Kyoto Jidai Festival – Feel Traditions in the Heart of Japan! 



October 22nd is the day of Jidai Festival in Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto. This festival started in 1895, and it is one of the three largest festivals in Kyoto, and even in Japan! You can see the triumphant march of 2,000 people dressed in traditional costumes.

Don’t you want to visit this fantastic festival? In this article, I will introduce you to this outstanding event and support you with helpful tips on this matsuri!

 The Origin and History of Jidai Matsuri

Kyoto has been the capital of Japan for about 1000 years since 794. In 1895 – the 1100th anniversary of the capital transfer, the Heian Jingu Shrine was built in the middle of Kyoto City, and people started holding a big festival for three days. This became to the origin of today’s Jidai Matsuri. The kami (a god) of this festival is Kanmu – the emperor at the time of the 1100th anniversary. People canceled this festival for six years from 1945 (because of the WWⅡ), but the tradition continued after the war.

Festival Breakdown

The main event of this festival is, of course, Jidai Gyouretsu – a long procession of people in the costumes from the Heian era to the Meiji era. About 2,000 people parade dressed in authentic costumes representing various periods and characters in Japanese feudal history. The procession line itself is long – about 2 km!
They start walking from the Kyoto Imperial Palace and end at the Heian Shrine. They walk for about 5 km, which takes 3 hours during the day.

Jidai Matsuri as a Traditional Fashion Show

You can see various costumes at this festival. The procession divides into six periods –Meiji period (1868-1912), Edo period (1600-1867), Azuchi-Momoyama period (1468-1599), Muromachi period (1334-1573), Kamakura period (1185-1333), and Heian period (794-1184). Each person plays a man or a woman who lived at a particular time. Some people wear armors and ride the horses, while others are dressed in a luxurious kimono. Their costumes will tell you the societies where they were living. I will introduce some of them with the pictures I took.

Meiji Period

The opening of the procession is the Meiji period (1868-1912). This picture shows two Prefectural governors on a carriage.

In 1867, the shogunate politics was finally over. The shogunate politics lasted for about 700 years, and the Edo shogunate was the longest one. It lasted for 267 years. Next year, when a new government came to power, it did the Meiji Restoration which was a Westernization policy. The cloth changed from Kimono and Hakama to Western dresses and suits. A lot of people behaved as gentlemen instead of Samurai. Some rich people got into a carriage like in the picture. But please look at it carefully; the men beside the horses wear Happi – a traditional Japanese jacket. Not everything had been westernized immediately.

Muromachi Period

The next is the Muromachi period (1334-1573). This period is the most important for Kyoto. In 1967, a big battle – Ounin-no-Ran occurred and was lasting for 11 years. It affected a large part of Kyoto and destroyed it.
After that, influential residents of Kyoto revived and created a lot of cultures. These people are dancers of Furyu-odori which was also created by them. Some people play the Japanese flutes, and the other sing and dance. The big palanquin at the end of the line is a key person’s car – a princess in this case.

Heian Period

The final one is the Heian period – the beginning of Kyoto. The government transferred the capital from Nara to Kyoto and called it Heiankyo. Since then, Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years.
In this period, some women carved their names in history. Literature masterpieces written by women such as Murasakishikibu and Seishounagon are still famous around the world. Considering this historical aspect, a lot of women show up in Heian period part of the procession.

Heian Shrine’s History

Heian Shrine – the main stage of this great festival, was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of Heian-Kyo as a capital of Japan. The shrine is the home of two emperors – Emperor Kammu, who founded the base of Kyoto, and Emperor Komei, who established the core of modern Japan.

The entrance gate is “Outen-mon.” It is 24.2 meters tall, and it is one of the biggest gates in Japan.
Over 1,000 years ago, Heian-kyo also had an “Outen-mon” gate. It was also an essential part for Heian-kyo, but in 866 it was burned during Outen-mon Incident.
Today’s Outen-mon gate resembles the ancient one.

How to Enjoy the Kyoto Jidai Festival?

At Jidai Matsuri, people who are selected in a particular way constitute the costume procession. Sadly, but you cannot walk with them.

However, you can stand beside the course and look at them very carefully. As this procession walks around Kyoto for hours, there are many opportunities to take great pictures freely.
Then, where is the excellent place to enjoy this procession? I recommend you get a space beside Jingu road, which is in the south of Heian Shrine. There is a memorial park so you can be more relaxed than standing by the road.

However, please notice that this area is very crowded. If you want to sit down during the procession, it would be better to pay for seats (please reserve it in advance.)

Let’s Walk Around Heian Shrine

Heian Jingu locates in the Okazaki area. It was the capital center in the Heian period. Some of the retired emperors (for example Shirakawa or Toba) lived there. There were many temples around the Imperial Palace.
This area has a lot of spots for sightseeing. For example, Nanzenji temple was built in the east of Heian Jingu in 1291. It is one of the most important temples of Zen. It is filled with seasonal events – you can enjoy cherry blossoms in spring and colored foliage in autumn! Okazaki in the northeast of Heian Jingu worships a rabbit as a god of fertility. You can see two rabbits facing each together (instead of guardian dogs). Please also try rabbit’s omikuji – fortune-telling paper strips at the shrine!

Okazaki is also an area of art. Just a few minutes walk from Heian Shrine; you can get to Kyoto City Art Museum (a.k.a. Kyocera Museum), Kyoto City Modern Art Museum, and Rohm Theater.


The Schedule of Jidai Matsuri Festival

12:00 Start from Kenreimon (建礼門) *in the southern part of Kyoto Imperial Palace
12:28 Karasuma Marutamachi (烏丸丸太町) intersection
12:52 Karasuma Oike (烏丸御池) intersection
13:27 Kawaramachi Sanjo (河原町三条) intersection
13:38 Sanjo Ohashi (三条大橋), Sanjo Bridge
13:56 Higashiyama Sanjo (東山三条) intersection
14:12 Sanjo Gingumichi (三条神宮道) intersection
14:30 arrive at Heian Shrine (平安神宮)
15:00 Kankosai (還幸祭) *the finale

Jidai Matsuri Festival Details

Date: October 22 every year
Place: Jingu-michi Road, Heian-jingu Shrine, etc.
Address: 97 Nishi Ten-no-cho, Okazaki Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City


From JR Kyoto Station

City Bus 5 system, Raku Bus No. 100, 110 system
Get off at “Okazaki Park Museum, Heian-jingu mae ” and take a 5-minute walk to the north
(About 30 minutes from Kyoto Station)

From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station

City bus 5 line, 46 line, 32 line
Get off at “Okazaki Park Museum, Heian-jingu mae” or “Okazaki Park Rohm Theater Kyoto, Miyako Messe” and take a 5-minute walk to the north
(About 20 minutes from Kawaramachi station)

From Subway Tozai Line Higashiyama Station

Get off, and take a 10-minute walk to the north

From Keihan Line

・”Sanjo Station.”
Get off, and take a 15-minute walk to the northeast
・”Jingu Marutamachi Station.”
Get off, and take a 15-minute walk to the southeast

From Gion, Kiyomizu Temple district

・City bus 201 lines, 203 lines, 206 lines
Get off at “Higashiyama Nijo” and walk for 5 minutes to the east
・Raku Bus No. 100 system
Get off at “Okazaki Park Museum, Heian-jingu mae” and take a 5-minute walk to the north
(About 25 minutes from Kiyomizu road)

Information: Heian Shrine (TEL: 075-761-0221)
Official Homepage (Japanese Only):

Closing Remarks

Now you know the great history of Jidai Matsuri and Heian Shrine and the way how you can enjoy it more. See the real Kyoto with your eyes! We’re looking forward to seeing you there on October 22.
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I am a university student in Kyoto, majoring in Japanese art history. I have held international event to learn deep Kyoto together. It’s my pleasure if you read my article and get interested more about our culture.

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