In Japan, the hobby of kite flying has risen to an art form. Kites, or “tako,” were originally brought to Japan from China by Buddhist missionaries in 649-794 AD. Kites were mainly used for religious events and celebrations, but the innovative Japanese also found a way to use them in the construction of shrines and temples. Large kites were used to lift building material such as tiles to workers on scaffolds and roof tops.
During the Edo Period (1603-1867) when Japan distanced itself from the outside world, kite making flourished. New styles and designs were created, usually depicting characters of Japanese folk lore or artwork with religious meaning.
Kites at the Himeji Kite Festival. | cotaro70s
The Giant Kites of Sagami
One of Japan’s spectacular kite festivals, the Sagami Giant Kite Festival, is held annually on May 4 and 5 at various regions in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Large kites of Sagami, called “Sagami-no-Oodako,” are flown with the help of a team of skilled kite flyers. Just to get the kites up in the air takes much effort. These giant kites can measure up to 14.5 meters in length and width, weigh 950 kilos, and are made of bamboo and Japanese paper. It is a breathtaking sight to see these enormous artistic creations flying about the sky.
Sagami Giant Kite Flying Festival. | chaojikasu
Interesting tidbit: The longest flight of a traditional large kite was in 2001 when it stayed in the air for 6 hours, 7 minutes, and 55 seconds.
Taimeiken Kite Museum
During your KCP stay in Japan, learn more about the history of Japanese kites by visiting the Taimeiken Kite Museum (Tako-no-Hakubutsukan) in Tokyo. This fascinating museum is a spectacle of vivid colors and gorgeous designs, with about 3000 kites on display from floor to ceiling in the showroom. The collection varies from regular bamboo flyers to the more exotic dragon-head kites.
Location: 5th floor of the Taimeiken Restaurant, 1-12-10 Nihonbashi, Chuoh-ku, Tokyo 103-0027. Hours open 11am-5pm, Mondays to Saturdays, with 200 Yen admission fee.
236 kites in flight, at 300 meters long. | tjsander
Lonely Planet Japan, 12th Edition