Gion Festival Music Rehearsal

The Gion festival is one of three major festivals in Kyoto (Jidai-matsuri (時代祭), Aoi-matsuri (葵祭), Gion-matsuri (祇園祭)). The main parade held on the July 17th every year enjoys massive media coverage in Japan and is famous worldwide. There is a secondary parade (祇園後祭) on the 24th since 2014, which was reintroduced after almost half a century.

The past few years, I went to the secondary parade rather than to the main event. With less people at the later event, it’s easier to move around while taking photographs. There are plenty of big floats and it features many traditional matsuri-style dressed-up groups.

In this article, however, I want to take you on a behind the scenes tour of this major event—the musical rehearsal sessions with the onomatopoetic nickname “konchikichin”.

Locations practicing in larger groups are sparse in Kyoto. Here, the participants perform indoors in an office corridor between reception and staircase.

Drum crescendo

Group session

Short break

Final rehearsal

Heavy duty bells produce a deafening chime. Their chimes have three distinct sounds. Hit in the middle of the bell (“kon”), hit on the tom and bottom in succession (“chiki”), and hit on the top rim (“chin”).


On many instruments, the logo of the performing group is indicated. Branding in many forms is popular, too. Some enjoy quite a famed existence.

Drum with logo

T-shirts for visibility

Even tote bags with the logo are frequently used

Flutes bring melody to the drums and chimes.

Flute solo

Flute group

Musical notes are written in their own symbols and have an impressive appearance. Heavy duty washi paper makes sure they are visible from a few meters away.

Musical notes

View of the musical notes from the chimes position

Back side of the musical notes

Before and after the parade, there are many events to promote the Gion festival and its music. One that I managed to photograph was held at the Manga-museum.

Performance at the Manga museum in Kyoto

In between sessions

Performance at the Manga museum in Kyoto

Performance at dusk, closer to the finale


Thank you for taking the time to read this photo article. I hope you enjoyed this rare view of Kyoto’s culture.

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