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.

We were all set to return home after the Nagasaki festival, when Edo (Ed Fackler) emailed us and said “You can't leave..Shirone Giant Kite battle is only two days later. You HAVE to stay for that. Check out my web page..Shirone Kite Festival 1999.. It was the most unbelievable kite festival I've ever seen”.

We met some of the officials last year, and they had arranged for Edo to join one of the local teams, Gorogumi. Edo made arrangements for us to be on the same team.

To be honest, we heard there was a dynamite kite museum there (possibly the best in all Japan), and we were interested in the kite battles, so we decided we would stay the extra week. We were in for a big surprise.

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 wonderful opportunity would not have happened without the help of all these generous friends.

We wish to thank Japan Kite Association, especially Mr. Modegi, for his good humor and graciousness. Mr. Hashimoto, the president of the Osaka Kite Club, our sister city, was very generous and we thank him and all of the Osaka Kite Club for accepting us as members in the club. Our new Osaka Kite Club happi coats will be worn with great honor. Edo Fackler, mi casa, su casa, our fearless traveling buddy who knows how to joyfully laugh at life. Miki Saito, frog sister extraordinaire, artist, dead head and gracious interpreter.
Mikio Toki, for sharing his friendship, bridling knowledge, and the most extraordinary art on kites in all of Japan.

A very special thank you to Dr. Jinya and Tokuko Sato, a delightful couple filled with the spirit of generosity. The Karouji family are the best Fuji apple growers and delightful homestay family we had the pleasure of staying with.

Ceramic brother, Harvey Young, thank you for staying on the path of clay, you are an inspiration. Thomas Sasaki, Tomoyo, Eriko and Kohtaro who provided a touch of California in Japan.
Mr. & Mrs. Muneyuki (Seiho) Nakamura generously gave us a lovely homestay experience and an opportunity to share the joy of kite making with true kite makers; Mr. Enomoto, Mr. Mitsuhashi, Mr. Koji, Mr. Toyokazu Ishida, Mr. Seiko Ishiyama.

Mr. & Mrs. Tasuke Kuwata and their family, Koji, Miho and Miyuko
Maeda oversaw our Nagasaki hata experience par excellence! They gave beyond their capacity to give, with joy. A pure pleasure.

We will never be the same after experiencing the Shirone kite battle. Mr. Yuuichi Honma introduced us to Mr. Hironori Hasegawa who invited us on the best team, “Gorogumi”. Totally over the top!
Mr. Masayoshi Kawase, a true artists, I will deeply treasure his art gifts. Mr. Sadahiko Hayasaka and fellow Sendai Kite Club associate, Mr. Shigeki Endoh, your joyousness was infectious.

Finally we wish to deeply thank Mr. Ichiro Hike for his wonderful book, The Dictionary of Japanese Kites. The culmination of many years of following his bliss. May we be so blessed, to be able to continue to follow our kite joy and share it with others along the way. Thank you everyone.

Japan Kite Association, Mr. Masaaki Modegi President
Osaka Kite Club, Mr. Masao Hasimoto, President
Mr. Ichiro Hike
Mr. Teruaki Tsutsumi
Ed Fackler
Miki Saito
Mr. Mikio Toki
Seiji & Emiko Okino
Dr. Jinya & Tokuko Sato
Mr. Morio Kimura
Karouji Family
Mr. Yoshi Kishi
Mr. Yoshizo Sakuraba
Mr. Akiyoshi Odagawa
Mr. Takeda
Harvey Young
Tomas Sasaki
Tomoyo, Eriko and Kohtaro Iwamoto
Mr. & Mrs. Muneyuki (Seiho) Nakamura, The Kazuma Family
Ikazaki Kite Museum
Mr. Sadao Sakai
Mr. Nisesaka
Mr. Minoru Tsumura
Mr. & Mrs. Harada
Mr & Mrs. Yoshi Hamanaka
Mr. Katsumi Yokoyama
Mr. & Mrs. Yoshi Uada
Mr. Kiichi Tanino
Mr. Minoru Tasho
Mr & Mrs. Tasuke Kuwata
Koji, Miho and Miyuko Maeda
Seikoo Nakamura
Mr. Akihiro Ogawa
Mr. Yuuichi Honma
Mr. Hironori Hasegawa
Mr. Masayoshi Kawase
Mr. Kazuo Tamura
Mr. Sadahiko Hayasaka
Mr. Shigeki Endoh
Ms. Kuniko Otsuka

And the many more that we thank in our hearts who we have not named, but who touched us by their warmth and friendliness.