Issue 57: Tokyo Bay Flight Party

When I started flying in the early 90’s, many of the top sport kite pilots I idolized in North America were making trips to festivals and competition in Shonan Coast and other legendary event venues in Japan… Hearing about the adventures, exploits and successes from folks like High Performance and Team Top of the Line, I would be dreaming of flying sport kites there for the next 15-plus years.

Finally, an opportunity presented itself this year thanks to the combined efforts of Revolution Kites and the fine folks at Flying Colors, Miki and Linda… I would be attending the Tokyo Bay Flight Party and experiencing yet another kite culture in a new part of the world for me.

Flying into Tokyo by way of SFO, I arrived late afternoon the Friday before the event to find the skies heavily overcast, threatening the event with some serious rain due to a passing typhoon! Even so, we saw more than half a dozen pilots out on the field when we stopped by field on our way to the hotel… Oh my, if I only had an idea what I’d be in for a day later!

After some much needed rest back at the hotel, we got an early start on Saturday morning, stopping only long enough to pick up some coffee and some rice balls before headed to the field where it seemed mother nature was giving us every ounce of water it had… This left us in an absolute downpour, huddled under umbrellas and such, saying hello to friends (both old and new), deciding what to with the day.

Undaunted, and with a reported 60 or so fliers, they gathered throughout the day while we held impromptu workshops and processed registrations for the competition… With it being my first time to Japan, much of my day was dedicated to learning everyone’s names, displaying the masterpiece Revs I brought with me, discussing techniques (both mine and theirs), and answering questions about the Rev-mounted camera rig I bring everywhere with me (thanks Bruce!), since nothing like it had apparently never been seen in Japan, other than traditional KAP rigs.

While rain continued to POUR out of this typhoon, pilots carried on under the large eave of a maintenance building hoping for break in the downpour, but it never came… As we broke into the afternoon, I was absolutely dying to fly, so I rallied a dozen or so pilots into going out for at least a bit of air time before retiring to get cleaned up and ready for the evening banquet.

After securing a shower and some dry clothes, I wandered out into the local shops for some Japanese sundries and souvenirs before making our way to local Mexican restaurant (yes – Mexican) where everyone would be gathering for food, friends, fun and an auction to help support the event… Consummate hosts that they are, I was made very welcome and included in the many toasts of the evening before I started them in on Tequila shots (what – it was a Mexican restaurant, after all).

One of the many highlights of my evening was when the last auction came for bidding… A signed B-Series Revolution! Fast and furious bidding ensued, bringing the bidding up to 400,000 Yen before things slowed down, at which point I jumped in the middle of things with promise of a personalized “Friend of iQuad” sweatshirt to the winner… With the bidding down to two people, Naoki Takahashi decisively claimed the win with a 600,000 Yen bid, roughly $600 USD, all towards the festival expenses… Domo arigato, Naoki-san… Domo arigato!

In sharp contrast from the previous day’s rain, Sunday morning brought crystal clear skies, warm weather, and a clear view of Mt. Fuji as I squinted through the lingering effects of our celebration from my night before… Aye, a good day, with a slow start. <grin>

Another requisite stop for coffee and we were off, making our way out to the field where people were already setting up fields,  kites, tents and the sound system… With a full compliment of competitors and two days worth of events to complete in one day, they pursued the schedule with gusto, banging through all the events one after another.

Categories included Master of Tricks (similar Hot Tricks in the USA), open classes of both dual and quad (multiline) ballet and precision, as well as team versions of the same.

While there were excellent performances all around, of particular note were two dual line teams… Both seasoned World Championship participants, Ninja flew an incredibly dynamic and powerful Taiko drum and vocal routine to edge out Air-Rex, who flew in a style pleasantly reminiscent of 2-time World Cup champions, Team High Performance from the early 90’s. It came down to a couple of minor mistakes from Air-Rex, tipping the scales in favor of Ninja… Excellent performances from both teams, who will no doubt bring their top game to Berck next April.

To see the results from the competition, click here.

The thing that amazed me most of all was the sheer number of skilled Rev pilots! These kites are very popular in Japan… Twelve individual Rev competitors and eight Rev teams, an amazing turnout indeed! Their dedication and enthusiasm left me in awe, pure and simple.

Winds were extremely light throughout the morning and early afternoon, with it gradually building to a nice and solid 8-10 mph later on, in time for an attempt at breaking the world record for number of Revolutions in a mega fly, trying to surpass the record of 43 set earlier in the year, also in Japan… Did they do it? Of course!  48 kites took to the air, flown by 48 pilots on 192 lines, creating the effect of a huge carbon and rip stop serpent as we walked in a giant “around the world” maneuvers, then divided into four aerial groups to spell T-B-K-F, and changed formations to spell 2-0-0-7 as well.

WOW, what an incredible sight… There were so many pilots and kites, the group spanned from one side of the island we were flying , all the way to the other… Really, it was almost more than one could take in, a visual overload of sorts, albeit a welcome one!

Even as the mega fly was winding down, pilots and volunteers began to pack away field boundaries, kites, etc.. Time for the awards ceremony, where top finishers received some cool table banners with their placement and category… They also gave out some awesome prizes (Rev Blast, EXP, frames, etc) by doing rock, paper, scissors, advancing winning hands towards the prize, until only one remained to win the prize… It was a really fun and social way to hand out goodies.

This brings me to the saddest part of any event, bidding farewell to a whole new family… Miki & Linda, the folks from Air-Rex, Naoki, and all the other great people who attended, far too many to name.

It’s an amazing experience traveling abroad, interacting with different cultures, while finding the constant and common bond of kiting… Japan is no exception, and I hope to return to visit my new friends and family as soon as possible.  Be sure to check out the gallery as well for even more pictures of this beautiful place.


John Barresi