Japan Tour 2000
We traveled throughout Japan for 6 weeks from late April until the first week of June. While we flew many kites, we made many more people connections: children in schools who we made kites with, kite makers, kite fliers, master kite painters, and many wonderful Japanese people. We were stunned and amazed at how hospitable everyone we met was. It was an incredible experience, one we will treasure always. Our web pages reflect this sentiment. There are more pictures of people.
We focused on spending time in studios with expert kite makers. We began visiting kite artists last year, and this year arranged for extra time with them. As a result we learned a lot about the art of Japanese kite making. We will share as much of this information as we can. For us, however the joy of sharing time and space in someone's studio while they explain their craft, cannot be completely conveyed by a simple web page. Perhaps sometime in the future we will arrange tours to kite artists that we've met. While the Japanese kite festivals are really wonderful, the time we spent in the studios with the artists is what made our trip even more extraordinary.
We were fortunate in the spring of 2000 to be invited by the Japan Kite Association to the annual spring tour of Fujisaki and Uchinada. Our small international group included Marc Ricketts, Martin Lester, and Art Ross. We flew to Aomori, to attend the Fujisaki Kite Festival.
After the festival we returned to Tokyo for a one night stay before departing for Uchinada. We were met in Tokyo by three more members of the foreign delegation, Tom Casselman and his son, Zak, and David Gomberg. May 3rd we flew from Tokyo to the Kanazawa airport for travel by bus to Uchinada.
The following day we returned to Tokyo where we had a celebratory dinner hosted by the Japan Kite Association, with many guests from the Tokyo area attending. Among them was Mr. Ichiro Hike, author of the Dictionary of Japanese Kites. For most of the group, this was their last night in Japan so we bid them farewell.
Jennifer and I now began on our own kite tour of Japan. Our first stop was to visit with Mikio Toki, a wonderful kite maker from Chiba. He drove us several hours to his studio.
Our next kite event was the Nara kite festival where we visited Mr. Nakamura of Nara. He is famous for his images of Daikoku on kites, and his Lincoln Continental which he loves to drive.
Our friend Miki Saito sent us pictures of a wonderful kite museum in Ikazaki. We had a few days free, and decided to venture out to the countryside and see the museum. The train ride was 4.5 hours, and several trains, but the ride was well worth it.
We first met Mr. Hashimoto in 1997 when the Osaka Kite club visited San Francisco and staged a kite making workshop for children. Osaka and San Francisco are sister cities. Last year we traveled on a bus with the club from Uchinada to Osaka, and celebrated Jennifer's birthday. This year Mr. Hashimoto, head of the Osaka branch of the Japan Kite Association, invited us into his home and studio.
We've become members of the eclectic Osaka branch of the Japan Kite Association. In February we contacted Mr. Hashimoto and he suggested we go with the club to a very special festival, in Daimon. The club would travel by train to Takaoka and stay over night at the festival.
On Wed May 24th we took the train out of Osaka for Nagasaki to attend the hata kite festival commemorating the 400 years since the Dutch arrived in Japan. There was an international kite festival, but our main interest was in the hata fighting kites. We met Mr. Kuwata and his wife last year in China at Lianyungang and had fun flying our jumping frogs along side their hata kites from Nagasaki. The hata kites are a modification of the Indian fighters that the Dutch brought from India, modified for the winds and conditions in Japan. They are traditionally red white and blue, though black is sometimes used. There are over 200 traditional images for the hatas. The images are very striking and symbolic. For example a white kite with one red circle on one side is a dragon winking.
While we were in Shirone we thought since Sanjo was so close and we'd always heard a lot about the famous rokkaku battles of Sanjo, we would go there on Sunday morning. We also heard that Mitsuke also had a rokkaku battle and while we were out, visit both of them. So early Sunday we set forth with some friends from the Sendai kite club.
On our last night in Shirone, Mr. Hasegawa arranged for us to visit a wonderful local kite artist, Masayoshi Kawase.
Travel in Japan by train is wonderful. You can buy a rail pass in the US that you cannot buy in Japan that entitles you to unlimited travel. We did this last year and again this year. It made travel relatively inexpensive and a sheer delight. I've added a page of photos of some of the incredible trains we traveled on in Japan. One of them, which took us to Nagasaki, was just put into service this year. It was called the Kamome and was elegant.
This is the place where we say "Thank You" to all the wonderful people who assisted us in the adventure.
This wonderful opportunity would not have happened without the help of all these generous friends.
And the many more that we thank in our hearts who we have not named, but who touched us by their warmth and friendliness.