Anyway, it was a hot day, and the air conditioning would have been welcome, but the interior of Wordsworth was pretty packed (as usual) and we opted for the lanai (covered patio) which has no air conditioning, but a nice breeze and no crowd. We had specials of the day - cold angel hair pasta salad. K's choice was topped with medallions of roast beef. Mine had a sauce with diced raw scallops and avocado, daikon radish sprouts, a bit of onion, lettuce and tomato. Oishii! (ono, delicious, maleka). Those Wordsworth chefs really know their art. Price was right too - ¥1000 each (about US$8.40).
Then we were off to check out the Gion Matsuri - a festival of dancers and floats taking place Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in our neighboring city of Irises and canals - Itako.
We found one float on a narrow side street, the musicians playing as young men did the heavy work of moving the float and doing a U turn. The four wooden wheels are fixed, so turns must be accomplished with chocks to stop a wheel as long poles are used as levers to push the float around by brute force. Older men, who no doubt have experience at this, supervise.
K was please that we came upon this particular float, as it was dedicated to Benkei - full name Saito Musashibo Benkei - a legendary Sohei (warrior monk) who lived in the late 12th Century and whose exploits have been the subject of Kabuki and Noh plays. He's a very popular figure in Japanese folklore. His statue's head and hand are visible in the first picture, atop the float. The entire statue can be raised up out of the float during the parade through the streets, or lowered for bridges, phone wires, or for making turns.
As we watched them, a freight train from Kashima Port roared across the concrete trestle above us, juxtaposing the modern "magic carpet made of steel" with the ancient ritual on wooden wheels, and the mass transport made possible by cheap fossil fuels with the man powered mode. The energy in a single liter of gasoline could easily move this float several kilometers, yet is priced more cheaply than bottled water and so carelessly wasted as if in endless supply.
K inquired about the rest of the floats and the planned activity for the day. It turned out that there would be five floats meeting at the town center. Larger celebrations of twelve floats are held every so many years, and 2008 will be one of those occasions. For now, it would be some hours yet before all five of today's floats got together, so we decided to return for Sunday evening's festivities when they would be in full swing (and at a cooler time of day).
Here's a very short (ten second) video clip of this float. I'll be taking more clips and pictures Sunday evening.