Festival of the Ages

Kyoto, Japan / Photograph by Tica, 2013 Autumn

Ji Dai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages) of Japan is held annually on Oct 22 in Kyoto since 1895, being considered as one of the three most renowned festivals of Kyoto. It is composed of a five-hour historical reenactment parade, with around 2000 performers dressing up in authentic costumes. The long parades include different eras of Japanese history, from the earliest eras to Meiji eras, and the costumes, props and the short performance in the procession all conformed to the historical reality. The performers not only reenact different scenes of history, but also play the roles of famous historic characters, such as Tokugawa Ieyasu, to represent the eras.

Even though it was a workday, many people took part in or waited along side for the parades. The performers were Japanese local people aging from little kids to the elderly, men and women alike, which also characterized the meaning of Festival of the Ages — to pass on the history and the spirit of valuing the past. Even after walking under the sun for hours, the performers still showed smile on their face when playing traditional music or martial arts.

The main roads were half obstructed for the parade, while the whole path extended for 2 km to the destination “Heian Shrine”. It was really fascinating to see modern and ancient scenarios mixing together, that buses and cars waited for the parade to pass, and historic characters stopped at the red traffic light.

Kyoto, as the most cultural city in Japan and around the world, preserves the history and also incorporate new culture. The creation of the “Festival of the Ages” a hundred years ago has now become a respected convention, passing on the history and its spirits and bringing new forms of participation for modern people. And it is the common recognition of cultural value in Kyoto that protect and promote the procession of the ages even further.

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