The Slow Parade

Kyoto, Day 3

After the mass of people the night before we were not too sure about the logistics for watching the parade. We decided to go with our original plan of walking over to a section of the parade route about an hour before the floats would arrive. This meant an earlier morning than the last couple of days. We were up and out at around 8:30.

Even with a stop at Starbucks on the way we somehow managed to arrive at the route at the exact perfect time. We got places right along the street which all filled up within 10 minutes. We had to wait for another 10-15 minutes before we could see the first float and probably another half an hour before it reached us.

I am not entirely sure, but I think Gion Matsuri translates to mean “the slow parade.” The huge elaborate floats with a couple dozen people riding them and making music are pulled by hand. The floats are so tall they have trucks ahead of them moving the traffic lights out of the way. Sitting at the front of the first float was a yang boy wearing white makeup and a kimono with long sleeves that were draped over the front of the float.

We were positioned near a water stop so each of the floats would stop about 20 ft before it got to us and all of the rope pullers and parade walkers would get a drink of water. There were people riding on the roofs of the floats and we saw them pulling up a bag on a rope with what was probably drinks in it.

When the rope pullers stopped they would not put the ropes down right away, but rather hold them up for everyone to walk under. If the rope did get put down and someone had not made it across to the water yet he would lift the rope and walk under rather than step over. I am sure there is some significance for this, but we never learned it.

After the first big float pulled by probably 30-40 men there were a few smaller floats pulled by a handful of people. We stayed to see Three of the big floats before we called it a day. It was starting to get hot out and some of us had been standing for about 2 hours. Michael sat on the ground after the first float and ignored the parade while listening to my iPod.

We didn’t realize at first, but we had positioned ourselves in front of a curry shop and after a while a man came out selling bowls of chicken curry and had bucket of ice with beers in it. It was only 10:30 in the morning, but I was tempted to get one of the beers because they looked so cold. If he had been selling soda he probably would have sold out in minutes.

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