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Gorgeous parade at the Heijokyo Tenpyo Festival

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Heijokyo Tenpyo Festival

I experienced the Tenpyo Festival held in Heijokyo, a world heritage site in Nara.

Where is Heijokyo (the old capital Heijo-kyo in Nara)?

I live in Osaka and often go to Nara, but I didn't know much about Heijokyo.

Oh, come to think of it, when I'm on the train from Kintetsu Tsuruhashi to Nara, I can see a large park-like place right before arriving at Nara. I think it is the Heijokyo Ruins. That's all I knew about it. Restoration work has been underway for the past few years, and I could see from the train that some construction was being done inside the huge cage looking cover.

In fact, this site of Heijokyo is not only a world heritage site, but also a rare historical heritage site with a train running in the middle. There is a new plan to move this train line outside the site. If you like to take pictures of trains, you need to hurry! Looking forward to seeing the further large-scale restoration plan. It's only a few stations away from Nara Station, so it's likely to become a much more popular tourist attraction.

Heijokyo Kintetsu train line

I learned about the Tenpyo Festival from a hanging advertisement on a Kintetsu train.

About 1,300 years ago, during the Nara period, Heijo-kyo was built and the capital of Japan was moved here. This Tenpyo Festival is a reproduction of the ceremony held at that time, Heijo Sento no Mikotonori (Heijo Capital Relocation Edict). The capital of the previous Asuka period was Fujiwarakyo in the same Nara Basin. The move was not far at all.

Something like the Aoi Matsuri parade in Kyoto? However, the venue Heijokyo is very large, so I might be able to see the parade and ceremony from a very close distance.

Heijokyo Kintetsu line

There is a 100-yen bus from Kintetsu Yamato-Saidaiji Station, but you can also walk to Suzakumon Gate in 15 minutes. You can enter the site from the side, so you don't have to go all the way to the front. A free shuttle bus runs from the west exit of Kintetsu Nara Station during the event period.

Marching of the guards at Suzakumon Gate

Heijokyo Suzaku gate

This is the special venue for this year (2022 Golden Week), in front of Suzakumon gate. Concerts and other events are held throughout the day. The main event, Heijo Sento no Mikotonori Parade, is also held here.

Since it's my first time here, I'd like to see a small parade first. A security march by the guards takes place several times a day. These men who are doing the security guard roles are from the Air Self-Defense Force Officer Candidate School. That's why their movements are so sharp.

Marching of the guards at Suzakumon Gate

The security marching does not stop, so it ends quickly. Next, I'm going to watch the entertainment on the Suzakumon special stage.

Heijyokyo Tenpyo Chinese Super Acrobatic Troupe

Amazing performance of the Chinese Super Acrobatic Troupe

Why is the Chinese Acrobatic Troupe here? I thought for a moment, but since the Nara and Heian periods had a great deal of cultural influence from China including the architectural style. It may be quite natural that they were asked to appear.

It started with a flashy Chinese lion dance, followed by Son Goku's sword skills and juggling. I can't believe seeing this quality show for free.

In particular, the balance trick using chairs was amazing, and I was nervous watching from beginning to end.

Heijyokyo Tenpyo Chinese Super Acrobatic Troupe

By the time the Chinese Super Acrobatic Troupe finished its performance, there was about an hour left until the main event. I can see the parade participants gathering in front of the Heijokyo Izanaikan (museum) near Suzakumon gate.

Tenpyo festival Heijyokyo
Cuteness overloaded

Just like a cosplayer photo session. Groups are formed in order of parade appearance and are waiting for the departure. If you ask participants standing near the street, they will let you take pictures. I didn't see any tourists trying to go inside the que line area to take pictures.

It would be nice if this relaxed feeling continued after next year. As the number of guests increases, the management side has to tighten security, so I have a feeling that it will eventually become impossible to take photos of the parade participants during the waiting time.

Restored Daigokumon (Nammon, South Gate)

I have a little time, so I'm going to see the newly restored Daigokumon Gate. There is a very large space on the other side of the railroad crossing that runs through the middle of the site. This area will eventually reproduce the Nara period in some way. I'm looking forward to it.

Daigokumon looked just like Suzakumon. A large building called Daiichiji Daigokuden can be seen in the background. The surrounding area still has an atmosphere like a construction site.

Enchanted by the Heijo Capital Relocation Parade

The site is wide and it takes time to cross, so I should go back soon. It's almost time for the parade to start. I quickly returned to the Suzakumon gate. Since it's a parade, the viewing area is very long. Hmmm, I don't know where is the best place to watch it! If I'm too close to the area where the parade begins, probably I won't be able to see the ceremony at Suzakumon. For the time being, I will stay at the area a little closer to Suzakumon than the middle of the parade route. (Fortunately, it was the best place to view the parade in the beginning. More on why later.)

The parade has started! People wearing colorful outfits walk slowly. The outfits and accessories should have been reproduced according to historical facts, so I can only admire their luxury. Well, the people who participated in this ceremony in the Nara period were people of the super upper class, so it's only natural that it's gorgeous.

Wow! Emperor Genmei is already here! ? I didn't know the order of the parade at all, so I was surprised to see the most important person in this parade so early, Emperor Genmei, at the very beginning.

Emperor Genmei

During these times, there were many female emperors, and two daughters of Emperor Genmei were also enthroned later. (Emperor Gensho, Emperor Monmu) Only Emperor Genmei appeared on a palanquin in this parade. By the way, the person playing this role is an actress from Shochiku Geino.

Eh? For some reason, the palanquin stopped in front of me! ?

About 10 women holding large fan-like objects gathered here. It seems that Emperor Genmei is about to get off the palanquin. The fan-like object is called Naga Sashiba and is used by court ladies to hide the emperor's face. No wonder, that's why the news cameras were gathered in this place. I'm looking at this scene from behind, which is good. If I were watching this from the front, the scene will be hidden by these fans, so I won't know what's going on. I'm lucky to be able to see it from directly behind.

Emperor Shomu

Emperor Genmei, the most important figure here, was heading to Suzakumon, so I moved as close as possible to the Suzakumon stage. I was able to see the successive emperors seated in order. Empress Komyo was the one who caught my eye. Empress Komyo is the Empress of Emperor Shomu.

Empress Komyo, like Emperor Genmei, has the aura of a performing art industry. I looked at the official flyer, and it says she is an official Nara prefecture tourism concierge. Yup, I can see that.

The parade continues even after key members are seated. And from here I can't see where Emperor Genmei is. If I go behind the Suzakumon gate, I might be able to see something.

Tenpyo festival in Nara

There you are, Emperor Genmei. So you were waiting here for people in the parade to arrive and line up. This year's Tenpyo Festival was held at the Suzakumon Gate due to the reconstruction work, so I was able to see this back view. I don't think I could see it if it was held at the Daigokuden gate.

After a while, everyone moved to the front of the gate to start the ceremony. Oh now I can't see them again. I returned to the front of the Suzakumon Gate.

They're not using mics, so I can only imagine what's going on from their movements. A man in red receives a scroll and reads it aloud. Since this is the ceremony of Heijo Sento no Mikotonori (Heijo Capital Relocation Edict), he must be proclaiming that this place will be the new capital and the era name will be Nara.

After that, children like fairies performed a dance. Only a few children attended this parade. They must have been nervous for such a big role. I wonder if they are child actors.

Heijo Sento no Mikotonori

During the ceremony, Emperor Genmei did not look like she said or did anything. The impression I got is a mixture of divine and mysterious. The movements of the court ladies were also eye-catching and beautiful.

Heijo Sento no Mikotonori

Before I knew it, there were so many participants lined up in front of the Suzaku Gate. The event was much larger than I expected. There were many food stalls, tea ceremony and costume experience booths. In the summer, the Tenpyo Tanabata (June 7th) Festival and the Lantern Festival are held. I definitely want to come to the Tenpyo Festival again. I highly recommend this event.

Heijokyo Tenpyo Festival 2022 Photo Gallery

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