On 22nd October I witnessed one of the most spectacular events in Kyōto – Jidai-matsuri (“The Festival of the Ages”). It has Heian-jingū as a starting point and it impresses through the sumptuous celebration of bygone splendors.
The procession in the streets of the ancient capital is a return in time, since it starts with the Meiji Restoration (1868) and goes back to the setting up of the capital in the Heian period (794-1184) – the glorious golden age of the Japanese culture.
Over two thousand participants in the procession along the two-kilometer route display costumes which remind of outstanding figures and events from each epoch of Kyōto’s history: shōgun, samurai, famous ladies and traditional dancers. The parade gives the spectators the opportunity to look at the changes in hair and make-up styles, accessories, and costumes. I was extremely glad to catch sight of the woman representing Okuni, the forerunner of the Kabuki theatre, the main character of Sawako Ariyoshi’s novel I am so much fond of. While translating Izumo no Okuni I understood once again that when one heartily loved something (the same way I am keen on matsuri and kagura), it deserved any sacrifice.
I will not go into details about the parade because I should have to focus upon numerous historical facts. Nevertheless, I am going to introduce through photos only a very few aspects to stir up the spectator’s / reader’s curiosity and make him / her seek out the information longed for.
The purpose of this letter is not so much to offer information about matsuri and kagura, but rather to disclose the feelings they have aroused in me. However, I have mentioned Jidai-matsuri for the foreigners who arrive in Kyōto at the time of the festival and want to grasp its meaning as a renewal of the ancient capital’s ages, as the most fitting way of expressing its identity through history brought to life every year.
Photos: Angela Hondru©
Angela Hondru – Letter to Japan
UMC Bucharest 2020