Adult Group Excellent Work (Japan)
Making Friends with Sounds
Kyoto City Junko Sugimoto(42years old female)

Konkon chikichin, konchikichin. I always get somewhat excited when I hear the Gion Bayashi musical accompaniment. A resident in Kyoto, I have seen the Gion Festival almost every year. My companions were some members of my family or my friends. Sometimes I saw it alone. The Gion Festival, a summer institution of Kyoto, is known as one of the three most famous festivals in Japan. Also, it is one of the three most famous festivals in Kyoto, along with the Aoi Festival and the Festival of the Ages. The Gion Festival is a succession of festivals held from July 1 to July 31. Among them, the Saki and Ato Festivals featuring float parades are especially famous. Every year, I have seen one of the three festivals (Yoi-yoi-yoi-yama, Yoi-yoi-yama, Yoi-yama) preceding the Saki Festival, which are held from July 14 to July 16. As a child, I saw the festival with a light heart, led by my parents by the hand, and walking along narrow streets. In those days, I didn’t know what the festival is meant for. Everything I saw was a marvel. Pointing to a stand, I would say, “Buy me that mask of Dorami-chan!”, ”I wanna eat those red Apple Candies!”, or the like.   Every time, I got tired during the festival, and went home by being carried pickaback by my father.
When I was a high school student, I and my three friends went to see the festival, gabbing with each other on the way. My mother helped me into a dark blue yukata with a pink pattern and a yellow obi. I recall that on that day, I was a bit more ladylike than usual, and walked awkwardly. Floats were placed and many lanterns were lighted on streets. We made our way through the crowd while seeking stands we liked. There was a stand on which we saw white, big letters meaning “takoyaki,” as well as a bright red image of octopus, on a dark blue ground. Behind the shop curtain of the stand was a man wearing a twisted towel as a headband. I never forget the good taste of hot takoyaki cakes we all relished.
As an adult, I was still thrilled at hearing the Gion Bayashi in the season of the Gion Festival. After my office work, I bought “chimaki” rice cakes that are believed to ward off misfortune, and leisurely walked around to see floats with different shapes and decorations. Each drapes were wonderful with their gorgeous colors and depths. In those days, the landscape I saw was always vividly colorful.
But my eyesight began to fail quickly in my 20s. As I was losing my eyesight, the landscape I saw changed. The overall view became increasingly unclear, and their colors too. Eventually, my eyesight became so poor that it became impossible to go to see the festival without the help of some other. Still, I did so with my mother every year. That was because I wanted to feel the same thing as I had felt when my eyesight had been intact. Whenever I saw the white lights from lanterns on floats, though dimly, I murmured, “Yea, I can still see it.”   I saw the festival each year in this way, checking that my eyesight weren’t lost completely.
By two years ago, it had become impossible for me to discern even those lights. Though that made me to hesitate over whether to go to see the festival, I decided to do so as always. But during my walk, I sensed only the hotness and the nearness of the crowd, and couldn’t discern anything clearly. Even with the verbal help of my mother, it was difficult for me to approach and touch a float. I was disappointed and thought, “After all, a blind person can’t enjoy the festival as others do.” 
Maybe my mother sensed my feeling, for she left the crowd and was about to go home. At that time, I heard the clear sound of the Gion Bayashi from the Naginata-boko Float on the Shijo Street - konkonchikichin, konchikichin. I stopped, and listened attentively to the sound. I then discovered a world of numerous sounds around me. Karan, koron - the refreshing sound of geta wooden footgear. Chiriin, chiriin - the sound of a wind bell which aroused the feeling of coolness. There were sounds that made me feel the atmosphere of summer, even among the shouts of guards and other noises. Various sounds produced the atmosphere of the festival for me.
I vividly and fondly remembered the past scenes of the festival. The back of my father on which he carried me, the smiles of my friends who were eating hot takoyaki cakes, warm lights from lanterns on floats ... There was a real world that I myself had experienced directly. There were many scenes reproduced by sounds - a world of memory in which sounds recreated colors.  I felt the great happiness of sensing those scenes with my ears and hands. At that moment, my displeasure disappeared quickly. Sounds instantly became my reliable friends.
I will never be freed from my desire to see colors once again. But I now hope to make friends with various sounds. They will surely continue to enrich my life. I am very thankful to my mother for leading me, a child in the past and a blind person at present, into the crowd of festival seers. Today also, I am listening attentively to sounds, wondering what sounds I am going to hear.   I hope to continue to hear many sounds, and live together with them.


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