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The Jidai Matsuri () is a festival that takes place every year on October 22, the anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto. It consists of a large parade that travels from the Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine. Jidai Matsuri is Japanese for "Festival of Ages", and the participants of the parade are dressed in accurate costumes from almost every period of Japanese history, as well as famous historical figures. There are about 2000 participants and it takes two hours to watch the entire procession pass by.

The Jidai Matsuri is held by Heian Shrine, and both the festival and the shrine were established in 1895 to celebrate Kyoto's history and culture. A few years before in 1868, the capital was moved to Tokyo after having been in Kyoto for over a thousand years. Despite its short history, the Jidai Matsuri is one of Kyoto's three most famous festivals, along with the Gion Matsuri in July and the Aoi Matsuri in May.

The historical costumes and characters that are displayed in the parade cover the approximately 1100 years during which Kyoto was the national capital. The procession is separated into historical eras and then further separated into themes, of which there are about twenty. The parade begins with characters from the Meiji Restoration in 1868, and then continues in reverse chronological order until the beginning of the Heian Period in 781.

At the very head of the parade there are the festival's honorary commissioners, riding in horse drawn carriages in the style of the mid 1800s. The commissioners include figures like the governor of Kyoto Prefecture, the mayor of Kyoto City and the city council chairman. Following them are figures of the Meiji Restoration. There is a marching band with drums and flutes and soldiers who would have fought with the imperial forces, as well as some of the era's most notable figures, such as Sakamoto Ryoma.

The largest group in the parade depicts the extravagant convoys sent by the shogun to represent him at important imperial ceremonies in Kyoto during the Edo Period (1603-1867). The three most important officials ride on horseback, and there is also a palanquin carried by attendants that the officials would use when traveling. Afterwards there is a much smaller group that consists of about a half dozen famous women from the period, including a princess sitting on a wheeled platform.

As the parade continues, spectators are able to see the armor of Oda Nobunaga and his commanders, the dress of warriors and common people of the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), more famous historical women and nobles of the Heian Period (794-1185). The costumes and characters of the military, cultural, aristocratic and common people are all put on display.

The very last group of the parade is the most important in terms of Shinto rituals. A large number of attendants accompany and carry two mikoshi (portable shrines) that contain the spirits of Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei, respectively the first and last emperors to reign from Kyoto. Heian Shrine is dedicated to the two emperors, and their spirits normally reside in the shrine. However, during the Jidai Matsuri the spirits are able to travel through the city in the mikoshi.

The entire route of the parade stretches about five kilometers. Crowds become most dense at the Imperial Palace and on the approach to Heian Shrine, where spectators may want to get a spot early. In addition to the regular viewing areas lining the parade route, there are also sections of reserved seats at the shrine, the palace and on the streets. Details on the reserved seats are written below.

Getting there and around

The procession departs from the Imperial Palace, travels along Oike Street and Sanjo Street, and finally terminates at Heian Shrine:

How to get to and around Kyoto

Hours and Fees

Paid Seating

There is some paid seating at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, in front of Kyoto City Hall and along the approach to Heian Shrine. Each seat costs 2500 yen, includes a pamphlet about the festival, and can be purchased beforehand at convenience stores or JTB travel agencies. Online purchase in English is available through Voyagin for 3000 yen per seat.

Hotels around Kyoto

Top rated in Kyoto
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    • Guesthouse Engawa
      Budget-friendly
      Guesthouse Engawa offers accommodation in Kyoto. Guests can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of Kyoto in their rooms. Each comes with a flat-screen TV, and an electric kettle will be provided upon request. Bathroom facilities are shared with other guests. Free toiletries and hairdryers are also available. There is luggage storage space at the property. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 600 metres from Guesthouse Engawa, while Heian Shrine is 2.4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Kyoto, this traditional Japanese guest house features free Wi-Fi and a free public computer. Shichijo Onmae bus stop is 3 minutesf walk away. A seating area and shared bathroom are provided with each room at Guesthouse KYOTO COMPASS. Free toiletries are provided and blankets are available upon request. Select rooms have a garden view. A shared living area and bicycles are available for guestsf use during their stay at this Kyoto Guesthouse Compass. Access to the shared kitchen is available upon request. The guest house is 4.5 km from Imperial Palace and 2.2 km from Kyoto Station. Nijo Castle and Toji Castle are within a 30 minutesf bus ride away.
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    • Ryokan Mugen (Adult Only)
      Mid-range
      Mugen is a property that was built 160 years ago, situated in Kyoto, 1 km from Nijo Castle. Every room at Mugen features an en suite shower room, toilet, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. You will find a shared lounge on site and a bar at the annex building. The ryokan also offers bike hire. Imperial Palace is 1.1 km from Mugen, while Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is 1.6 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 39 km from the property.
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    • Gallery Nozawa Inn
      Budget-friendly
      Gallery Nozawa Inn offers accommodation in Kyoto, 25 minutes on foot from JR Kyoto Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Every room includes a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Each room is equipped with a private toilet, and bathrooms are shared. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hairdryer. There is luggage storage space at the property. Guests can sample Japanese-style breakfast featuring seasonal ingredients. There is a public bathhouse located a 10-minute walk away. Nijo Castle is 2.4 km from Gallery Nozawa Inn, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.4 km from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 36 km away.
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    • Guesthouse tu casa
      Budget-friendly
      Attractively located in the Higashiyama Ward district of Kyoto, Guesthouse tu casa is situated 1.2 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple, 1.4 km from Kiyomizu-dera Temple and 1.9 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. Among the facilities at this property are a shared kitchen and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The guest house has family rooms. At the guest house rooms are equipped with a shared bathroom. Samurai Kembu Kyoto is 2.2 km from Guesthouse tu casa, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • Mitsuki Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Kyoto, within 600 metres of Kyoto International Manga Museum and 1.7 km of Nijo Castle, Mitsuki Kyoto offers accommodation with a garden and free WiFi throughout the property. The property is located 2.1 km from Kyoto Imperial Palace, 2.3 km from Heian Shrine and 2.3 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The accommodation provides a concierge service, ticket service and luggage storage for guests. At the ryokan every room has a private bathroom. An Asian breakfast is available every morning at Mitsuki Kyoto. Guests at the accommodation will be able to enjoy activities in and around Kyoto, like cycling. Shoren-in Temple is 3.2 km from Mitsuki Kyoto, while TKP Garden City Kyoto is 3.4 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 39 km from the ryokan.
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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in Kyoto, Guest House Oumi provides air-conditioned rooms, a shared lounge, free WiFi and a garden. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation offers a shared kitchen and room service for guests. At the guest house every room comes with a shared bathroom with free toiletries. A continental breakfast is available daily at guesthouseoumi. Nijo Castle is less than 1 km from the accommodation, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 37 km from Guest House Oumi.
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    • Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie
      Luxury
      Ideally situated in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie is situated 1.3 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2.3 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, a concierge service and luggage storage for guests. All rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a wardrobe. Featuring a private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries, rooms at the hotel also feature free WiFi. Shoren-in Temple is 2.7 km from Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere, while Nijo Castle is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • IMAYA Hostel Kyoto
      Budget-friendly
      Attractively situated in the centre of Kyoto, IMAYA Hostel Kyoto features air-conditioned rooms, a bar, free WiFi and a shared lounge. The property is around less than 1 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum, a 16-minute walk from Nijo Castle and 2.4 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen, a concierge service and ticket service for guests. The rooms at the hostel are fitted with a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette. The shared bathroom is fitted with a bidet, a hairdryer and free toiletries. All guest rooms will provide guests with a microwave. Kyoto Imperial Palace is 2.9 km from IMAYA Hostel Kyoto, while Heian Shrine is 3.1 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the accommodation.
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    • Hotel Muso
      Mid-range
      Well located in the Shimogyo Ward district of Kyoto, Hotel Muso is located 1.8 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple, 1.9 km from Samurai Kembu Kyoto and 2 km from TKP Garden City Kyoto. The 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The hotel features family rooms. The rooms in the hotel are fitted with a kettle. Guest rooms in Hotel Muso are equipped with a flat-screen TV and a hairdryer. The accommodation offers a hot tub. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 2 km from Hotel Muso, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 38 km from the hotel.
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