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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

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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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    • 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 situated 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 luggage storage for guests. All guest rooms at the hostel are fitted with a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette. The rooms have a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. 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, 48 km from the accommodation.
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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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    • Guest House Oumi
      Budget-friendly
      Well set in the centre of 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. All units include a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. A continental breakfast is available daily at the guest house. Nijo Castle is less than 1 km from guesthouseoumi, while Kyoto International Manga Museum is 2.2 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from the accommodation.
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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. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has family rooms. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms offering a wardrobe, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere the rooms have bed linen and towels. An American breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie offers a terrace. Shoren-in Temple is 2.7 km from the hotel, while Nijo Castle is 2.8 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 48 km from Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandere.
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    • Ryokan Mugen (Adult Only)
      Luxury
      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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    • Kyono Mori Yurinsha
      Mid-range
      Boasting a bar and views of city, Kyono Mori Yurinsha is set in Kyoto, 1.5 km from Sanjusangen-do Temple. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. The property is 2.2 km from the city centre and 2.6 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a microwave, a kettle, a shower, slippers and a desk. The rooms feature a private bathroom, a hairdryer and bed linen. Guests at the inn can enjoy a ? la carte or an American breakfast. Kyono Mori Yurinsha provides an ironing service, as well as business facilities like fax and photocopying. Popular points of interest near the accommodation include Kiyomizu-dera Temple, TKP Garden City Kyoto and Samurai Kembu Kyoto. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 47 km from Kyono Mori Yurinsha.
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    • Yadoya Kikokuso
      Mid-range
      Yadoya Kikokuso is set in Kyoto, a 10-minute walk away from JR Kyoto Station and a 5-minute walk from Shichijo Station of the Keihan Line. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 2 km from Yadoya Kikokuso. Higashi Honganji Temple and Sanjusangen-do Temple are respectively a 5 and 10-minute walk from the property. Every room is equipped with a flat-screen TV. Certain units have a seating area where you can relax. The rooms are fitted with a shared bathroom. Extras include slippers and free toiletries. There is luggage storage space at the property. Samurai Kembu Kyoto is 2 km from Yadoya Kikokuso, while Tofuku-ji Temple is 2 km away. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 37 km from the property.
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    • Ryokan Tori
      Mid-range
      Ryokan Tori is located in Kyoto, 2 km from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The property is around 2.3 km from Nijo Castle and Kyoto Imperial Palace. The property is 3.2 km from Kinkaku-ji Temple and 3.7 km from Kyoto International Manga Museum. All guest rooms in the ryokan are fitted with a kettle. Each room has a shared bathroom, while selected rooms are fitted with a balcony and others also offer a garden view. All rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Guests at tori can enjoy an Asian breakfast. Heian Shrine is 5 km from the accommodation. Itami Airport is 50 km from the property.
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    • Yadoya Manjiro
      Mid-range
      Built in the Sukiya-style of around 1900, Yadoya Manjiro features Japanese-style rooms with relaxing garden views. The inn is a 5-minute walk from Kiyomizu-dera Temple and offers concierge services and a shared lounge. Free WiFi is also available. Tranquil rooms feature low furniture and traditional futon bedding on tatami (woven-straw) floor, paper screens and Japanese art decorations. They are fitted with a fridge and a safe. The Japanese-style inn is a 1-minute stroll from a number of restaurants and a 5-minute walk from a convenience shop or bus stop. JR Kyoto Station is a 10-minute taxi ride.
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