“Rain with possible snow” was the forecast Saturday night, the day before the 18th Kite Festival held by the Musashi Kite Club (MKC) on the 21st of January.
When the morning dawned the next day, everyone was surprised and delighted to see the sun shining with almost no clouds in the sky. A perfect day for flying.
And the surprises didn’t stop with the weather. Of the 240 kites prepared for the event, ALL were used and late arrivals had to be disappointed!!!! The sky was filled with kites and the children had a ball!
An annual event, the Musashi Kite Club holds this festival at the “Chuo Koen” or Central Park, located in Musashi City, about forty-kilometers west of Metro Tokyo, commonly known as the City of Tokyo. (see pix no. 263)
Formed about eighteen years ago, membership has waxed and waned, going from a maximum of around thirty members to its present seven or eight!!
The man behind this club is Katsutaka Murooka, also president of the Japan Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) Association.
In the early days of its existence, sport kite activity was rampant and membership hit a high point. In time,, the stunters drifted away and single-line flying became the norm.
Kites flown range from classical Japanese designs made by Mr. Matsuzaki to train kites by Satoru Yamaya. Mr. Yoshinaga specializes in SLED designs, Murooka has a thing about large “soft” kites and Larry Hoffman (the guy writing this article) loves mini kites!!
Other activities of the club include visiting with other clubs in the Kanto region, such as the Musashi Oi Kite Club for their annual event held in December, or a number of kite-flys held by the Japan Kite Fliers Association. Many of the events held by the JKFA see foreign kite fliers attending, adding an “international” air to them.
To spice-up their activities, the club also has a “night-fly” during the summer that starts with a BBQ for dinner. Lights are attached to their kites and the flickering affect draws many folks living in the neighborhood!!! It also brings the cops out to find out if there are any “bad guys” doing something nasty!!!!
Over the years, the club has also added to the community spirit by helping the PTA unit of a nearby elementary school put on a kite event for the students. It helps the PTA locate and purchase materials for the children to make and fly a simple kite design such as a sled, or a rokkaku (six-sided) kite, or some other design the children can easily make.
The students assemble in the school gym where club members direct them in the assembly of the kites. Kite face design is left up to the children and the marker pen sketches they draw show there are a few prospective Rembrandts in the group!!
The group then heads for the park to test their skills with their new kites!!!
Back to the 21 January Kite Festival, the kite selected for this event was a simple sled design made from hand-made washi paper with three three-millimeter bamboo spars. The kiddos making the kites had to use sticky-tape to affix the spars but club members added the bridle line to save them the trouble!
Tables were set up for kite assembly and a box of marker pens in different colors allowed the children to draw their favorite theme. This is always the highlight of the event: watching the children’s imagination pour out onto the face of the kite!!! All designs are interesting, all very colorful – – – – –
As mentioned, the wind condition was just right for kite flying and soon after the event started the sky was filling with kites.
Then, following lunch, the “older guys” did their thing with a demonstration of the kites they built. These ranged from simple delta designs to one very large Edo kite, the rectangular shaped kite that has retained its shape and construction material since kites were first flown in this country.
The “Hansen-dako” or sailing ship kite had to be run-up during its demonstration flight as the wind was a bit on the weak side at that moment. It still drew a lot of “oh’s” and “ah’s” from the crowd and it went up!!
In this picture you see the reason for this annual kite festival. The children really have a lot of fun, and most parents seem to have more fun than the children!!!!
When ten o’clock came around, the line of folks waiting to get their kite was quite long and the subsequent rush of visitors kept everyone very busy for the rest of the morning.
In the meantime, some of the wives were brewing a huge pot of “Chanko-nabe,” a stew/soup dish that really hits the spot on a cold day. For a small fee, anyone could enjoy this meal and it disappeared in record time!!
The highlight of the demonstration flying was the lofting of the “Doraemon” kite made by the club president K. Murooka. A flow-form design, the face size is 40-jo , one jo is equal to 18sq.ft.
In a mild breeze, three or four adults can get this kite up, but one of the features of this event is to have the children/parents participate in flying this large kite.
With the wind blowing across the field in the right direction, Doraemon went up with little effort and remained aloft for several minutes, long enough for it to have its picture taken a few hundred times!!
Attractive in flight, Mr. Murooka has flown his kite at many events around Japan and each year he keeps busy traveling the country thrilling folks with the TV character’s smiling face.
The balance of the day was spent helping the attendees fly their kites, with the “Kite Hospital” getting its share of business!!!
Plans are now underway by club members for next years event. With luck and the right budget, it is expected to be even bigger and better than this year!!!! Stay tuned – – – – –