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I saw the Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival (Odako Matsuri) for the first time on May 23, 2004. The site is alongside the Echigawa River near the Yachiyo Bridge. A free shuttle bus from Yokaichi Station is provided, taking about 10 min.
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Crowds
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Mini kite contest. Kite contestants show off their kite designs at their tents.
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The Big One. The size is equivalent to 100 tatami mats or about 12 meters x 13 meters (156 square meters).
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May 27, 2007 was a bad day for giant kite flying in Yokaichi, as the giant kite crashes head-first into a bamboo grove on its first and last flight during the Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival.
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At slightly past noon with medium-force winds, the giant kite is launched. The kite immediately went straight up. The giant kite is 13 meters high and 12 meters wide, and weighs 700 kg.
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It flew very high, up to about 150 meters, then veered to the right, over our heads.
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Then it suddenly dove straight down and crashed head-first into the bamboo grove. Ironically, the blue banner on the left says, "Ganbatte" (Do your best).
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The giant kite was swallowed whole by the bamboo trees. No one was hurt. Also see my YouTube video here. 大凧が竹やぶに落下
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All we could see were the kite strings.
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The sign says "Arigato gozaimasu" (Thank you). I guess the bamboo was hungry for a giant kite.
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This was the 2nd time in three years for the giant kite to meet a major accident. In 2005, the kite broke in half in the sky and crashed into a crowd of people below.
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"So how does it look?" "It looks pretty bad, boss."
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Members of the giant kite preservation society look on as the disappointing and heartbreaking situation is assessed.
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Carved paper
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Hanging on to the strings...
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As I expected, they soon started cutting down the bamboo.
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A small clearing was made around the kite.
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No way would this guy be able to pull the kite out of this one...
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How he wished that he could just pull the strings to drag the kite out.
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The kite strings were too tangled in the bamboo.
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A closer look at the accident scene. The kite suffered significant damage, and it took about 20 days to repair.
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As I predicted again, they started disassembling the kite so they could roll (crumple) it up and carry it out. The kite was not flown again for this festival. It was to be its final flight since it will be replaced next year.
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Carrying out bamboo. Many people left the festival after the kite crash.
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Stack of cut bamboo.
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People's fortune stickers on the kite. 願い札
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Medium-size kites entered in a kite-flying contest.
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Stringing the kite
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Ready for flight
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Kite corner
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Launch pad. The kite is carried to the take off point and pointed toward the wind, which unfortunately very weak this day.
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Raising the kite. Long bamboo poles are used to prop the huge kite upward to meet the wind.
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Take off. On cue, the people pulling the kite start running and the kite starts to lift off. Also see the video at YouTube.
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Snapped part being repaired.
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Yokaichi Giant Kite Preservation Society. This is the group responsible for producing, maintaining, and flying the giant kite. 大凧保存会
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Sagamihara kite team invited. Sagamihara city in Kanagawa Prefecture also has a giant kite festival, and they were invited to fly a smaller version of their kite at Yokaichi. (Yokaichi was also invited to Sagamihara's kite festival in April.)
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Sagamihara kite in flight. Due to a lack of wind, this flight didn't last long.
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Banzai from Sagamihara. After the kite's flight, the Sagamihara team give a few banzais to themselves and to Yokaichi.
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Mini kite flying contest. The flying portion of the kite contest is held.
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Mini kite flying contest
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Kite train or "rendako." These kites are pretty to watch. 連凧
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Giant Kite sake. The food and souvenir booths sold a variety of merchandise including this locally-brewed sake, complete with a label showing this year's kite design.
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Kite pullers wanted. This booth, next to the giant kite, is where you can apply to pull the kite. Anybody can apply to pull the giant kite. I applied and got a little kite pin and a pair of gloves.
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Ready for another flight
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Yokaichi giant kite coming up.
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100 kite pullers
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OK, RUN NOW!! This is the most exciting part when we start running with the rope. It was like a stampede, and I let go after a few seconds to avoid getting runned over by the mob behind me.
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And lift off...
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Yokaichi Odako giant kite Air borne
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Higher and higher...It went up to about ?? meters.
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No wind. This flight lasted only about 30 sec. We ran about 50 meters, then the kite fell back to Earth. Also see the video at YouTube.
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Festival poster
 
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