By the way, “konchikichin” is the sound produced by the ohayashi that is a representative onomatopoeia of the Gion Festival, my ears did not actually hear that exact sound.
To me, it sounded more like “pyon-pyon kon-kon kan-kan-kan”.
Which part of that sounds like “konchikichin”, I wonder? But to be honest, since everyone says that the ohayashi of the Gion Festival goes “konchikichin”, I suppose that’s fine.
Speaking of the Gion Festival, it’s the most famous of the three big festivals of Kyoto. The city of Kyoto was for some reason revelling before the big summer event.
I’d been considerably looking forward to the Gion Festival, but… it’s a little different now.
An email that I’d suddenly received had thrown my heart into disarray.
I took a breath and stared at the yamaboko, of which construction had already started.
By the way, yamaboko are a kind of float. It consists of a mountain-shaped stand with things like hoko5 placed on it. During the actual festival, many yamaboko would patrol the city.
There are many sightseers every year. It’s probably natural to think of visiting Kyoto during cherry blossom season, during the season of red autumnal leaves, or during Gion Festival.
After taking yet another small breath, I stepped into Kura on Teramachi Sanjou, as usual.
The door bell inside the shop rang. At the same time, a voice called out.
“Oh, Aoi-chan, hello.”
In the café space was a handsome man waving his hand with a cheerful smile, and next to him was Mieko-san, who had a relaxed, joyful look on her face.
That handsome man was—
Yes, it was Akihito-san, the actor and the second son of the Kajiwara family that I’d just met about ten days ago at the Mt. Kurama estate.
“Wh-What are you doing here?”
“I came here to see Kiyotaka-chan. Well, he’s such a handsome man, but Akihito-san’s quite a looker as well. And he’s an actor, to boot!” Mieko-san rattled off excitedly.
I could understand Mieko-san’s excitement, for Akihito-san was certainly handsome.
He seemed a little, no, he considerably seemed like a playboy, though.
He was already twenty-five, and yet he still seemed like such a flirt.
In comparison, Holmes-san had a much more composed aura about him.
“I came here to represent my family in showing our appreciation for your help the other time. I initially wanted to come here earlier, though.”
A box of assorted confectionery was placed on the table.
“By the way, where is Holmes-san?” I muttered as I searched the interior of the shop.
“I was making coffee,” Holmes-san said as he appeared from the pantry at the back of the shop.
My breath was taken away upon seeing his figure clad in a dark blue yukata.
Holmes-san looks fantastic in a yukata!
His glossy hair, his beautiful nape. The yukata added some glamor to his usual image of a fine young gentleman.
W-What should I do, my heart’s beating so fast!
“I’ll prepare a café au lait for you, Aoi-san.”
Holmes-san gave me a slight grin, causing my heart to skip a beat.
Seeing me wordlessly stand on the spot, Holmes-san tilted his head in puzzlement.
“Anything the matter?”
“No, I was just surprised by your yukata.”
“Ah, that’s Owner’s orders. I’m supposed to wear a yukata in the shop until the Gion Festival ends. That’s the spirit of all salespeople in Kyoto, he says. That’s why my father also has to leave the shop in a yukata.” Holmes-san giggled.
I see. Nice one, Owner!
“Right, I was also asked by Owner to come here. This is for ya.”
Mieko-san handed me a paper bag.
“What… is this?”
“‘Get a yukata for our cute part-timer,’ Owner said. Ya should also wear this until the festival.” Mieko-san replied, with a mischievous smile on her face.
“Ehh? Me, wear a yukata?”
“Yup, it’s one of the yukata from our shop.”
Right, Mieko-san is the owner of a women’s dress shop in the same arcade.
“Since young people nowadays don’t know how to put on a yukata on their own, I made yours like a yukata for children6 and adjusted the length based on yer height. Try and wear it on yer own. I’d like to teach ya how to properly tie an obi, but I prepared a one-touch obi7 for now.”
Mieko-san excitedly proffered the paper bag, giving me no choice but to accept it even in my bewildered state.
“U-Umm, thank you. I’ll go change, then.”
Overwhelmed, I held the paper bag and trudged towards the changing area in the pantry.
“I sure came at a great time, to be able to see Aoi-chan in a yukata!”
Hearing Akihito-san’s barefaced words made me feel extremely embarrassed.
It’s amazing that he can say something like that so casually.
That part of him is probably also not to Holmes-san’s taste.
Picturing Holmes-san’s unhappy, frowning face, I relaxed.
Alright, let’s try putting this on.
I’ve worn a yukata a few times with friends when I was in Saitama, so I should be somehow be able to do it.
With those thoughts, I retrieved the yukata from the paper bag.
“…Wow, that’s cute,” I murmured. It had a distinct, flowery design of bright red dianthuses blooming on a white ground.
I never knew Mieko-san had such good sense. I suppose she is the owner of a Western-style dressmaker.
Umm, the front part of the kimono is on the right, I think? I thought as I put on the yukata.
Thanks to Mieko-san adjusting the length of the yukata, it was a lot easier to put on than I’d expected.
I attached the simple obi and straightened it.
“I-I’m done,” I quietly peeked out of the changing area.
“Wow, yer so cute — wait up, yer wearing it like a ghost.”
Mieko-san immediately commented upon seeing my outfit.
“Heh? Like a ghost?” My eyes opened wide.
“Aoi-san, the yukata is arranged wrongly.”
Holmes-san chuckled, causing my cheeks to heat up.
“Ah, I messed up. B-But, isn’t it ‘front right’ for a kimono?”
That’s why I arranged it like that.
“Aoi-san, ‘front right’ means that the right part is on the inside, from your perspective.”
Holmes-san kindly explained. Akihito-san nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s right,” then stood up and walked behind me.
“Or to explain it more simply, when the boy hugging you from behind can smoothly slip his hand in to touch your chest, you’re wearing it correct.”
Akihito-san held my shoulders and peeked at my face from behind.
“Lewd things can be done with a kimono, y’know?”
Akihito-san said with a meaningful laugh, as my cheeks burned.
M-My face is so close to Akihito-san’s face. As I thought, he’s such a flirt!
“Pardon me, but would you stop with the sexual harassment in our shop?”
Holmes-san instantly grabbed Akihito-san’s arm and twisted it.
“Ow ow ow! Alright, I get it, I get it.”
Akihito-san ran away from Holmes-san and stroked the arm that had been twisted.
“Ahaha, now now, Akihito-san, that ain’t okay. C’mon, Aoi-chan, go and fix yer kimono. It’ll be ruined if ya wear it like a ghost.” Mieko-san said while laughing.
“Ah, yes.” I hastily returned to the changing area.
Akihito-san is such a troublesome person.
But thanks to him, the right way of wearing a kimono has been firmly imprinted in my mind.
“When the boy hugging you from behind can smoothly slip his hand in to touch your chest.”
Holmes-san’s face appeared momentarily in my thoughts.
Ah, wh-wh-what am I thinking! I hurriedly shook my head and straightened my yukata.
“Man, Holmes-san, you’re such the jealous type.”
Hearing Akihito-san’s voice, my heart pounded. He was apparently having a lot of fun in this situation.
Eh…? The jealous type?
“It’s only natural, seeing that you were sexually harassing our valued part-timer.”
“Speaking of your part-timer, you’re going out with Aoi-chan, aren’t you?”
“Yes, she’s a student who comes here for part-time work.”
My heart ached as I heard Holmes-san smooth answer.
What he said was true, though.
“Hmm, fine. As I thought, yukata are great. That makes me want to wear one. And have a girl touch my chest from behind.”
“Why don’t you stick your own hand in?”
“You’re still angry about that, huh?”
Akihito-san retorted in a hurried voice and dropped a secret grin.
The edge in Holmes-san’s voice was certainly sharper than usual.
My condolences, Akihito-san. After all, Holmes-san doesn’t like arrogant, overbearing playboys like him, since he’s the same type as the person who stole his ex-girlfriend.
If he still hates that type of person today, I wonder he still has feelings for that girl?
My chest tightened a little as I had those thoughts.
Wait, what’s up with me?
I pulled myself together, went out of the back and said, “I’ve finished changing.” In response, everyone exclaimed, “Wow!”
“It looks amazing on ya!”
“Yep, you look really cute, Aoi-chan!”
Mieko-san and Akihito-san openly praised my outfit.
I wonder what Holmes-san thinks about it?
I silently turned to look at him.
“The yukata fits you well, and you look really cute.”
As we exchanged gazes, Holmes-san gave me a sweet smile.
“T-Thank you very much.”
Ohh–, my cheeks are so hot.
“It’s great, it’s great. Ya did dress like a ghost just now, but it seems yer good at puttin’ on a yukata. Now that my mind has been set at ease, I’ll be returnin’ to my shop. I’ll be workin’ on other pieces of clothing, so do ya best with that yukata, y’hear?”
Mieko-san gulped down her coffee, then hurriedly left the shop.
After Mieko-san left like a miniature typhoon,
“Wow, what an energetic old woman.”
Akihito-san commented with a cheerful grin.
“She’s the owner of a woman’s clothing shop operating in the same arcade, and is an old friend of my grandfather.”
Holmes-san placed a café au lait he’d prepared for me on the table.
“Since Akihito-san brought some konpeitō8 from Ryokujuan Shimizu, shall we have some tea?”
“Konpeitō from Ryokujuan Shimizu?” I asked, tilting my head in confusion.
“Oh, Aoi-chan, don’t you know? It’s the best, most famous konpeitō in Kyoto.”
Akihito-san answered with a triumphant smile on his face.
“Ryokujuan Shimizu is a long-established konpeitō specialty shop in Sakyo Ward. Established in 1847, it is an old store that has guarded the traditional technique of candy production for more than 150 years already. It has even received the ‘Royal Warrant of Appointment’ for producing top-quality konpeitō. They have various flavors, but all of them are delicious and have refined taste.” Holmes-san proudly replied.
“Seriously, that’s why you people with higher education are…” Akihito-san clicked his tongue.
“Talking about konpeitō has nothing to do with me having a higher education. Could you refrain from talking so aggressively towards me just because you have a higher education complex?”
“T-There’s no such thing as a higher education complex, anyway!”
Akihito-san raised his voice in irritation, but Holmes-san continued smiling.
“I apologize. That’s right, since you chose the path of entertainment, it would be good if you could get to the end of it. If such a complex does exist, it would serve as good spiritual nourishment for that path, I believe.”
Overwhelmed by Holmes-san’s smile and words, Akihito-san was temporarily lost for words.
“Y-Yeah, that’s right. I’ll take the words my father left behind to heart and become an amazing actor.”
The late writer, Kajiwara-sensei, had left Akihito-san with Hokusai’s ‘The Dragon of Smoke Flying Over Mt. Fuji’.
He was telling his second son that if he truly liked acting, he should go all the way.
“…Also, is Ayako-san alright?”
Holmes-san quietly asked.
On that day, Ayako-san had run out of the mountain villa during Holmes-san’s explanation of the inheritances.
The two of us had gone home without waiting for her to return.
I was curious, but it seemed that Holmes-san was also concerned for her.
“Ah, after I returned from sending the two of you to the station, Mom was already in the living room.
“After that, she had a talk with my elder bro.
“I heard that Mom broke down in tears after listening to the thoughts behind the aquamarine ring that Dad bought for her. She’d probably been living with guilt for a long time.”
As Akihito-san spoke, all we did was wordlessly nod.
“My parents were really close. We could see that Mom was the ‘perfect wife’, and Dad really cared for Mom, too. But perhaps because of their guilt, it became kind of complicated between them.”
Akihito-san took a deep breath.
…I could certainly imagine it being a complicated relationship.
“That’s a problem between the couple, and isn’t something that you need to be burdened with. The joyful figures you saw of them as a child were definitely sincere, I think.”
Upon hearing Holmes-san’s kind words, Akihito-san became speechless once again, and sprawled on the table with a plop.
“…Hey, Holmes-san, how old are you again?”
“I suppose I’ll need to buck up as well…”
I found myself agreeing with Akihito-san as he murmured while still lying sprawled on the table.
(On second thoughts, that was quite rude.)
After that, we engaged in silly, animated chatter as we enjoyed the high-quality konpeitō that Akihito-san had brought over.
“Come to think of it, Akihito-san, you’re not currently living in the Kanto region, correct? You’re staying here for a while, then?”
“Yeah, I have some work here. Also, since the Gion Festival’s starting soon, I figured I could relax and slowly take a look this year.”
“That sounds good. I hope you have a great experience.”
Holmes-san’s eyes narrowed in delight, as if he were the ambassador for tourists.
“The Gion Festival, huhh… my classmates all said they wouldn’t go, since it would be too crowded. They still happily went to the festival at Demachiyanagi Shopping Street, though.”
My comment caused Akihito-san to laugh.
“Ah, I know. That’s just how the local people are. When I was living here in Kyoto, I also wouldn’t purposely go to the Gion Festival.”
“That might be true, but as for me, I always want to get a good sight of each town’s yamaboko at least once. It’s known as the ‘moving art museum’, after all.”
While he was still smiling, Holmes-san spoke with a strong tone in his voice.
“Moving art museum?” Akihito-san and I instinctively asked.
“Yes. The Gion Festival originated from about a thousand years ago, and the yamaboko move around to cleanse the streets and protect them from disaster…”
Holmes-san selected a thick book from the bookshelf behind him, placed it on the table so that we could all see it, and flipped to a particular page.
On that page was a picture of a Gion Festival yamaboko that could be regularly seen now.
“This yamaboko has been stored by thirty-three neighbourhood associations from a thousand years ago. It might look the same as other yamaboko, but it’s totally different. Take a look at this.”
Holmes-san pointed at the yamaboko titled ‘yamabushiyama’ and ‘taishiyama’.”
The tapestry that decorated their flanks were definitely not Japanese no matter how you looked at them.
“Ah, this one seems somehow Chinese.”
“And this one seems Indian.”
Akihito-san and I commented as we stared at the photos. In response, Holmes-san nodded and said, “Correct.”
“This is a tapestry that was brought here during from China during the Ming Dynasty, and this yamaboko came from India. But the extremely interesting one is the yamaboko called ‘koiyama’.”
The picture he pointed at contained a tapestry that looked like it could only be from Europe.
It depicted a king who was wearing a crown.
“Is this really from Europe?”
“Even when it’s for the Gion Festival?”
Akihito-san and I exclaimed in surprise, while Holmes-san nodded.
“This is from Brussels-Brabant at the start of the 17th century… or in other words, it was made in Belgium. The design is from a scene in Homer’s Iliad, which depicts King of Troy Priam and Queen Hecube. This was brought in from Europe to Japan a long time ago, and has been used in the Gion Festival ever since.”
“Eh? But wasn’t that during sakoku9?”
“Yes, but Japan still did trade with the Netherlands during that time, so it is believed that this tapestry came to Japan through the Netherlands.”
“Why did the Shogunate only allow trade with the Netherlands?”
Akihito-san asked a question clearly unrelated to the Gion Festival.
That was just a normal historical matter.
However… as pitiful as it may seem, I was thinking the same thing.
Come to think of it, why was it that only the Netherlands was OK?10
“Speaking really loosely, it’s because they were the only ones who didn’t try to spread Christianity.”
Even as loose as Holmes-san’s answer was, it was too easy to understand.
“I see.” The two of us nodded.
“The ‘tsukiboko’ is draped with a carpet from the Mughal Empire.11 It was even displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a period of time.”
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art!”
“Also, it’s not clear where the ‘naginataboko’ is from, but it’s said to be from the Mongol Empire. There isn’t anything in the world quite like it.”
“For the tapestry from Brussels-Brabant as well as the carpet from the Mughal Empire, it’s a miracle that they were able to be kept in good quality for such a long time. That is because they were carefully stored by each neighborhood association from a thousand years ago, and only revealed during each year’s festival.
“During the festival, we can see brilliant artworks with great historical value that have been requested for loan by even the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It isn’t an overstatement to say that Gion Festival is a festival of miracles.”
Holmes-san spoke with a sharp gaze, causing me to feel overwhelmed.
That is, indeed… a “moving art museum”.
A museum of miracles. I never knew that the Gion Festival was so amazing.
“On top of that, there would be a different significance to participating in the festival, and since I live in an area where I can take a good look at it, I would definitely want to do that at least once.
“The yamaboko that patrol the towns are treasures filled with the emotions of townsfolk that lived a thousand years ago.”
My chest somehow started feeling hot.
“Well, thanks for the lecture. I think I can become smart just by staying around you, Holmes.”
Akihito-san said earnestly, causing me to spurt out.
After a little while, he turned to look at the wall clock.
“— Oh, look at the time. I have a rehearsal, so I think I’ll be going.”
“I’m acting in a play in Osaka. Come and see it if you’re free!”
He retrieved a couple of flyers for “Midsummer’s Night Dream” from his bag.
Holmes-san accepted the flyer and stared at it with great interest.
“So you’ll be playing Lysander, huh. It fits you well.”
“To put it simply, the role of a lady-killer.”
“Ah, I see.”
I agreed wholeheartedly. As usual, Holmes-san’s explanation was easy to understand.
“I would certainly like to see it.”
Akihito-san happily scratched his head in response to Holmes-san’s cheerful grin.
It seemed that it wasn’t limited to just kabuki. Holmes-san probably liked theater-going in general.
That’s also a form of art, after all.
“Ah, please do. See you next time, then.”
Akihito-san lightly raised his hand and made his exit from Kura.
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- Sounds like this.
- Group of performers who provide musical accompaniment.
- Refers to hoko yari, an ancient form of Japanese spear that came into use possibly during the Nara period, or 8th century AD.3 and naginata4A polearm originally used by the samurai class of feudal Japan.
- The main difference is that there is no kurikoshi, which is a part near the neck that allows the wearer to change the size of the neck. Also, yukata for children have shorter sleeves.
- An obi is the sash on a yukata that is quite difficult to tie. A one-touch obi is one that uses Velcro so all you need to do is wrap it around your waist.
- Japanese sugar candy which was brought in by Portuguese traders in the 16th century.
- The isolationist foreign policy of the Japanese Tokugawa Shogunate.
- I’m actually really surprised that Aoi doesn’t know this. I would expect it to be covered in her history lessons.
- An empire in the 16th to 17th century that ruled over a large part of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.