Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spirit of Yoiyama

As dusk falls the major streets of central Kyōto, and some side streets, are closed to traffic and are lined with food stalls stuffed with diverse and tasty eats, plenty of libations, and fair-type games and entertainment abound. Also, during the yoiyama evenings leading up to the parade, some private houses in the old kimono merchant district open their entryways to the public, exhibiting valuable family heirlooms. Many folks are dressed in kimono and yukata and the air is a buzz with voices, traditional Gion matsuri tunes, and laughter - the atmosphere is truly joyous. The yamaboko floats are lit and displayed, and for a fee some of the Hoko floats can be toured. Now I had mentioned that the crowds were manageable, that is not to suggest that it was not a sea of humanity - it was very crowded. However, the open streets allowed for greater mobility for the masses that the closed streets during the actual parade would grant. I was told that local Kyōto residents don't go to the matsuri, instead opting to watch it on TV to avoid the crowds, leaving foreigners and Japanese from outside the area to brave the masses. I don't know if that is true, but I have experienced similar situations where I was raised, so I believe it is possible - and funny in an ironic sort of way.

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