Wednesday, 5th November 2014
In Events In Japan,
Kyoto officially celebrated its dual celebrations towards the end of October, with both the Jidai Matsuri and Kurama Fire Festival taking place on the 22nd of the month. The events - one taking place during the day and the other during the evening - are true spectacles and make for an extraordinary atmosphere in this fantastic city which really loves to party.
The Jidai Matsuri takes the form of a parade and celebrates the foundation of Kyoto. From midday, a tumultuous flow of people, horses and carts can be observed walking from the former Imperial Palace to the Heian Shrine. What is noticeable is that everyone dresses up in historical outfits, with the front featuring characters from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and continuing in reverse order until the people at the back are wearing clothes that date back to 781. As well as this, there are marching bands with taiko drums and flutes, accompanied by people dressed as soldiers who would have fought with the Imperial forces upon Kyoto's formation. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the Meiji era's most notable figures, such as Sakamoto Ryoma.
As well as the extravagant costumes, there are also Mikoshi to keep your eyes out for. These intricately decorated relics are extremely valuable in Shinto rituals and a large crowd of people dressed in orange robes is tasked with carrying them the entire route. The parade is five kilometres long and would-be spectators are advised to get in early if they want a good view as this is an immensely popular occasion.
Kurama Fire Festival
On October 22nd, the sun may go down over Kyoto, but the Yuki-jinja Shrine remains illuminated against the blackness as the resident monks light up 250 individual pine torches in order to welcome their deity. The fun starts from 6pm when the flames - called kagaribi - are ignited all at once. Children and adults alike parade around carrying either a large or a small torch, beating back the darkness and participating in the celebration. The main features of this extravaganza are the three-metre-tall watch towers, which are set aflame at the start of the evening and make for a truly splendid sight. And at 8pm, people gather at the gateway of the Kurama-dera Temple and pay a visit of worship to the Yuki Shrine.
Once more, you can expect to see the mikoshi (portable shrines) carried on the shoulders of youths and paraded through the town streets. This festival is held even in the rain.
It's possible to attend both festivals on October 22nd, although it's worth noting that you don't have time to hang around as pretty much everyone wants to do exactly the same thing. Kyoto's metro and train stations fill up quickly and it's not uncommon to have to wait for an hour just to get on your way to the Yuki-jinja Shrine. While it's possible to take a taxi, the area surrounding the shrine is closed, meaning that you will need to walk the last mile or so.
Related news stories:
Koike: Japan's first female PM? (3rd September 2008)
Mayor of Kyoto outlines plans for tourism (22nd September 2014)
Kyoto named world's best city by Travel + Leisure for second consecutive year (8th July 2015)
Kyoto acclaimed as best travel destination (8th July 2014)