Fukisaki Festival

We arrived at the Aomori airport where we awaited the arrival of Mr. Yoo Sang Roe from Korea, and his wife. Mr. Roe is 97 years old and a master Korean kite maker and painter, but one would never guess his age by his energy and enthusiasm.

Mr. and Mrs. Roe of Korea-with one of his Korean Fighter Kites below
Mr. Masaaki Modegi, head of the Japan Kite Association, at the home of the Sato's with their family armor
We stopped by the Hirosaki visitor center, (home of a famous castle and cherry blossom festival below). We saw examples of the lantern art for the summer Nebuta festival. These are large structures with wood frames and painted washi paper skin. The material is the same as used in kites and some of the traditional kite makers are involved in this art.
Paper Lantern from the Nebuta Festival in August
Our last stop was the wonderful home of Dr. Jinya Sato and his lovely wife, Tokoku Sato (see last year’s travel to Fujisaki). As usual the first night we all stay together as a group in their lovely home. We looked very cute wandering around their house in the fluffy slippers they provided. We had a scrumptious dinner prepared in her house.
The following morning we walked to the cultural center where we were dressed in kimono’s (Mr. Modegi above in a traditional kimono) and participated in traditional tea ceremony, followed by a session of ikebana, Japanese flower arranging. Jennifer and Martin Lester performed a demonstration for the class.
The afternoon schedule included making kites with groups of children. In our group we fashioned sled kites for the children, while Mr. Roe took the older children and made Korean fighter kites. After kite making and the ensuing kite flying we prepared for the evening’s opening ceremony for the kite festival.
At the event which included dancing, speeches and toasting, we were introduced to our host families where we spent the next two nights. Jennifer and I were thrilled to find that the Karouji’s were our host families once again. Their lovely home and fuji apple farm is so warm and cozy, that it was a treat to be with them again. We explored shiburi dyeing with them using the indigo they grow on their farm, a subject we are both interested in. This year we also met their daughter who teaches piano.
The Karouji family has been producing extremely high quality fuji apple juice for several generations. We know. We drank gallons of it while visiting with them. They have a private label, called Madamu.
The kite festival opened with taiko drumming, speeches and mochi making. The breezes were mild in the morning and picked up in the afternoon. The local tsugaru kites require a fair amount of wind, so in the afternoon these became more plentiful with their loud “hummers”. To enhance the effect kite flyers let the kites out until they almost touch the ground, and then pull them up to the maximum height, making the sound very loud.

Click to hear the sound of the tsugaru kite. The long hemp tails always manage to tangle someone’s kite, so it is a good idea to stay clear of them. The weather was great and a good time was had by all.

The following day we traveled to several local schools. We participated in kite making, kite demonstrations (with magnificent performances by Marc Ricketts) and songs and games with the children. One of the elementary schools we attended, Fujisaki Chuo Elementary School has a home page!! Click here. The second school we attended, Fujisaki Elementary School, has an email address: fujisyo@jomon.ne.jp
In the evening the group went off by bus to the Hirosaki cherry blossom festival. The festival is a combination of the wonderful and picturesque castle, and moat surrounded by 5000 cherry trees that are centuries old, and a carnival with booths and food and games. The mix that would seem jarring to our senses but which is part of modern Japanese culture. The old and the new, side by side.

The next day we went to a few more schools and returned to Aomori where we met with the governor of the prefecture, Morio Kimura a lifelong kite lover and participant in the Fujisaki festival. We flew back to Tokyo that evening.