Issue 2: Japan-Canada Fly at Niagara

Japanese Kite Fliers Visit Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world. As such it attracts millions of visitors from all over the globe each year. The thundering falls drops the waters of the Niagara River over 180 feet as it rushes from Lake Erie in the south to Lake Ontario in the north.

Visitors to Canada from Japan frequently make Niagara a stop off. This April, a group of 14 Japanese kite fliers, all members of the national Japan Kite Association (Nippon Taki No Kai), as part of their itinerary, asked to fly with a group of local kiters to round out their trip to the area.

The Niagara Parks Commission arranged with the Niagara Windriders Kitefliers Association of Ontario to have an equal number of local fliers join to raise kites into the sky at a park south of the Falls on Saturday, April 11, 1998.

The Niagara Windriders are located in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, close to the U.S. border. Being so located, the Windriders frequently fly with members of the Great Lakes Kitefliers Association of Western New York state. Thus, it was decided that the event could be made more international in scope by inviting kiters from both nations to join with the Japanese.

The day was bright, sunny and mild for early April in the lower Great Lakes region. Bob White, of the host Windriders opened the day with comments of welcome which outlined the days events. A group photo was taken to record the moment.

Kites were unfurled and everyone prepared for the initial launch. Winds were very light and variable. The kiters from all three nations had to work to get kites up and keep them aloft.

Interpreters were provided by Fuji VIP Connections and language did not seem to be a barrier. Smiles, gestures, demonstrations and interpreted comments made the day flow smoothly. The Niagara Windriders provided refreshments on the field and lunch was hosted by the Niagara Parks Commission, as an international good will gesture, in the spectacular Table Rock House Restaurant overlooking the Horseshoe Falls.

Several areas of Japan were represented. Kiters were present from the Prefectures of Nagano, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Tokyo and Tochigi.

Kobayashi Kiyoshi, 79 years of age, amazed everyone with his magnificent multi-celled box kite. Made of traditional bamboo framing with sails of rice cloth, the kite depicts an entire Japanese Kabuki play which celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

Several of the Japanese fliers wore special coats with symbols of their home club. Three of the ladies present demonstrated great modeling form in showing off their garb. The ladies will all represent the Prefecture of Ishikawa at the 10th International Japanese Kite Festival to be held in their home town of Uchinada on May 4, 1998.

Meg and Bill Albers of the Great Lakes Kitefliers unfurled part of the Ohashi kite train that first flew as a kite arch over the Niagara River linking Canada and the United States in the 1992 Niagara Falls International Kite Festival. Meg and Bill were coordinators of that event (Kitelines magazine -Fall, 1992 Vol.9 No.3 – pages 36-39) and saved a portion of the train for a special occasion. The Japanese visitors were thrilled with the kites which were alternating Canadian, American and Japanese flags.

Some Japanese kites feature “buzzers” of taught rubber or bamboo cording which vibrates in the wind when a kite is in flight. One of the master Japanese designers of this type of kite was present and explained the intricacies of the design.

Local kiters unveiled some new Rokkakus which were compared to the traditional and modern Japanese versions. The winds were too light to permit a battle but the kiters were very interested in the North American and Japanese versions of the Sanjo Rokkaku.

A round box kite (barrel), a stack of Rev’s, some Delta Conynes and a wide variety of other kites all climbed briefly into the sky whenever the wind would permit.

At the conclusion of the event gifts were exchanged. Club pins, Canadian flags, photos, and even some kites were presented as parting mementos. The Japanese group departed for Toronto and were scheduled to travel to Banff and the Canadian Rockies before heading home.

Participants from local clubs included:

Niagara Windriders: Esther Brown, Lynne Keegan, Doug and Marlene Niznik, Dru Nelissen, Bob, Chris and Jonathon White.

Great Lakes Kitefliers Association: Jerry Lewithan, Al Lee, Allan Noble, Bill Daniels, Vince Baish, Meg and Bill Albers, Russ Kelly.

Story and photos by Bob White, Niagara Windriders

Photo of traditional Japanese Rok by Al Lee, Great Lakes Kitefliers