Issue 61: iQuad in Japan: Part 2

So, when I last left off, I was moaning about how ill I was becoming. My head was completely stuffed up, as were my lungs. Not good at all but, oddly, there didn’t seem to be any “cold or flu” type effects. It was a complete mystery to me at this point, but’ I’d become a little miserable about it all. As we landed back in Tokyo from our time in Fujisaki, I was quite sure my head was going to explode, I’ve never felt such pressure on my sinuses. Fortunately, the Thursday was mostly a day off for us as we prepared to head to the Uchinada festival the next nest so, I took preventative measures… I headed to a MacDonalds, got some terrible junk food and then promptly holed myself up in my room for the evening. A few hot steamy showers and a near scalding bath and a long night’s sleep was the plan while the rest headed out for a sushi orgy downtown.

And, sure enough, the next morning, I felt a little better. I’m sure it’s the first time in the history of the universe that Big Macs had healing powers but, hey, I was kinda burned out on seafood so, what can one do? I had some sense of humor back as well, so a quick apology to a Steve and John for snapping at them the previous day and it was off to fly to Kanasawa, en route to Uchinada. And nicely, my head survived both the takeoff and landing with no pain! Once we’d landed, it was a short drive through the pretty town of Kanasawa and then just a little further until we reached Uchinada itself with the group.  Upon arrival, we were take to the traditional Japanese Ryokan that was to be our home for the next few days. An excellent description of the Ryokan experience can be found here, and the one that we were in was just great, with warm hospitality and comfortable rooms. If you ever make it over to Japan, I highly recommend staying in one while you are there. All your meals are included as well!

Of course, once we get anywhere near a beach, iQuad tends to get antsy to go do some flying so once we’d settled in, it was off to the beach to check the place out. And what a beautiful beach we found there! Directly across the Sea of Japan from the two Koreas, it was truly an amazing feeling to fly there. The beach was mostly deserted that afternoon, with the only people there being involved in the setup of the huge festival which involved not only kites but, music and a lot of food too! Once we’d gotten the flying out of our system for the day, we headed back to the Ryokan for dinner. By this point in the day, I’d started feeling reasonably ok. I was still pretty stuffed up, but, I certainly felt like I was on the mend. The dinner at the Ryokan was simply amazing. Course after course arrived at the table, all of them really delicious despite me being a little unsure as to what was in some of the dishes. And, enough beer and sake to keep us all in a delightfully silly state. However, as we were eating, something was becoming quickly apparent to me. My head was stuffing back up again, to the levels it was on the day before, and at that moment, a light went on above my head. I think I have a seafood allergy! Just a mild one, but, when you have been eating seafood for 6 straight days, it tends to add up and that’s exactly what happened. Alas, I skipped the last few courses, and headed off to the steamy bath once more while I worked out strategies to avoid possible issues in a very seafood focused town.

The next morning was filled with sunshine, a truly beautiful day and possibly the nicest day we had experienced so far in Japan. We all piled onto a shuttle bus to take us over to the festival and this morning, we were also joined by Felix Mottram of The Decorators who had seemingly “been in the area” and felt he’d pop down for some quad flying fun! The beach was much busier this morning in contrast to the previous afternoon and this time, the sky was filled with all manner of kites and a fairly healthy amount of Revs were up as well. For me, this was going to be the highlight of the trip. As iQuad has wandered around the US at various festivals, we’re usually the only quad team in attendance, but, here, there was 8 separate Japanese quad teams out for the weekend! I was quite intent on watching as much as I could get away with. As John had been there late last year at Tokyo Bay Flight Party, he knew many of the people on the teams and we were very warmly welcomed by everyone we met and we certainly managed to meet an awful lot of people that weekend! Me, I managed to find a chicken schwarma stand to eat at all weekend long, so I was set for lunch every day at least, and I must say, having a beer  for lunch at a kite festival was a novel idea as well! John and I were offered the opportunity to judge the individual precision comps and while many times, judging drives me absolutely crazy, this was a true treat and really a lot of fun. The Japanese quad flyers definitely work on their precision flying, and boy was there a lot of them as well, the event ran in two heats, followed by a final round. I’d have to  say that it was some the best precision flying with a quad I’d ever witnessed, and in retrospect, maybe one of the most fun comps I’ve ever been involved with. The day itself was filled with non stop flying, with all the quad teams clocking in great demos. We also managed to roll Felix into our line for a while that afternoon as well. It was somewhat odd flying with a man I’d always wanted to meet due to his involvement with The Decorators but, boy it sure was fun. And, as you’d imagine, he fit right in immediately. Thanks Felix! As we lovingly referred to him, “The King Of Quad Team”.

After a full day of flying under super sunny skies, we headed back up the Ryokan as the main banquet for the weekend was occurring right across the street. But, I also found an Indian curry place directly across the street as well and thus, I headed there for dinner instead and surprisingly to me, it was absolutely fabulous food (which I also indulged in the next night as well given my plan to avoid seafood at all costs). I’m not sure my dinner “date”, Ben D’Antonio was as impressed as I was, but, he’s not a big fan of really hot food anyways. The banquet itself was packed to the roof with people, and it was really a fun evening for all of us. John even got talked into doing a quick indoor demo in what turned out to be a pretty tiny space. I held my breath for much of it as I was convinced he was seconds away from wiping out a table in the same manner Godzilla flattened Tokyo but, as always, he was on his game and managed to utterly dazzle everyone in the room. I know I’d have laid waste to the room in such confined room to fly! And who would have thought that two huge barrels of sake could disappear so quickly with a large crowd! We also did our bit to help with the party atmosphere, managing to sticker just about every single person in the room and many of them, multiple times. And thankfully, it was a short hop back to the Ryokan, where we settled in to watch some video that had been shot during the day by our erstwhile videographer Dave from Drachen.

On Sunday, we arose to yet another fantastic day of sunshine, and the day itself went much like the first day, skies filled with kites, quad teams galore and a huge amount of people down at the festival itself. But one thing that was different was the giant Edo kites were going up in the air as opposed to merely being on display. They were all simply stunningly made and beautiful but, watching one go up is an entirely different story. My plan was to catch one on film. So, I situated myself towards the general direction of a long line of people who had gathered to haul the particular one up into the air. Smiling to myself, I thought what a great piece of film this will make! However, once they started, it became apparent that I was about to be run over utterly by the 50 people that were now barreling down the beach towards me at a high rate of speed! Oooops! I nearly dropped my camera but, what a sight to see, it was just amazing! I watched a few go up that afternoon and it never failed to amaze me.

We also managed to get in a good sized quad megafly that afternoon, topping out  at about 34 flyers. We also managed a go at Felix’s new concept in quad team flying which is essentially a grid formation as opposed to a lineup, however, dying winds did in any further testing with this beyond, yes, it works! And you know, despite all of the great things we saw and did during that festival, one memory sticks with me clearer than any other, and that was watching both Modegi-san and Sato-san out there on the sand, getting a handle on how to fly a Rev, they were both utterly hooked and it was a really wonderful thing to watch unfold. I’m hoping to see Modegi-san again in England, with enough skills to join us for some team flying, I’ll let you know how that pans out when we return!

Our final day, spent back in Tokyo, was the most laid back of them all, we simply took in some sightseeing and popped all over the city, seeing what we had wanted to see but, hadn’t had the time for earlier. For much of my life, I’d had no deep interest in seeing Japan, and now I find myself itching to go back as soon as possible. It’s truly a wonderful country, filled with amazing people and some day, I’ll manage to return and see much more of this spectacular country. On behalf of iQuad, I’d like to thank everyone we met while we were on our trip and our gracious hosts too, for making this the trip of a lifetime.

Until we return…

David Hathaway