Japan Day 15, July 17th

I have a terrible habit of oversleeping or plain being lazy. This is not a good quality when in a country for a limited amount of time and want to go sightseeing. I meant to leave early enough to get to the hostel in Kyoto by noon, but didn’t get there until about 3pm.

I can’t check into my hostel room until about 4pm anyway, so I leave my bags and pick up some food from a convini. The weather is overcast and drizzly, so I don’t feel like I miss much by staying inside and eating. I get to talk with a few of the other people staying at the hostel and find out that most of the big stuff for the Gion festival happened in the morning, but there’s a parade around 6pm. I love me a parade, so set that as my plan. I try to wrangle a couple of the people I’ve met to go out to the parade with me and grab some drinks afterwards, but they seem a bit hungover from the night before. They seem interested for tomorrow, but have to ask Rachel who’s in the shower. Why does that name sound familiar..?

I head out to Kyoto station and try to navigate the busses to get to Gion. It takes asking three people to find the right one, and I end up getting off two stops early anyway. At this point it’s pouring rain and I am without an umbrella. At least it alleviates some of the heat. I pick up an three dollar umbrella at a Sunkus and make my way back to the streets. Ahead to the Gion festival.

The closer I get to the shrine where the Gion festival originates the more crowded the sidewalks become. Packed and stuffed with tourists- Japanese and foriegn- and their cameras. I can’t complain too much though. I’m exactly the same. The parade is delayed an hour because of the rain. Once it becomes obvious it won’t let up, they proceed. I don’t know if the weather dampened their spirits but this was certainly the least lively festival parade I’ve ever seen. The members proceeded along the street in traditional and Shinto garb with little pomp or circumstance. Simply strolling. There is a portable shrine, a little (very little) chanting, and not much else. I take a photos but I’m not even sure why. Of all the festival parades I’ve ever seen this is the least impressive. (Later when I talk to my hostel roommates I’ll hear how the parade at ten this morning was much different and more impressive, and I’ll kick myself for not arriving earlier.)

I wander down a back alley to take some photos of Gion. The parade follows a side street and and other tourists come flooding in behind me to catch it. I look for another alley to escape it, when I see a number of people leaning out a second story window. There are a number of traditional tea houses in Gion. A number of older tea house patrons have taken to watching the parade from these windows. More than the parade itself, this is a fun sight to see. I snap off a few quick shots and continue to wander Gion, taking a few photos along the way.

When my aimless wandering leads me back to Shijo-dori, one of the main roads, I decide to stroll down the road on hopes of something photo worthy, but little catches my eye. It’s early for a Friday night, barely after eight. I have no more plans for the night, and I don’t feel like drinking by myself. I wander into a few shops, find a present for Dad, and find my way to the train station. I’d feel guiltier about this if I wasn’t planning on having a number of late nights out on the town with Nick in Osaka. Still, it makes me feel like an old man.

I return to the hostel a little after nine, drink some sake in common area, and start setting my plans for tomorrow. When finished with this, I return to the room, content to toll around on my computer a bit. The other roommates return around ten-thirty. I ask them about tomorrow, and they have me ask Rachel, who is staying in the next room. I knock and ask for Rachel and meet with a very pleasant surprise. Rachel is the same Rachel I had met shortly before I left Hiroshima for Kobe. The very attractive European woman and I recognize each other immediately and muse on the happy coincidence. She takes little convincing for drinks at A-Bar (my favorite bar in Kyoto) and the rest are happy to join. Looks like my plans for tomorrow are set. Funny how things work out.

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