JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when in crowds.

Image search results - "odako"
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One of two giant kitesThis festival has two giant kites and two smaller (but still large) kites. Resting on its side, the kite was scheduled to fly at 2 pm. The kanji characters read "Michi no Eki" in reference to a new train station built in the town.
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Lowering the kite
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Patch up
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Moving the kite to launch point
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During July-Aug. 2007, I helped to make the Yokaichi giant kite at the annex of the Yokaichi Giant Kite Museum.where the giant kite is made. Every three years, the giant kite, flown every May in Higashi-Omi, is replaced by a new kite bearing a new design.The new kite was made during July-Aug. 2007, taking about 30 days. The kite is made by volunteers from the public under the instruction of the Yokaichi Giant Kite Preservation Society. For the first time, I helped make this giant kite which was first flown successsfully on May 25, 2008 at the annual kite festival.
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Festival siteThey did not allow people go enter the launch area at all times. Spectators were kept far away.
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Entrance to the annex and a sign indicating the day's event or work. Today, July 7, 2007, was the Noritsuke Pasting Ceremony. 八日市大凧まつり のりつけ式
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July 7, 2007: The making of the giant kite started with Noritsuke Pasting Ceremony where the new design was announced and dignitaries pasted together the first pieces of the kite paper.
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No people on the sides either
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Before announcing the final kite design, they announced the three best (but not winning) design entries. The public was invited to submit kite designs based on the theme of "Life" or inochi.
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Launch point on a low hill
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Twenty-six design entries were submitted this year. There was no top winner, so the final design was based on the three best designs. This design features the kanji "Yorokobu" or joyfulness. 今回のテーマは「いのち」
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They introduced the three best designs. 最優秀作品はなく、3点の優秀賞作品を参考に保存会が決めた。
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Also see the video at YouTube.
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The new kite design was then announced. Called Han-jimon (判じもん), the design expresses a certain theme using word play with a pair of animals and one or two kanji characters. 八日市大凧は3年に一度図柄を変える。
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Ride'em cowboyAs the kite quickly flew up, the forward kite pullers had to release the rope.
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The top kanji is "yorokobu" (joyfulness) which can also be read as "ki." The pair of hawks 鷹 can be read as "yo." And the bottom kanji is "sei" (living). It's "Kyosei."
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Higashi-Omi mayor Nakamura Koichi explains the design. "Kyosei" 共生 means to co-exist (i.e. man and nature) or to live together harmoniously. 中村功一市長
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The mayor and one of the kite design artists wear a sash and pose for a picture before proceeding with the Noritsuke Ceremony.
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They used a wide brush to apply paste to the edges of a piece of kite paper.
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Michi no EkiThe kite design is the same every year, but the kanji characters change. They make a new giant kite every year.
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They joined two sheets of kite paper together. This marked the first step in making the kite. The finished kite paper will consist of a few hundred washi paper sheets pasted together.
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More dignitaries paste the sheets of kite paper together.
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The pasted pieces are laid to dry.
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We were then invited to sign our names on the kite paper.
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The kite design announcement and pasting ceremony lasted an hour, after which a group photo was taken.
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Smaller kite "Yujo"
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"Yujo"This is a smaller kite. It means "Friendship."
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July 8, 2007: On the day after the pasting ceremony, the Kamitsugi or paper joining was next. 紙継ぎ
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Starting at 9:30 am, members of the giant kite preservation society began pasting and joining about 400 sheets of washi paper to make the giant kite paper.
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The top two rows of washi sheets already pasted together.
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The size of the room almost exactly matches the size of the giant kite which is 12 meters by 13 meters or 100 tatami mats.
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The paper is Mino Washi, from Gifu Prefecture. It is white, and surprisingly thin. I thought it would be thicker. Six or so sheets are stacked while slightly spread apart.
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She fell
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The stacked paper is put on a table where water-based paste is applied to one horizontal and one vertical paper edge.
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Patch up
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Each person holds one edge-pasted sheet and line up to align and join the sheet. Each sheet measures about 90 cm by 60 cm. There are also half-size sheets.
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Anybody can help do this. The public is invited to sign their names on a sheet and paste it to the big kite paper.
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The sheets are joined in the same pattern as a brick wall. Every other row of sheets has a half sheet along the edge. Notice the autographs of people on the paper.
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"Nakama"This is another smaller kite. It means "Circle of Friends."
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So the giant kite is actually made of many smaller sheets of paper joined together. Notice my "philbert" autograph on the bottom.
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Anchor truck
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People sign their names on a washi sheet.
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Amateur areaFurther downwind was the amateur area for flying normal kites.
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There are also smaller sheets of paper where you can write a wish and sign your name. Paste will be applied to these sheets which will be used to fasten the bamboo frame to the giant paper.
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Another launch
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The work proceeds.
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The last sheet is pasted and joined. The job was finished in 3 hours.
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The giant kite paper is finished, taking up the floor space of the entire room.
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Another beautiful take off
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After every kite-making session, they take a picture of all the volunteer participants. It was very interesting. Anybody can participate on any day. Call the kite museum for schedule details: 0748-23-0081.
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July 16, 2007: Initial sketching and vermilion painting. A sketch of the design was made with a charcoal pencil. 下絵・墨
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The giant kite's main and largest kanji character "sei" is painted in vermilion.
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A plastic bucket (the same kind used when you take a bath) with paint and a brush is used.
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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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Poster
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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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The red and ornage colors are painted first on the kite, while the black and gray colors are painted later.
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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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Spots of white are made on purpose to give a brush stroke effect.
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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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The "yorokobu" or "ki" kanji is also painted on the same day.
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All we could see were the kite strings.
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The design sketch is being completed.
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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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Plastic pails and brushes
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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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Vermilion paint
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"So how does it look?" "It looks pretty bad, boss."
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The sketch of the hawk is completed.
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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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Hawk eye
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Hanging on to the strings...
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Wing corner
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As I expected, they soon started cutting down the bamboo.
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Local cable TV station also came to cover the kite-making progress.
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A small clearing was made around the kite.
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A brush stroke effect
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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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"Yorokobu" or "ki"
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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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Vermilion painting of "sei" is complete.
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Stack of cut bamboo.
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Group photo of those who worked on the kite this time. This session was 9:30 am to noon.
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Medium-size kites entered in a kite-flying contest.
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July 31, 2007: Bamboo frame work and picture-edge frame work. 骨組(絵骨)Hone-gumi (Ebone)
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A diagonal grid of thin, rod-like bamboo criss-crossed the entire kite. They are now using string to tie the bamboo intersections.
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Tied bamboo intersections. The rod-like bamboo are supported by larger pieces of bamboo.
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Kite edges are lined with a thicker bamboo to which the rod-like bamboo are tied.
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This intricate bamboo frame supports the kite paper so it does not flap around like normal paper.
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The bamboo frame work is done after the kite design is painted.
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Bamboo rods and sticks.
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Hawk eye painted.
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Wing
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Besides the diagonal grid of bamboo rods, a bamboo rod is also fastened along the edges of the design where the paper will be cut out (or carved out). These bamboo rods keep the edges of the cut-out paper taut. Otherwise it would flap around in the wind.
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Still more tying to do.
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Tying the bamboo frame is considered to be one of the more tedious tasks, so we were rewarded with a pair of gloves with the kite design. These gloves will also give us higher priority to pull the kite during the kite festival.
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Group photo. Quite a few people worked during this 3-hour afternoon session.
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Aug. 5, 2007: Paper cutting 切り抜き Kiri-nuki. First they reversed the kite paper so the bottom side was up. Then they re-installed the bamboo grid as shown here.
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The bamboo grid is carefully aligned with the kite design.
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The bamboo grid was temporarily fixed with weights and some tape.
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Intricate bamboo grid/frame fitting all shapes along the edges.
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Wing portion before paper cutting.
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Wing portion after paper cutting.
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How they do it: First they cut along the outline of the picture leaving ample space. Then they cut it perpendicular to the edge to make paper flaps.
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The paper flaps are applied with paste and then folded over the bamboo rod.
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See the paper flaps pasted over the edge.
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Almost finished. This paper cutting step took 3 days to complete.
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On May 25, 2008 at the Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival, the new giant kite was flown for the first time. The wind conditions was good.
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The kite flew quite high for about 3 min. 35 sec. Also see my YouTube video here.
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It had rained the night before and in the morning. The ground would've been muddy, but they spread a layer of rocks to make the ground dry. It must have been hard to pull the kite and run on these rocks.
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After the flight, we could see the kite up close. A sacred sakaki tree branch adorned the back of the kite. Also many paper stickers with people's wishes were pasted on the back.
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The Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival (Higashi-Omi Odako Matsuri) is held on the last Sunday of May at Fureai Undo Park (ふれあい運動公園) in Notogawa, HigashiOmi, Shiga. The main highlight is the giant kite, flying at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm.My video of the Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival on May 26, 2013. Due to a tragic kite crash in May 2015, this kite festival has been suspended since May 2016. It will not be held in May 2019 either.
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Also see kite-flying contests, exotic kites from around Japan, and stage entertainment. Anybody can fly a kite too. From 10 am to 3 pm.
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Free shuttle buses ran from JR Notogawa Station to the park which had no public parking.
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The festival name changed from Yokaichi Odako Matsuri to Higashiomi Odako Matsuri in May 2012 and the festival site changed in May 2013 to Fureai Undo Koen Park. Map
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Kite-flying contest.
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The kites are the size of two tatami mats.
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About 30 teams competed in kite-flying and design contests.
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Thirty teams made "mini giant kites" and competed in kite design (図柄) and flying (飛揚). They went on the outdoor stage for kite design judging.
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This team is from Higashi-Omi City Hall's young employees group.
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Kite trains (連凧) are the crowd favorite.
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Then I stumbled across this arch kite.
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To my delight, it was an arch kite of hula girls.
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The hula girls were joined by Awa Odori girls from Tokushima.
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They're even wearing a lei and a flower in their hair!!
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Huge arch kite of hula girls and Awa Odori dancers.
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Needless to say, this was my favorite kite at the festival. How did they know someone from Hawaii was coming?
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Their feet fluttered in the wind and their hips rocked left and right like real hula dancers.
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The Awa Odori dancers also danced great in the wind. (Watch my video.)
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Hiko-nyan (Hikone Castle's official mascot) meets hula girls!
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At sround 11:30 am, they cleared the area and brought out the giant kite (odako).
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They were going to pull the kite across the width of the park since the way blew that way.
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Made of washi paper (from Mino, Gifu) and a bamboo frame, the giant kite measures 13 meters high and 12 meters wide and weighs 700 kg.
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The kite is unique for its cutout and hanjimon (判じもん) design.
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The hanjimon (判じもん) kite design always has a twin pair of creatures and a large kanji character. Together they form a thematic catch phrase.
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This kite's hanjimon has twin dragons that can be pronounced "shin-shin" (辰辰), a homonym for mind and body (心身). And the vermillion kanji reads "sukoyaka" (健やか), meaning good health. So the kite wishes for your "
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The four Wind Goddesses pose for us. The four Wind Goddesses (風の女神) are like festival princesses and they beckon the wind to blow during the kite festival.
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We visit the giant kite at rest. The back of the kite has many stickers written with kids' wishes.
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Higashi-Omi's giant kite is a National Intangible Folk Cultural Property (選択無形民俗文化財) with a 300-year history. It started with villages flying kites for Boy's Day in May to celebrate the birth of a boy.
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The villages then started competing in kite-making and the size grew larger and larger. The giant kite they fly today is the size of 100 tatami mats (13 m x 12 m). The Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Preservation Society (東近江大凧保存会) maintains the ki
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Lunch time! In the middle of the park are food booths and an entertainment stage.
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The entertainment stage provided entertainment like samba dancing and taiko drummers.
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Higashi-Omi has a sizable Brazilian population.
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Taiko drummers.
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This is the first time they used this park for the festival. Closer to Lake Biwa so the wind should be stronger.
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Stall selling kites. The long kite trains were sold out.
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Kites for sale.
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Flying trousers
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Hiko-nyan kite train and hula girl arch kite
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Hiko-nyan kite train
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Behind Hikonyan were Nagahama's Azai sister trio (Chacha, Hatsu, and Go).
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Giant kite pullers.
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Wind Goddesses fanning wind the traditional way.
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Afternoon flying session from 2:30 pm to 3 pm when the festival ended.
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First they use long poles to prop up the giant kite.
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The kite pullers get ready to run. A small taiko drum beats, faster and faster.
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Members of the Giant Kite Preservation Society pull the front of the rope.
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Around 100 people pull the giant kite. Junior high and older people can sign up to pull the kite.
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This is the last flight of several that day.
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Although the kite left the ground each time, it didn't stay in the air for long.
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Giant Kite MuseumLocated a short walk from the kite festival site. This is also where you can catch the bus back to Kasukabe Station.
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Older giant kite "Odako"The museum displays giant kites from previous years. Usually the giant kites are destroyed after the festival. But a few of them have been preserved here. The kanji means "Giant Kite."
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Smaller kitesThe museum displays many different kites from all over Japan and other countries.
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Museum floorThis is where they make the giant kites during Feb. to April.
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The giant kite measures about 13 high and 12 meters across, or the size of 100 tatami mats. This kite flew during 2002-2004. A new giant kite is made every three years.
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What makes the kite unique is that the kite paper is carved with numerous cutouts, based on the design. It is not a solid sheet of paper.
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An incredible variety of kites are displayed. They come from all 47 prefectures of Japan and many foreign countries.
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Hikone Castle kite, displayed in 2007, the 400th anniversary of the castle.
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Mini theater
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On May 5, 2013 (Children's Day), the kite museum held an event for children to write their wishes on paper stickers to be affixed on the back of the giant kite.
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It started with a ceremony with the mayor of Higashi-Omi and the four "Wind Goddesses."
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Mayor of Higashi-Omi
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