Monday, October 17, 2016

Hit the Ground Drumming

I have dumb luck.  There is no other way to explain the fact that things sometimes just go incredibly right for me.  My visit to Hiraoka Jinja, fresh off the plane from Mongolia via Korea, is an excellent example of this.  I almost didn't go.  My flight out of Ulaanbaatar was at 11:55 pm, after a full day of teaching and tying up various loose ends at home.  I arrived in Osaka at about 11:20 the next day, and I had a suitcase and a heavy backpack to lug around with me.  By the time I changed trains in Namba, I was pretty convinced it was a waste of my time.  Most likely the drumming part of it would be long over with before I got there.  Most likely, I would have to lug my suitcase up a hill, and I kind of hate hills.  Probably I should've headed to Kyoto and taken a nap, but I told my airBnB host that I would get to his house around 6, and I was afraid if I came earlier that he wouldn't be there.  So I went anyway.
There's always money in the banana stand...
I got off the train and followed the crowd to the festival area.  It was creeping up on 2 by then, and sensing no excitement - other than the pulse of a crowd eating street food and playing games - I figured I actually HAD missed it.  It was way too relaxed for giant floats with drums up top to come beating down the street.  But that was honestly okay - I felt like I was in my own anime, or would be if I only had a yukata. I had been too eager to get there to stop for lunch at the airport, so I snacked on all sorts of treats: kara-age, the best damn gyoza I think I've ever had, and cotton candy, because apparently I am still a child.  I was pretty satisfied with that, but I figured I should at least see the shrine.  I rolled myself and my suitcase up the hill, but stopped short of actually climbing up to the shrine - it may have  been a short flight of stairs, but my suitcase was heavy.  Instead, I performed my ablutions at a fountain shaped like a deer, with the water flowing from his horns.
As I was checking out the shrine area, I realized that there were an abnormal amount of people sitting around.  As if waiting for something.  I barely had time to wonder if maybe, maybe that meant the drums were still to come when I heard a deep thump.  I found myself a place to sit comfortably - after all, I still had several hours before I was due at my airBnB, and eventually got to see the drums of Hiraoka Matsuri.  I called them giant floats before, but that really don't begin to describe these monsters.  You know how in the old days special people used to get carted around in palanquins?  Well, this was kind of like that - the drummers were riding these enormous palanquins, being heaved up the hill by a ton of people.  The same hill that I was previously grumbling a little about because I had my suitcase.  Am I a baby or what?
There were a total of five floats I think - two came up the hill first and the carriers set them down.  At that point it was creeping up on four, and I figured I needed to get my butt to Kyoto so that I could meet my host and make it to my dinner reservation (which turned out to be...meh.  TripAdvisor's #1 restaurant in Kyoto left a lot to be desired...I didn't even bother to stay to watch the belly dancer, which if you know me is practically unheard of.  The curry chain restaurant the Kawaii Kid took me to the next day was infinitely better).  So I left my awesome seat to try and make my way down to the station, only to see three more floats coming up the hill.  You can tell how crowded it is - I'm not sure how they made it through the throng, other than by sheer Japanese politeness.  I took an alternative route downhill past more food stalls, none of which seemed to have water, which was too bad because I would have sold my soul for a bottle of it about then.  At the station, I was waiting for the train only to see - more floats?  The same floats???  I'm honestly not sure if they went on a parade loop, or if the march up to the shrine was the end of the parade and these three were just making it to the party - travel over the tracks.

Unless you are just tuning in, you probably know that I've had to find a new purpose in traveling - having exhausted the possibilities of my previous purpose - and that new purpose is doing some really cool shit.  So even if I hadn't gone to Hiraoka Matsuri, I might have still decided it would be awesome to do a drumming class.  I thought the drummers at the Robot Restaurant were pretty cool - they got my heart beating, and not because they were wearing skimpy outfits, since I don't swing that way.  There's just something about the way the beat from a drum resounds in your blood, makes you want to get up and dance.  And so I dropped 5,000 yen on a lesson from the Taiko Drumming Center tonight.

Here's a news flash for you guys - I'm not a drummer!  Between my misspent youth as a band geek and my misspent youth as a belly dancer, I can handle a rhythm, but OH MY FREAKING HECK it is hard work beating one of those things.  Our teacher, Isamu, had the kind of guns they don't sell at Wal-Mart, and after approximately three minutes I understood why.  I had a blast, but I was dripping sweat when the whole thing was over and I had to break out my newly-purchased handkerchief to mop off my face.  However if you are the kind of person who would like to have the kind of guns they don't sell at Wal-Mart...or would just like to have a little more room in the arms of some of your clothes...I've got to say this is the most fun "exercise" I've had since I left the sadistic, torturous tutelage of Azhaar.  There is no way I could fit a drum in my suitcase, but I wished I could, since it would have drowned out the sound of sad sax wailing in the practice room at 5:30 when I'm trying to do a little after school facebook stalking of my nearest and dearest.  Instead, I bought a pair of sticks, which I will instead use to beat out the frustration of having to listen to said sad sax and...oh, so many other things that I'm not thinking about because I am having a kickass vacation.  Stay tuned for more.

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