The Gion festival in Kyoto
July is hot and humid in Kyoto, but there is something to look forward to, the Gion festival. This is one of the oldest continuing festivals in the world having started in 869AD. The festival (or matsuri) is to keep the spirits happy and prevent any plagues. The first matsuri successfully brought an end to a particularly bad outbreak and so the locals thought that it would be a good idea to keep the matsuri every year. The main festival takes place on the morning of the 17th when about 30 wooden decorated floats are pulled around the city centre. Fair enough, so far so normal, but don’t forget the heat and humidity and the fact that these floats are big, 10 tons big! They need about 50 men to get them moving. The other part of the matsuri is the building of the floats, which takes place over the preceding 3-5 days. People like to walk around in the evening and see the floats (or ‘hoko’) and they dress in light cotton traditional kimono called ‘yukata’. Where there are a lot of people there come stalls, games, food and drink. On the night before the parade (16th) which is called 'yoi-yama' at least 200,000 people wonder around the narrow streets of the city centre. I was in the city centre on Monday evening (yoi-yoi-yoi-yama) and the streets were closed to traffic and also a strict one-way policy was being enforced for walking in the streets too! Almost every shop is open and each will have a little stall out in the street selling something, not necessarily connected with their business. I saw a hairdresser selling beer! I found a great place that was offering you a chance to win a cup of sake for free. You had to win 2 of 3 games of ‘Junken’ against the owner. ‘Junken’ is the Japanese name for ‘rock-paper-scissors’ that is played all over the world. If you lost you paid the money for the sake, but if you won you got the sake for free! Guess what? I won! Unfortunately I couldn’t stay out long because everywhere was becoming more and more crowded it is just too much for me. On the night before (16th or yoi-yama) it is SO busy that you cannot walk in any direction except that in which the crowd is moving! Below are lights on a 'hoko' for the evening festival of Gion matsuri.
Yes Daniela it is true in the city centre of Kyoto and Tokyo (other cities may follow) it is easier to smoke inside a public place than outside. The main reasoning for this city centre ban on smoking seems to be in two parts, the first is on keeping the streets clean and the second is about preventing accidents. Over the last couple of years there has been a lot of publicity given to cases where children have been burnt by cigarettes in the street by the smokers holding their cigarette casually by their side, which just happens to be exactly the right height for children to be burnt in the face. City centres are very crowded and bumping and pushing happens all the time so a smoker wouldn’t necessarily be taking that much care because this situation (lots of people) is normal. Japan is something of a smokers paradise because the tax on cigarettes is still very low, a packet of 20 cigarettes in the UK might cost $12-$14 but in Japan they might cost $3 or $4!
Guzin and Mauricio I really enjoy being in class, it is the best thing about teaching and I learn a lot from my students too. I don’t like marking essays so much but it is nice to see students improve and start to use words and structures in their essay in the way you showed them. Are you born with green fingers? Perhaps some people are while others can learn I think.
Again really interesting points Paulraj. First I think we could blog till the cows come home about how poorly people behave with their mobile (cell) phones. Second is that if no one sends a telegram any more then why have a telegraph office? Excellent point sometimes things become redundant. Like the Pony Express in the USA, nobody uses that any more because there are better ways of communicating now. So can you imagine a time when there will be no more post offices anywhere in the world because nobody posts letters any more?
Thanks James in Taiwan for your information. I guess the streets are narrow and busy everywhere in Japan!
As for Rosi congratulations on your wedding anniversary! The Sky Tower is amazing. I visited it when I was in NZ. But when you said you and your husband were “breathless” I wondered if you had climbed to the top! Rather the view is ‘breath taking’. I loved your photographs and especially the one of the people outside on the top of the Sky Tower. There is NO WAY that I could EVER do that!
Tonight I'm not going to the 'yoi-yama' Kyoto Sanag have a home game so I will go to that instead. I will let you know what happens.
Best wishes Simon
Plagues Illness which spreads quickly to many people.
Outbreak Happening, occurance.
Ban Stop, prohibition.
Till the cows come home A very long time, or a least all day.
Redundant Of no more use, without a job to do.
Pony Express Was a letter delivery sevice across the USA using a series of horse relays.
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