Koinobori and The Sagami Giant Kite Festival

Summer/Spring season in Japan is often associated with cherry-blossom viewing, swimming and hiking. Apart from these usual activities, another good thing to do when the sky is clear blue and the weather is just the perfect  breeze- flying a kite or just watching one as it moves carelessly across the air.

Consider as a tradition dating back the Tenpou Period (1830) of the Edo Area, the usual quiet, suburb town of Sagamihara is home to some of the largest kite in the world.

The annual event was held last 4th & 5th of May this year, at the dried river bed of the Sagamigawa River with the Kanagawa mountain range in the backdrop, making it the right  if not the best place for this type of festivity.

Though not the easiest place to reach but once you were at the Kite Festival, simply by seeing the Koinobori (carp streamer) decorated venue, the families on their picnic mats and everyone, relaxing and waiting in anticipation if the biggest kite will make it on-air were good enough reason to divert from the usual weekend places in the city and head to the suburbs.

You will see most Koinobori flying across the air to mark the start of Spring season and to celebrate Children’s Day (5th of May). You don’t need to go to Sagamihara to see one, since the carp streamers are usually hang in front of most residence, as a wish that the children of the household will grow strong and healthy.

Koinobori Song:

Higher than the roof-tops are the koinobori
The large Carp is the father
The smaller Carp are the children
They seem to be having fun swimming.

Similar to Koinobori, the original reason of the kite-flying tradition at Sagami is to celebrate the birth of a child. Then over the course of years, as the size of the kites grew bigger, the reasons for flying also change. Apart for children’s health, it was an observed tradition to wish for good harvest.

I am no-kite expert but to see the number of people required to fly one or the amount of rope needed, there is no question that to use the word “giant” is mostly appropriate.  Still not convince? Here are some facts based on the largest kite flown at the festival:

Size: 14.5m x 14.5m  
Weight: 19.5kg  
Length of control rope: 200m 
Staff required for kite flying: 80 – 100 people                                                                                                                                                                                 

The giant kite of Sagami are called “Sagami-no-Oodako” and if you are keen to know more, you can visit the Sagami Giant Kite Center (in Renge no Sato Araiso), located within a walking distance from the venue.

It was about 4pm, we were all waiting for the biggest kite to take off.  The kite staffs clothed in traditional attire were taking their spots, with majority of them tasked to pull/release the rope. The first two attempts fails to even lift the kite few inches from the ground.

The series of photo is attempt number three.

The giant kite soars a few meters above the air, with everyone clapping in happiness. In less than a minute it, drops back to the ground. The festival is over and time to head home.

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