the festival from. When we arrived at the palace, it was already getting crowded, with many people arriving early in anticipation of the festival. We still managed to find a nice spot close to an area where you could reserve seats in advance to enjoy the festival from, and an old woman who had space for two extra people on her reserved bench invited me and another friend of mine to sit down next to her. Throughout the procession, she kept pointing at her brochure and explaining which age and which historical figures were represented in the parade, which I thought was really kind and sweet of her.

The parade took approximately two hours and was very interesting to watch. I saw a lot of cool historical Japanese garments and fancy carriages. At this point I think it’s better to just let my pictures speak. A lot of them turned out pretty crappy because some old dude in front of me had to film the entire parade with his stupid fucking iphone on a selfie stick … WHY.

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At the Imperial Palace, where the parade started.

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See that stupid iPhone at the bottom in the middle? That was the evil selfie stick man.

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So yeah, that was the Jidai Matsuri! If I ever get the opportunity again, I would definitely go see it a second time. Next time maybe from a spot from where I can take better photos.

After watching the parade, my friends and I went for lunch at the Doshisha cafeteria, since the campus is only about ten minutes away from the Imperial Palace. Some people left right after lunch to go see the Kurama No Hi Matsuri, the Kurama Fire Festival. Like the Jidai Matsuri, this festival is also held on October 22nd each year.

I had previously read on the internet that the fire festival gets very crowded. Therefore, since I’m not good with big crowds, I decided to skip out on this particular festival and stay behind with a couple other people. We decided on just spending a chill evening at an Irish pub (according to my Irish friend it wasn’t really Irish at all, but still a lot of fun.) I asked my friends who did go to the fire festival about their experience later, and they confirmed that it was indeed horribly crowded, but also very interesting and nice to watch. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll actually go. Who knows, who knows.

Anyway, that’s all I have to share for today. I hope this post was a little more interesting than the one yesterday. If you’re ever in Kyoto in October, definitely check out the Jidai Matsuri. It’s definitely a cool, cultural experience.

Thanks as always for reading, and see you in the next post ☆

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