The Jidai Matsuri reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Jidai Matsuri

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The Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages) is held annually in Kyoto, Japan on October 22. The festival commemorates the transfer of the capital to Kyoto in 794 and was first held in 1895.

The Jidai Matsuri is one of Kyoto's renowned three great festivals, with the other two being the Aoi Matsuri, held annually on May 15th, and the Gion Matsuri, which is held annually from July 17th to 24thth.

The festival was originally created to raise Kyoto's moral after the loss of the capital and Imperial Court to Tokyo in 1868. It begins with the mikoshi (portable shrines) of the first and last Kyoto emperors being carried to the Old Imperial Palace, whereafter a procession of approximately 2000 then embarks on a 5 hour, 2 km route to the Heian Shrine, led by drums and fife bands. The participants in the procession wear period costumes representing styles from throughout Kyoto's history, beginning with the modernized soldiers of the Meiji era, corresponding with the end of the Kyoto capital in 1868, back to the founding of the capital with characters from the Heian period.