Kite Flying

May 6, 2009

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.

kite flying

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.

warrior kite

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.

stalls

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.

kite battle

You can get more festival details, in Japanese, here.


Susono Parks – Susono Undo Koen

April 5, 2009

I decided that having smaller posts on individual Susono Parks filled in the Susono adventure category might make things easier to read. Earlier today I went to the park with my son. Here is a brief review.

裾野市運動公園 (すそのし うんどう こうえん) (Susono-shi Undo Koen) or Susono Sports Park is far away from the center of Susono. You really need a car (or someone else to drive you) to get there!

When I first started working as a Susono ALT I hardly ever went to the Undo Koen. Now though, I have a car and a son so have both the means and a good reason to go there!

There are some great sports facilities there. For example an athletics track with football pitch; a baseball ground; tennis courts; and a large grassy park. I take my son to the park area because that’s where the most fun for kids is to be had.

There are two big roller slides. One gentler and shorter than the other. It’s fairly painful on your backside if you ride the slide unprotected. Typically Japanese parents and kids make a sledge type contraption out of thick cardboard. Mr Matsuyama from the Board of Education kindly made one for my son and I the last time I popped into City Hall.

Undo Koen map


Stunt kite flying in Susono

April 4, 2009

I just bought a new dual line stunt kite over the internet. It arrived yesterday so I have been out and about in Susono looking for good kite flying locations. As a Susono ALT I’m wondering if I’ll have enough leeway to go out and fly my kite during my free periods.

So far the best places I’ve found are the school grounds as they are wide enough to fly my stunt kite without hitting any power cables. The one challenge I face though is that the playing fields, while wide enough to fly my kite, are often surrounded by either trees or buildings. This makes the wind less reliable and harder to control my kite.

I’ll definitely introduce my son to kite flying as he gets older. In the meantime I will be on the look out for a more open flying location. I’ve also started keeping a stunt kite flying blog.


Susono Parks – Susono Chuo Koen

April 1, 2009

Susono is famous for 自然いっぱい(しぜんいっぱい)(shizen ippai) – having a lot of natural beauty. So it’s no surprise there are a number of parks. As long as the weather is reasonable my son and I usually go to at least one of the following parks each weekend.

中央公園 – Chuo Koen – Central Park

This park is just behind Nishi junior high school. It is famous for 五竜の滝(ごりゅうのたき)(Go Ryu no Taki) – Five Dragon Waterfall. There are 3 prominent waterfalls and two others hidden behind some trees.

The Susono ALT working at Nishi junior high school usually has a few chances to visit throughout the year.

Chuo Koen is pretty peaceful although kids sometimes disturb the tranquility. My son chucking stones into the river being one of them. Let’s face it, it’s more fun being noisy.

Each May, Midori festival is held in Central Park. There are a variety of stalls selling all kinds of Japanese foods. The local taiko drumming group also puts on a performance.

One of the highlights of the park is its suspension bridge over the river. From the bridge you can get a perfect view of the waterfalls.

Central Park is closed on Mondays although it’s easy enough to jump the gates although as a responsible ALT I would never do anything like that!

More to follow…