Sunday, May 6, 2012

Samurai on Parade - Jidai Matsuri Kyoto 1960

During my tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, while stationed in Japan, I took leave to visit the historical former capital cities of Nara and Kyoto. The year was 1960. I timed my visit to coincide with a major annual festival, the Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages or Epochs), which I had researched. The primary feature of the festival is a parade of reenactors in historical costumes portraying significant personages in Japanese History. Many of the costumes seen in these images are authentic antiques from museums and private collections, carefully borrowed for the day.

Included are Samurai lords and warriors both mounted and on foot. It was October, and the weather in the ancient cities was postcard perfect. I was able to obtain a press photographers set of credentials, and as a result had unlimited access to the entire procession. It was a significant event in my life, and I would like to take a brief opportunity to share some of parade with you. At one point I could recall each historical personage by name and date. Today I have recovered my 35mm slide archives (since converted to CD-ROM), and have incorporated all the titles I'm able to find.

At the time I had purchased the state of the art in Nikon cameras, a Nikon S3 (now a classic), and in addition to the standard Nikor 50mm lens, had a 35mm Wide-angle and 105mm Telephoto lens. I was not a trained professional photographer, so composition may be lacking, but for a rank amateur the results were acceptable. By clicking on the images they may be enlarged (book cover excepted).

For anyone with further interest I would highly recommend trying to find the following book; SAMURAI, Arms, Armor, Costume, Mitsuo Kure, Chartwell Books Inc., Edison New Jersey, 2007, ISBN 13 978-0-7858-2208-0 or ISBN 10 0-7858-2208-9. Still available new or used on

Following are photographs from the Jidai Matsuri of 1960. Note seeming differences in venue with the video of the event in 2011. This is only due to the fact that I was at the start of the parade which originates at the Imperial Palace. In my personal opinion this is the best viewing location (gravel path versus paved street). It seems a lot more authentic as the recreation of history is better than when the procession is later marching through the modern streets of Kyoto, complete with automobile traffic. If interested also please see associated link on the Jidai Matsuri in the Links section of this blog.

An Officer of Lord Oda-Nobunaga's Army
 showing detail of gomaido style armor (~1570)

Lord Kusunoki Masashige (1393-1573)

Detail of shoulder guard ("oosoda") of
armor of the late Heian to mid-Kamakura

The Lord Kusunoki Masashige's brother Masasue

Yabusame Archer of the Kamakura Period (1186-1392)

Another of the Lord Kuunoki Masashige Warriors

Tomoe-Gozen Famous Lady Samurai Heian Period (794-1185)

Yabusame Archer of the Kamakura Period (1186-1392)

The Lord Kusunoki Masashige's brother Masasue

A drum of  Lord Oda-Nobunaga's army (1570) Note newly
styled armored vests made with iron plates ("Gusoku")

Lord Oda-Nobunaga leads his army in pilgrimage
to the Emperor in Kyoto (1570)

General Sakanoue Tamuramaro Heian Period (1794-1185)

Yabusame Archer of the Kamakura Period (1186-1392)

The Lord Kusunoki Masashige's Banner

Lord Kusunoki Masashige (1393-1572)

Another Officer of Lord Oda-Nobunaga's Army (1570)
Consecration of holy palanquins of Emperors Komel and Kammu
 prior to commencement of the Procession

A Group of Lord Kusunoki Masashige's Samurai (1393-1572)

Procession of the Warriors from the Enryaku Period (782-805)

Procession of Court Nobles Enryaku Period (800) 

Izumo-No-Okuni (1572-?) 


The Princess Kazuno-Miya Maids from the Edo Period

Yoshino-Tayu Edo Period

Lady Murasaki-Shikibu (973-1014 or 1025) and Seisho-Nagon

Madame Fujiwara Tameie (~1277)

Ohtagaki Rengetsu (1850)

A short video of the Jidai Matsuri in October 2011.

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