How did you spend your Golden Week? Were you concerned about buta influenza and keep things close for or did you get out and about?
I’ve been taking things pretty easy myself but decided to make a short trip down to Hamamatsu to check out their Kite Flying Festival. I had been down before but as I’ve got back into stunt kite flying myself since then, I wanted to go and check out the big boys again. At this kite festival, they don’t simply fly, the fight!
From the station there was a shuttle bus that ferried people to and from the beach. It cost 500 yen for a return ticket which was a fair price. Considering the amount of staff driving buses and directing traffic I doubt they were making much, if any profit.
People from Hamamatsu were really friendly. On the way from where the bus drops you off, about 800 meters from the main festival area, I was stopped by some obasans who wanted me to try on a happi. Initially I was ready to get defensive and tell them I didn’t want to buy on but that wasn’t the deal at all. They were simply getting people to try them on and get their pictures taken. I was happy.
Then as I continued walking the rain started falling. Being without my own umbrella I gave a J-girl a bit of a fright by ducking under hers. Not a bad way to start a conversation.
The festival runs on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of May. Groups from all over Hamamatsu fly their massive kites which are about 2 meters long, almost 4 if you include the bamboo spine. Once a team has their kite in the air it’s time to start kite fighting. The aim is to bring down opposing groups’ kites by attacking their kite lines. Two or more kites that do battle end up with their lines twisted around each other. With lots of pulling an appropriately timed shouts of yoisho one of the kites’ dance in the wind comes to an end as it crashes out of the sky.
As I walked along the path eating my takoyaki a felled warrior smashed into the ground less than 10 meters in front of me. There were quite a few startled Japanese even closer but everyone managed to hang on to their okonomiyaki, yakitori and so on.
There were a variety of festival stalls selling all kinds of foods and the usual gold fish, Doraemon masks and kids toys stalls too. The food stalls appeared to be charging a flat fee of 500 yen for their various dishes. I had some great takoyaki and some less great Hamamatsu gyoza. The gyoza to me seemed just like regular gyoza with extra grease.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so good when I went on the 5th. There were grey skies and a little bit of rain. What impressed me though was that it didn’t appear to affect the Japanese warrior spirit. At one stage I counted about 30 kites in flight at the same time.
In the evening there are other festivities in the center of the city but due to the weather, I didn’t hang around for them this year.
You can get more festival details, in Japanese, here.
Sorry the weather didn’t work out for you. It sounds like you still had a nice time though!
Enjoyed your description of the activities at the kite festival – a bit different from ours here in Adelaide, South Australia! So they don’t just do kite-fighting with Rokkakus in Japan? Is it done with many different kinds of traditional Japanese kites?
On the topic of stunt kites, we saw some awesome quad-kite skills demonstrated recently, at the Adelaide International kite festival back in March this year.
In 1994, when I was the Sofa English teacher, the rain was so heavy the day we went to Hamamatsu, the kite flying was cancelled!
I envy you your experience! but we still had a wonderful day, as we stopped off on the way home at another festival.
Have fun in Susono, it’s a wonderful place. Ii always feel as if I’ve come home, everytime I visit.