I love a parade (when I’m not in imminent danger of dying or committing homicide)

As the penultimate entry, and one which covers a very, very long day, this is gonna be a biggie. We are crushed by crowds and awed by big things on wheels. Then we investigate the floating world and the Shogun’s old vacation castle. We make a new friend, she takes us to dinner, and we do some serious drinking. A record-setting 35 photos for this post. Just click…

I gave up on using iCal events as an alarm clock (seriously, I do this shit for a living, and my whole-vacation record for getting iCal to reliably open an alert at 6:30am Japan time was 2 in 6), and instead installed Robbie Hanson’s Alarm Clock 2, and you can consider that to be the official product recommendation of this travelogue, as it worked consistently and flawlessly. As a result, we were up and moving at 6am on Thursday morning, and were out of the house by 7:30, ready to find ourself a good float-watching spot along the parade route.

…but in a weird way, we got up too early. We’d been thinking of the Gion Matsuri parade in terms of the New York Thanksgiving day parade, the route for which is packed 10-deep hours before the parade ever starts. We were planning to show up hours early, and had intricate backup plans for what to do if our preferred watching spots were unavailable. We severely underestimated how efficiently this event would be run, to the point that when we got off the metro at Shijo station at around 8am, we were a little worried by the fact that the metro didn’t seem to be particularly full at all, and we weren’t seeing anyone dressed up in kimonos or yukatas. In fact, the subway seemed to be kind of empty for nearly rush hour on a weekday morning in Japan, and when we got up to street level, there were still cars driving freely in both directions. We started to get a horrible suspicion: had we somehow misjudged the schedule, and missed the whole parade?

Well, there was nothing for it to walk over towards where the parade was going to be and find out. We saw a few cops standing on the corner, and that gave us hope. Miranda walked up and asked one where the parade was going to be, and he happily pointed her down the street at the kickoff point. We walked a bit further down, saw a small collection of people on the sidewalk, and calmed down quite a bit: we’d obviously missed nothing. Fine, time to make our way to our corner: we walked down the road towards the corner of Shijo and Kawaramachi, and started looking for a space. This turned out to be pretty easy: there were a couple of dozen, maybe a few hundred people hanging out on the corners, but nothing overly dense: maybe the pre-parade party was more popular than the parade itself? We carefully picked a corner of the intersection that seemed to be likely to stay in the buildings’ shade for most of the day, and parked ourselves. It was about 8am.

The really impressive thing: our parade programs (there was an English edition) claimed that the parade would start passing our corner at around 9:45am, and traffic continued flowing in both directions down Kawaramachi until roughly 9:25am. Think about that: the biggest on-street event Kyoto sees in a year, a parade substantially larger than the Rose Bowl parade or the Macys Parade, and they keep the streets open until 20 minutes before the parade passes by. We were agog.

…and in addition to being agog, we were a little smushed. The crowd of onlookers, which had started out so innocent-seeming at 8am, had slowly grown more and more dense over the next 90 minutes. See, we’d been told by several people that we wanted to stay on one of the corners so that we could see the floats turn. (More on that later.) What nobody had warned us was that every other person in Kyoto was going to have the same idea. By 9am, the police were having to form corridors to get people across the street. By 9:15, it was starting to resemble a packed subway car at rush hour. By 9:30, I couldn’t shift my weight from one foot to another without leaning on one of my neighbors. What I’m trying to say here is: it was a little crowded. The weather was warm and clear with only occasional bursts of wind: even though we were in the shade, I had sweat dripping in rivers down my back, and when the wind wasn’t blowing it felt like the temperature immediately shot up another 10 degrees. I was seriously beginning to question the wisdom of this plan, but damnit we’d come to see some floats get turned, and I was going to see at least one or two.

Thankfully, we didn’t have too much longer to wait. At about 9:40, the first procession strode proudly around the corner:

…and shortly behind them, two parallel rows of men in white robes, easily fifty deep, pulling on ropes. And pulling. And pulling:

More men and more rope kept coming into view across the corner, and at last something began to emerge from behind the department store building:

…something very, very large. The first float in the parade is always the “Naginata Boko”, and at the top of it a man stands with a longsword (the ‘naginata’ of the float’s name), sweeping it back and forth to sweep away the disease and evil that the festival was originally commissioned to combat.

Now the thing about the big floats in this parade is that the parade dates from the 9th century A.D. Most of the floats have been in continuous usage since the 17th century if not earlier. They’re made of wood and iron, are 26 feet tall (not counting the spire, which can reach as high as eighty feet), and weigh in the range of 25 tons. They’re enormous:

…but the age of their design, versus the grid layout of Kyoto’s streets, presents a bit of a problem. Their axles are fixed: there was no such thing as a differential gear in the year 869, and so the wheels can neither lean nor turn independently. So how do you get a 25-ton float to turn a 90-degree corner? Simple: you put a series of several dozen bamboo rods onto the concrete, arranged carefully at the right angle to the wheels. You wet them down with water to make them slick, you roll the front wheels onto them, and lay a few more wet rods down…

…and then you get your team of 40 men to line up with their ropes at the correct angle, and HEAVE for all that they’re worth:

Sure enough, you can turn a 25-ton float this way. Sort of. Each yank on the ropes usually manages to turn the float about 30 degrees. So to get one of the big floats around the corner, you have to set up the bamboo rods and break your back pulling three times in a row. In the middle of a Kyoto summer. We could understand why people were crowding into the corners to watch this: it was astonishing. After three solid pulls, the first float was completely turned, and ready to head down the street.

After the first big float came one of the portable shines. The shrines are much smaller, and weigh a “mere” 1.5 tons each. They’re still on fixed wheels, but the turning process is much simpler: the 14-24 people who’ve been pushing/pulling the float simply pick it up, turn it the full 45 degrees, put it down and continue on their way.

We watched two of the large floats get turned at our corner…and we were done. Very, very done. It was possibly the single most uncomfortable moment we’d both had in Japan: it was starting to push 90 degrees, it was impossible to move without elbowing someone in the face, and there was no way to even get pictures without holding our cameras above our heads. Miranda was feeling faint, and I wasn’t doing much better. There was an alleyway entrance about a dozen feet from us, and we resolved to make a break for it: if we could find our way to a less packed spot further down the street, great. If not, no parade was worth getting crushed to death for. Shouting “sumimasen!” at the top of our lungs, we forced our way back to the rear of the sidewalk against the nearest building, where there was actually a small single-file current of people moving their way along. A few seconds later, we stepped into the alleyway and thank you god could actually sit down, stretch out our legs, and breathe without inhaling our neighbors.

After taking a few seconds to savor the relief, we walked to the nearest parallel street, hooked a left, and walked two blocks up to another service alley. Even as little as a block from the parade, Kyoto’s streets were amazingly calm and uncrowded: if it weren’t for the ongoing sounds of Gion festival music, you’d never have known that anything was going on. We tentatively walked down the new alley, planning to flee with great alacrity if the crowds were anywhere near as dense. Instead, when we got back up to Kawaramachi, we found… the perfect spot. There were people, but an entirely manageable number of them, and most of them were schoolchildren who were actually sitting down on the concrete. The alley mouth was directly behind us, nearly completely empty, and offered a quick path of retreat. And even standing in the alley, we had a great view of the floats passing by. Best of all, there was a convenience store on the south corner of the alley, so we could dash in and get some sorely needed water. Just as we were contemplating the perfection of our new vantage point, something buzzed past our field of vision and Miranda gave a small yelp. Something had landed on her backside. Something very, very large. I swept it off with my hand-fan, and it landed on the street behind us and didn’t move. Damned if it wasn’t the largest cicada I’d ever seen:

Cicadas are notoriously stupid even by bug standards, and apparently this one had mistaken Miranda’s green shorts for a shrub or something. They’re harmless, but their legs have strong hooks to let them hang onto tree bark, so apparently having one land on you is a memorable experience.

Once that excitement was over, we settled in to watch the rest of the parade in relative comfort. There are a total of 32 floats and shrines, and this is already a picture-heavy post, so I’ll just show some edited highlights here.

Float #9 was the ‘Niwatori Boko’, which is decorated with, of all things, a 16th-century Belgian hanging tapestry depicting the Trojan war:

float #15 is the “Ayagasa boko”, which is preceded by “dancers and a music troupe…led by a bear waving a halberd”:

Six of the dancers are children, done up in Edo-era makeup and with an attending train of umbrella-carriers to keep them from spontaneously combusting in the summer sunlight:

Next up at position #16 was our old friend the Toro Yama, better known as the Praying Mantis Float, looking even sharper in sunlight:

Much later on came what was probably the best float of all, the “Fune Boko”, or as I liked to call it, “The Pirate Ship Float.” Alone among the floats, its very shape is part of its story:

It’s not actually a pirate ship, but a depiction of a story from the “Chronicles of Japan” (Nihon Shoki), in which the Empress Jingu Kogo crossed the sea to conquer Korea. For some reason, Jingu Kogo was then deified as the goddess of easy childbirth. What does easy childbirth have to do with conquering Korea? I have no idea. Um, look, a pirate ship!

By the time the parade got into its last third, the crowd had thinned out significantly — at exactly 12:30, all of the Japanese schoolchildren around us picked themselves up and vanished, leading us to speculate that they’d only gotten a half day off of school. We got to stretch out even more, and even chanced stepping into the street to get another requisite goofy tourist photo. HI MOMS!

More cool floats: the second-to-last float is the “Jomyo Yama”, and depicts a dramatic scene from the Tale of the Heike in which one warrior-monk leapfrogs his comrade to jump into the enemy’s camp:

Finally the last float, the “Minami Kannon Yama,” heaved into view. We’re not 100% sure, but we think this was the same float that we were allowed to climb up into two nights previously.

As noted previously, the floats are on fixed-axle wheels, being dragged by teams of 40 or so very sweaty men. Since the wheels are fixed, if the float starts to drift off course it’s an issue: under no circumstances not involving slicked bamboo rods do you want to drag the wheels down the concrete street. So to keep the floats moving in the right direction, a pair of men with big wooden wedges are constantly hovering around the front wheels, dropping a wedge under a wheel at key moments to do course corrections:

Finally the last float passed, and we watched the whole train receding toward the route’s next corner:

And that was that. 12:30pm, plenty of time to grab a quick lunch of ramen and see two more interesting things before the day was out. The crowds were already dispersing as we started to walk toward the subway station, and random people who may or may not have been volunteers were picking up any litter that might have been dropped on the street, of which there was already shockingly little. You could already tell that in another hour there would be no sign that the parade had ever happened.

Lunch was grabbed at one of the dozen or so ramen restaurants on the 9th floor of the Kyoto station mall, a meal that wasn’t in and of itself memorable, but was made slightly hilarious by the fact that we got lost in the station food court trying to find ramen row: we’d taken the wrong escalator, and ended up on the 10th floor, not realizing that the food court spanned two floors and as many different shopping centers. Only in Japan. While on our way there, I took the opportunity to snap a few more shots at the station.

Lunch consumed in proper breakneck Japanese ramen-slurping fashion, we jumped onto a JR train to our first destination, the Sumiya Pleasure House. We’d sort of hit temple/shrine saturation over the last few days, and we’d vowed that any post-parade sightseeing we did today would involve neither Buddhas nor Toriis. Sumiya, a former restaurant and bawdy house that was at the heart of Kyoto’s “floating world” entertainment district in the 17th through 19th centuries, seemed like just the thing: secular to a fault, and located just 3 blocks from the JR station according to the Lonely Planet map…

…which of course was wrong, or at least slightly misleading: the LP map showed Sumiya as being exactly adjacent to the JR tracks, just a few blocks back toward Kyoto from Tanbaguchi station. After walking about six blocks down the tracks, past a Kyoto city sanitation department garbage transfer station (in midsummer, lest we forget), we realized that we’d been sandbagged again, and started looking down parallel streets to see if we could find anything that looked much like a popular 18th-century bordello, and instead saw nothing but residential houses, tiny stores and gas stations as far as we could see. Oh, and a largely run-down children’s playground. We began to despair. Really, this is what it looked like in all directions:

Finally we gave up, and ducked into a small ryokan in hopes that the owners might be present and willing to lend a hand with directions. A few seconds after stepping into the lobby, an older man hustled into the front room, and on hearing our question practically bent over backwards to help us: he instantly produced a detailed single-page map of the neighborhood that was apparently printed up for use by the ryokan’s guests, gave us a copy, then walked outside with us to the nearest intersection, marked our position on the map with a pen, marked Sumiya’s position, and counted off how many blocks in each direction we’d have to walk. We’re staying with him the next time we go to Kyoto, I swear.

As it turns out, Sumiya had been so close it could have bitten us: it was directly on the opposite side of the ruined children’s playground we’d passed, protected from view by a fence.

Sumiya was one of the largest of the restaurant/concert house/brothels (ageya) of Kyoto’s Shimabara entertainment district in the Edo period, but by the time of the Meiji restoration most of the real action had been moved to the Gion district closer to the city’s center, and Shimabara slowly turned into the quiet residential district that it is today. Sumiya is one of the few ageya left, and is now operated as a museum by the city, although you can only get to the second floor by arranging a guided tour in advance, which is only available in Japanese. The first floor itself is plenty impressive: a massive kitchen, two enclosed gardens, and huge banquet halls looking out on them, faced with ornate painted screens:

We didn’t have much of an idea of how long it was going to take us to explore Sumiya, but it turned out to be pretty small (it was, after all, largely just a restaurant), and even given the time we’d lost trying to find it we were finished up by around 3pm, which gave us enough time to catch the JR train going out one more stop and jump on the Tozai subway line over to Nijojo-mae station to see one of the sites that had eluded us yesterday: Nijo castle. The subway stop is just around the corner from the castle’s entrance, and on the walk over we were treated to an awesome old-vs-new Japan composition:

Nijo Castle was the Kyoto headquarters of the Edo (Tokugawa) Shogunate: the actual capital was far away in Tokyo (Edo), but the Shogun needed to maintain a residence in Kyoto in order to do business with (and keep a close eye on) the Imperial family in Kyoto. The castle actually consists of two separate palaces, behind two separate lines of fortifications. At the main exterior gate, we were greeted with a slightly more detailed set of rules than usual:

Apparently it’s okay to be a drunkard at all of Kyoto’s other historical sites, or at least we never noticed any strictures against them there. Anyway, after paying for our tickets, we began to slowly move toward the entrance to the first palace, unsure if we were going to go inside or look at its gardens first. Then an announcement over the loudspeaker informed us that the Ninomaru palace itself would be closing at 4, so we hustled over.

Ninomaru Palace was where the Shogun did business while staying in Kyoto, and it’s consequently imposing-looking: the walking path through it led us through a series of thousand-plus-square-foot rooms, each dedicated to a particular court function, and then through the Shogun’s personal quarters, complete with mannequins posed to represent the Shogun himself and all of his assorted female attendants. The floors of the halls all squeaked and creaked as we walked down them: this was apparently an intentional design feature to discourage would-be assassins from thinking they could easily sneak by the shogun’s bodyguards. (They’re called “nightingale floors.”) All of the rooms were decorated with painted screens along their perimeters by a succession of famous Edo-era artists, but for my money the best art in the place was on the upper panels in the hallways, which were a series of abstract and geometric forms, including a pattern of linked squares against a cloudscape that looked nothing so much like a premodern Japanese Kandinsky painting.

No pictures of the interior of the castle are allowed, largely due to the screen paintings: flash photography would just accelerate their already significant deterioration.

Having completed the walking tour in time to not be kicked out of the palace, we had another hour to walk through the castle complex, starting with the main gardens, which are largely in a more western style than the typical stone-and-moss construction of the gardens at religious sites we’d seen.

Past a second moat and second fortification line is the Honmaru palace, which is clad in cedar planks, but is not open to visitors:

Since the garden trees afforded a great deal of shade, we spent another half an hour or so slowly walking through the gardens. The sky was brilliantly clear, with dramatic clouds at every angle.

After a bit of walking, we found the second set of gardens, which are in a more classically Japanese mode:

By this time, it was getting on 5pm, and we were panting a bit from the heat. Near the exit, we found an enclosed souvenir store and snack stand, and gratefully stole 10 minutes at a table to drink some water and sit down. But soon enough, the P.A. system started playing… Auld Lang Syne? Yes, the universal sign that a tourist attraction in Asia is about to shut down. It was time to sort out our dinner plans: we’d been playing email tag with for most of the previous week, and this was the night we’d picked to go have dinner and drinks. There was a pay phone in the building with us, so I dropped a few 10-yen coins into it and dialed…

A warning to those people not familiar with Japanese pay phones. The small note in English on the phone instructions mentioning that “change is not given from 100-yen coins” may tempt you to drop in a few 10-yen coins instead if you think your phone call is going to be short. Do not do this. The extra 40-60 cents is well worth avoiding the aggravation of finding out the hard way that 10 yen buys you about 20 seconds of talk time and that no matter how good your reflexes are, the phone is guaranteed to cut you off before you get more ¥10 coins fed into it. Just trust me on this.

suggested meeting up by Kyoto City Hall in order to check out some of the restaurants near Pontocho, and that turned out to just be 2 stops away on the subway, so we got there a bit early and killed about 20 minutes resting on a park bench at city hall plaza, being harangued by another loudspeaker van that was intent on sharing its views about Japanese nationalism with everybody in the immediate vicinity whether we liked it or not.

(who I’ll henceforth refer to as A, since typing out LJ IDs is clumsy, and I dunno if she cares about having her real name used in these contexts) showed up shortly after the trucks left, and took us on a quick tour of Pontocho alley and its immediate surroundings. Pontocho is a tiny strip of street in downtown Kyoto that’s surrounded by the normal tall garish overbuilding of any typical large Japanese city, but is itself still mostly composed of 1- or 2-story classical Japanese merchant buildings and restaurants that are either hundreds of years old or built very carefully to look as though they are. It’s also where the last remaining embers of the Geisha tradition are still… if not burning, then at least glowing fitfully. There are less than a thousand Geisha left in Japan, and many of them work on Pantocho, so it’s a good place to good place to go geisha-spotting in the evenings.

We didn’t see any Geisha, but dinner was so good we didn’t care. A. took us to a restaurant specializing in “Kyoto vegetable cuisine”, which apparently the au courant thing in Kyoto’s restaurant world. In operation it’s pretty similar to izakaya in that it consists of a lot of small plates which can be ordered continuously over the course of an evening, but the plates are focussed on (mostly local) vegetables (although yakitori skewers and other meat dishes are available), and the atmosphere is a bit more restaurant-like than bar-like. The restaurants all place baskets out front filled with examples of the veggies they’re specializing in, and unlike the plastic food in front of many Japanese restaurants the baskets appeared to be filled with the real thing.

(Okay, I have to admit that the first sentence of the last paragraph was a little white lie: I really wouldn’t have cared about seeing Geisha even if dinner had sucked: I know this makes me a bad Nipponophile, but the whole Geisha thing just never interested me that much. Women in white pancake makeup singing atonal Japanese classical music? Check please.)

The menu at the place we ate (no clue about its name, sorry) was all in Japanese— thankfully A. was not only fluent but also literate. Over the course of the night she probably translated about 90% of the menu for us, and all of the dishes were delightful. There were quite a lot of them, covering all sorts of preparation methods from steaming to stewing to frying; special mention should go to the tempura-fried ginger shavings and a cucumber-in-miso dish who’s name apparently translated literally and quite accurately as “you cannot stop eating this.” (And after our protein-and-starch-heavy diet of the last few weeks, a plant-focussed meal was really something of a relief.)

We also had a few drinks with dinner, and I allowed myself to be re-introduced to Shochu. Shochu and I have a bit or a tortured history: the one true oh-god-please-kill-me-now hangover I’ve ever had in my life happened after a night at a Korean karaoke joint in Manhattan where people kept brining me shochu-and-fruit-juice cocktails. The hangover was like someone had set off a concussion grenade inside my skull: it had been about 7 years since that night and I’d avoided the stuff assiduously ever sence. Still, A assured us that the local stuff was quite good, and recommended one that was apparently made from fermented sweet potatoes. Who doesn’t like sweet potatoes? How could sweet potatoes ever hurt you? Sure, I ordered a glass on the rocks. It wasn’t bad going down, but it had a strongly medicinal aftertaste that I didn’t much care for.

As we were eating, we noticed a bit of a commotion going on outside our window:

Apparently while we’d been poking through castles and bordellos after the parade, the floats were being broken down into their component pieces, and the evening was to be devoted to the float teams (by this time quite inebriated) carrying the top-parts back to the places where they are stored between parades: several teams of them passed by while we were eating our dinner.

The night was still young when we walked out, and A was promising to take us to one of her favorite bars in the city, but we wanted a slight break in the drinking before re-applying ourselves to ethanol, so we grabbed some ice cream from a nearby convenience store and walked down to the river to sit on its banks and have dessert while the various float-tops were carried by over the bridge.

Now would be as good a place as any to mention that A. really did not know us from Adam: she was a friend-of-a-friend-or-two who happens to live in Kyoto, and who we got put in touch with us by email when we mentioned to our mutual friends that we were going to be in Japan. Despite having no idea who the hell we were, she happily toured us around the city, took us to dinner and drinking, and generally went way above and beyond the call of duty to make our last night in Kyoto utterly awesome. We’ve always done amazingly well relying on the kindness of near-strangers when traveling (hi, Belle!), and our lucky streak definitely kept up in Kyoto. There’s a lot of favors in the bank — hopefully we’ll get to return them all one day.

Our ice cream finished, we headed off towards A’s favorite 24-hour bar, which necessitated crossing a stream of post-parade revelers. One we got close to one of the float-part carrying crowds, we realized that not only were many of them quite happily (and understandably) boozed up (not that we could cast any aspersions ourselves at that point), but many of the men were down to their shirts and loincloths. Oh well, even after dark it was still pretty damn hot.

Once there was a break in the crowds, we headed over to… well, here’s where I confess that we’d already drunk a bit at the restaurant, and when we got to the bar we had rather a bit more. So until I can track down the name of the place, you’ll have to content yourself with knowing that we spent the rest of the evening drinking at “the little 24-hour bar above the Brazilian restaurant with the really nice bartender with the tattoos who plays mostly ska and the Beatles on the bar stereo.” (However it is not, for the record, the Beatles Bar.) The bar was a tiny little place that could seat 8 at the bar and potentially a few more on a couch next to it, but there were only 6 people there including us and the bartender— which was great, since the bartender was a friend of A’s, the other guy was a friend of the bartender, and the woman next to him was a bartender from another bar. We spent the rest of the night happily drinking and chatting, and A handled translation duties awesomely.

Embarrassingly, when I’d walked in I’d seen the sign for the Brazilian restaurant downstair, assumed that the bar itself was Brazilian, and started off my drink order with a Caipirinha. It wasn’t until the bartender, bless his soul, started calling the guys downstairs on his cell phone to get advice on how to mix one that I figured it out. Oops. For the record, he made as good a caipirinha as one can with rum instead of Cachaça, and I switched back to shochu after that, and then gin and tonics.

Side-note: apparently the American habit of charging extra for “top-shelf” liquors is unknown in Japan. If you want a gin-and-tonic, it will cost you the same amount with Bombay Sapphire as with anything else: it’s all imported anyway. (If you want to drink cheaply, live dangerously and drink shochu.)

The drinking and chatting went on for a while, as these things tend to, largely revolving a series of somewhat sozzled conversations about the differences in sex and dating experiences between Japan and the US, resulting in a great deal of mutually buzzed hilarity. Certainly by the end of it, we would not have been eligible for entrance into Gijo castle! Finally around 11:30 I made the mistake of looking at my watch: oh dear, we did sort of have an airplane to catch tomorrow. We’d even planned on packing up our luggage that night, although that was looking less and less lightly. We said our goodbyes and… well, we weren’t actually drunk enough to “stumble”, but I have probably walked better in my life.

Unfortunatly, we’d waited a bit too long to make our exit: all of the Kyoto busses back to our station had stopped running for the night. A. earned her final purple heart for the evening by walking with us to the Keihan line train station, which was more or less her route home anyway, and which had a stop about a half mile from where we were staying. We waved her goodbye on the train, and lurched through the humid Kyoto night back home and to sleep.

…or at least that was the plan. It was a hot, humid night. A very hot, very humid night: probably the hottest and wettest since we’d been to Japan. I fell asleep pretty quickly once I lay down of course — ethanol will do that — but about 2 hours later when I mostly sobered up, I woke up: hot, sticky, and with a not-insignificant headache. Damn you, shochu! I’d been smart enough to pack a new bottle of ibuprofen in my bags, and so I crawled off my futon (n.b. not due to drunkenness: when both your bed and your bag are on the floor, crawling is the fastest route), located my toiletries bag by feel and managed to get two tablets out of the bottle and into me without waking anyone else. Back in bed, I switched through the usual number of uncomfortable positions until a small rain shower around 4am dropped the temperature enough for me to get back to sleep for a little while.

Oh well, you play you pay. It was still an awesome way to wrap up the trip.

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