The first parade of the Gion Matsuri was scheduled to take place this morning, but Typhoon Nangka's wind & rain was making the officials nervous. However, they decided to hold the parade anyway, so we tuned-in over breakfast to watch. It was amazing! The floats we saw yesterday, & 30 more, filled with guys (& it was all guys) all wearing yukata, took to the streets pulled by dozens of hapi-coat wearing guys. Each float was accompanied by their own orchestra of men playing flutes, drums, & bells, playing a very slow, repetitive tune. Kind of felt/sounded dreamlike after a while. They were led by the Naginata Boko (a naginata is a weapon, & this float is the tallest of them all) which had a little boy on it, dressed in massive kimono & white make-up, who's job was to cut a rope with a sword, signifying the beginning of the parade. He was actually kind of puppeted through the whole thing by a man standing behind him. I've heard that if he can't cut it on one stroke it's really bad luck, so I kind of get the puppeting... I wish I'd thought to take photos before they showed the rope-cutting, but it only occurred to me afterward. However, I did get some good snaps from the tv.
When each float reached the official viewing stand, a Shinto priest was presented with their "aisatsu", or greeting. They were all carried in a beautiful box wrapped with a tasseled cord, & the presentation was very ritual-like. After the paper carried in the box was read out by the priest, the presenter re-wrapped the box, stepped back, & then gestured to the float with a fan, elabourately, to beckon them forward. There minor differences between each presentation, mostly in stance & how elabourate the gestures were. Many of the presenters were kids, some as young as 6 or 7, who were accompanied by their fathers. They were adorable, & the commentators went gaga for them :)
A few of the floats were omikoshi, with enshrined gods on them. A couple were huge umbrellas, & since the musicians couldn't ride on these, they walked along & presented dances in front of the viewing stand.
The course is 3 sides of a rectangle, plus 1 more corner. How do the really huge ones get round corners? With bamboo slats & water, & concerted effort:
It took 3 manoeuvres to get them turned... and they did it 3 times!
I was absolutely fascinated, & watched for about 2 1/2 hours. The music was stately & beautiful, each float was different, and watching the guys in front tirelessly wave their fans to guide the floats forward was mesmerising.
For lunch we had bowl-noodles, which needed just boiling water & voila!
The kitchen has a western-style table & I would spend a heck of a lot more time there, but the windows there don't have screens, so it's rather airless in the kitchen most of the time. I should mention that the rain has cooled things down considerably, although the humidity is pretty high. We got by without the air conditioning all morning, but turned it on in the main room because the humidity was getting to be a bit much. The main room has tatami mats on the floor & a large, low table with zabuton cushions all around it. We spend most of out time here, thanks to the air conditioner, the tv, & the pleasantness of the room. Except, my arthritic body is emphatically not accustomed to sitting on the floor all the time (remind me to go into training before we come back in 2 years!). I have somewhat adapted by sitting on 4 cushions & changing the position of my legs about every 3 or 4 minutes. And struggling to a standing position & walking around every so often helps, too :) Charlie & Brendan are managing a lot better, thank goodness. Their big problem is that the doorways are pretty low, so they each hit their heads about once a day.
The rain really picked-up during the afternoon & Charlie got a snap:
The evening news has been full of reports of flooding further south. We, on the other hand, have been kind of glad for a rest day in the midst of a very physically challenging (I walked 8 miles yesterday!!!) vacation.
This was also a good day to get some photos of this cool house we're staying in. It's kind of maze-like, with long corridors wrapping around the garden & the main room. Most of the rooms have tatami mats. It looks as if the house can be divided by a door into 2 sections, the main section, which has the kitchen, western-style bedroom, main tatami room with small tatami bedroom off of it, the bathrooms, & a small ofuro (room with bathtub) & another small room with a shower. There's a sink at the end of the hallway where the bathrooms are (1 western-style toilet & 1 Japanese-style toilet, which we have been avoiding :). The second wing, where the rest of the gang will stay when they arrive, has 2 tatami rooms & the big ofuro, which has a large ゆ ("yu") on the curtain, the sign for hot water & traditionally designates an ofuro. Starting with the ofuro, here's a pictorial tour:
|inside the big ofuro|
|tatami bedrooms, with some of the futons folded back|
|the corridors line the garden|
|A bit of the main room showing Brendan's tatami bedroom & futons|
|a view of the tatami bedroom wing from the main room|
After lunch we watched the newest installment of Wil Wheaton's "Titan's Grave" RPG show, & listened to the latest Welcome to Night Vale podcast, while I knitted. Then the guys played Smash-Up in the main room:
I spent the rest of the afternoon spinning. The rain continued to pour down. We nearly cleared the fridge for dinner:
Charlie had 2 tuna salad onigiri. He completely ignores the instructions that allow the nori to wrap neatly around the rice ball because he hates nori :) I had the rest of a futomaki sushi roll that was wrapped in sweet omelet rather than nori, & Brendan had inari sushi & a bowl of rice that we bought cooked at the supermarket yesterday. There were chips, too :)
We spent some time after dinner reading Terry Pratchett & laughing a whole lot, then watched the Titan's Grave panel from San Diego Comic Con on Geek & Sundry. Tomorrow we hope to visit the Kyoto Museum of Modern Art in the morning, & then Momo, Hiroshi, Aoi-chan, Hiroko, & Nozomu-kun arrive around 1:00 pm! We have been kid-proofing this pretty house, too :) We want everybody to be safe & unstressed.
And, I forgot to mention yesterday that, when we were skyping with Tomoko & her mom last evening, Nobuko-san (mom) said that she saw me on tv! Tomoko was not inclined to believe her, I think, but I explained that I had been interviewed by the NHK last Tuesday. Nobuko-san said I'll become famous... :D At least I didn't look as dumb as I thought I might... I hope...