Crossing Uneven Ground

Jidai Matsuri – The Festival of Ages

woman-with-red-lips-jedai-matsuriKyoto, Japan.  I love a parade but this one is exceptional. It is the Jidai Matsuri and it takes place every October 22nd.  Over 1,000 years worth of historic Japanese royalty, military leaders and their entourages parade in costume through the streets of Kyoto. It’s magnificent. The parade’s participants represent Kyoto’s leadership from the Heian Period (about 781 CE) to the Meiji Restoration (1868 CE).  Imagine the Western equivalent;  English royalty from King Arthur through Queen Victoria festooned in their finery, tramping down the streets of London.  I don’t think that happens and I don’t know of another festival like the Jidai Matsuri… do you? (Really, if you do let me know by leaving a comment on this blog.)

Jidai Matsuri flute player

Flutes and drums mark the start of the two hour parade.

Jidai Matsuri marchers

The parade runs in reverse chronological order. The first marchers represent the most recent Meiji Restoration time period (1868 CE).


Men in shaggy white headdresses kick off the parade.

Jidai Matsuri marchers

Legions of soldiers. There are over 2,000 participants in the Jidai Matsuri.


I love finding moments when people break the mold and reveal their joy.


I image those chin straps get a little uncomfortable after a long march.

Man toting palanquin.

Toting a heavy palanquin would probably be a lot less fun if you weren’t in a cool parade.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on anything Japanese, much less this parade.  I can tell you that it is a wonder and you should try to see it.  The route is long; it takes about two hours for it to pass.  It is crowded but not crazy.  There are better blogs than mine concerned with detailed history and logistics.  I found this one at to be excellent.



A warrior with an elaborate helmet.


Lord Nobunaga Oda was considered to be the most powerful feudal lord of his time.

Steady samurai ride unruly horses.

Steady samurai ride unruly horses.


This lord acknowledges us with a wave of his fan.


An archer of the Kamakura period. 1190 – 1333 CE


A great costume and exuberant smile are worn by this noble.


Photo Stuff:  My photography friends will be glad to know that you can get a spot near the action if you arrive an hour or two early.  Joanne and I found a spot right inside the south gate of the Imperial Palace. Because we planted ourselves at a place where the parade turned a corner I had the possibility of some dark green foliage for a background. I found my tripod to be a nice-to-have addition. I was rockin’ my Canon D7 Mark II with a 70 – 300mm Canon EF.  I left my brighter, bigger glass back home for the sake of lighter, less back-breaking, more agile gear.



Clad in her wedding robe this is Princess “Kazu.” Her formal name is Madam Kazuno – Miya.

I've caught the eye of Princess Kazu.

I’ve caught the eye of Princess Kazu.


Orphans cared for by Hiromushi Wake.


Tomoe – Gozen is a gallant Japanese warrior. She fought alongside her husband wearing men’s armor.


Toward the end of the parade these men carried a mikoshi or heavy palanquin which holds the spirit of a divine being.


– We stayed at the Kyoto APA Ekimae hotel.  It is small, even by Japanese standards and we had other issues with the place but none too serious.


– The Kyoto APA Ekimae hotel is very conveniently located to Kyoto Station where you can catch trains, subways and buses to other destinations.  We really enjoyed both traveling from the station and hanging out there.  You could easily spend several hours exploring this modern, artistic train station.


12 thoughts on “Jidai Matsuri – The Festival of Ages

  1. Sydney Greenblatt

    What a magnificent spectacle! Love that you captured so many joyful faces. Costumes are amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Katie

    Incredible, Tom! What great faces! You realy captured the personalities as well as the pageantry. Once again, my thanks to you and Joanne for taking us along on your journey.


    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks for your kind words Barb. I hope you will consider writing a guest blog for Crossing Uneven Ground. I would really value your point of view regarding your world travels.

  3. Toshio Asai

    I used live near by the street that the parade was going along. I remember melody when the kids soldiers were marching.Your photos are great ! You captured the mouments that the people were proud of themselves what they were doing.-Preserving a historic festival. There is another parade in May called Aoi Matsuri. It is about Heian piriod. Next time ! I haven’t seen it since I was 20.

  4. Margo

    Tom- You truly have a gift for photography AND words. Love hearing about places we will never get to see. Love seeing the pride in the peoples faces. Thanks for taking us along.

    1. Tom Post author

      Thank you so much for the kind words. My best moments as a photographer are when I capture a moment of joy. Cheers and have a great holiday season.

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