This morning we had time for one more Kyoto festival before we all left for Osaka or Kansai Airport. We headed three subway stops north to near the Imperial Palace and found a spot in the shade to watch the Jidai Matsuri parade.
The Jidai Matsuri ( "Festival of the Ages") is a traditional Japanese festival ("matsuri") held annually on October 22. By pure fluke we had timed our visit perfectly. The festival traces its roots to the relocation of the Japanese capital from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1868. This involved moving the Emperor of Japan and the Imperial family and the Palace as well as thousands of government officials and subjects to the new city. Fearing for Kyoto's loss of glory and interest from her people, and to commemorate its history, the city government and the Kyoto prefectural government started the festival to celebrate the founding of Kyoto - over 1200 years ago.
Over 2,000 participants take part in the parade and are dressed in accurate costumes from different eras, as well as famous historical figures. There are samurai and archers on horseback, foot soldiers, women dressed highly complex kimonos, oxen pulling large carts and finally actors representing the Emperor and the Imperial family.
It takes two hours to watch the entire procession pass by. Drummers initially keep everyone in time but once they and a flute marching band pass there was little additional sound apart from the clop of horseshoes, the 'swoosh' of sandals and the scrape of metal walking sticks.
The crowds thinned out as the procession passed. Many people were here to see family in the parade - occasionally someone would call out and there would be much waving.
Every now and then the parade would come to a halt (a human traffic jamb). The horses would become impatient, stomp their feet and nudge their handlers as if to say "come on - let's keep moving."
We saw one of the actors break character. He reached into his pouch and answered his mobile phone.
This was a fascinating parade and something clearly held dearly in the hearts of the people of Kyoto.
On our way back to the hotel the subway was packed, so we all decided to catch a taxi to Kyoto Station, rather than struggling to find space including our luggage. We found our train to Kansai Airport with plenty of time. We bade farewell to The Navbour at Tennoji and he continued onto the airport. We went directly upstairs to the Marriot hotel.
The three of us have had a wonderful week in Kyoto, Hiroshima and surrounds. We were all pleased to have not only seen what we wanted to see but also have new experiences, some of which could not have been planned beforehand. There is still so much to see. Yesterday, The Navigatrix spoke to a French woman on the way to Toji markets - she was spending a month in Kyoto. Even then it is not possible to see everything.
There is always next time.