chapter  4
15 Pages

Gion Festival

This is how the man of Kyoto puts into words the shrill beat of the cymbal-gongs that rings through the Gion Festival, the highlight of Kyoto's full festival year. The gongs are shaped in a circle, and a lip runs round their circumference. They are held triangle-like and struck with a metal-tipped drumstick. ,Kon' is a full bang, on centre; 'chiki' is the stick moving rapidly up and down and striking the upper and lower lip; 'chin' is another centre beat, followed by a rest. The whole tenor of the festival is set by the gay and cheeky lilt of the gong's rhythm; its piercing ring dins in your ears, sets your feet moving and your body swaying and emerges high and clear through the notes of the rest of the musicians-whether they bang away on their drums or puff red-cheeked into their flutes-and the jumble of noises from the crowd down below. Japan has a wealth of sound, and her people are quick to appreciate it; it makes them write phrases like 'bee-loud summer afternoon'. But Kyoto's Gion Festival must be one of the richest collections of them all.