Jidai matsuri (Festival of the Ages) (時代祭)
Heian Kosha was established as a civil organization for the management and preservation of the Heian-jingu Shrine, and 'the festival' was started as a project to celebrate its anniversary.
An idea to augment the mood of the festival was to have a procession in Kyoto style representing each historical period, from the newest to the oldest, prior to the transfer of capital to Tokyo; and the festival started to be called 'Jidai matsuri.'
The first festival was held on October 25, 1895 to worship the newly built Heian-jingu Shrine; from the following year, the festival took a form in which 'two great spirits of Emperor Kanmu and Emperor Komei, who are the objects of worship, visit the shrine from the Kyoto Imperial Household, which used to be their residence, with a long line of attendants following in the procession, enjoying the view of the flourishing towns.'
The date of the festival was decided to be the day Emperor Kanmu was believed to enter Kyoto, on October 22, therefore, it is the birthday of Kyoto, the city that he decided to become the capital after moving from Nagaoka-kyo (the ancient capital of Nagaoka). The festival starts on October 15, with the Sanyaku Senjosai ceremony (whereby the roles in the procession are declared), and ends with the closing ceremony held on October 23.
Structure of Procession
The procession consists of performers who are dressed and have instruments and objects, forming18 sections representing seven periods, starting with the Meiji Restoration, followed by Edo, Azuchi-Momoyama, Yoshino, Kamakura, Fujiwara periods, ending with the Enryaku era. The number of performers are 2,000 with the total length being 2 km, and the procession lasts about 3 hours. The head of the procession is meiyo-bugyo (the honorable commissioner), which is served by the Governor of Kyoto Prefecture, Mayor of Kyoto City, and others. Shinkoretsu (the procession of the shrine god), which is the main figure of the festival, is at the rear of the Jidai procession.
The drum and bugle corps for the procession of Meiji Restoration and Restoration royalists, which are in the forward part of the Jidai procession, are conscripted army of farmer loyalists, Yamaguni platoon used to be composed of actual veterans from the first festival in 1895 to sometime in the Taisho period.
There used to be only the 'Yoshino era' procession, which represents only the early Muromachi period; the procession for the Muromachi period had been added to the Jidai procession as of 2007, after having been reviewed at the opportunity of the 1200 Anniversary of the demise of Emperor Kanmu.
The procession starts at Kyoto Imperial Palace at noon. It proceeds along Marutamachi-dori street and southward on Karasuma-dori street, then moves through the center of Kyoto City, from Oike-dori street to Kawaramachi-dori street, and Sanjo-dori street, heading north on Jingu-dori street to return to Heian-jingu Shrine. The total route of the procession is about 4.5 km.