Saturday, June 5, 2010

Giant Kite Festival

Today was the Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival. It was a hot and sunny day- maybe a little too much so. It was neat seeing all the kites, but it was also hot and tiring. The first thing we saw at the festival was the Shinto priest from the shrine we went to as a class. He was the one who allowed us to participate in a Shinto ceremony- he's a very kind man! (We've also heard he travels abroad a lot- I think he's even been to Marquette!) He was blessing the kite and praying for a good wind.

Blessing the Kite

We also saw people with their own, small kites, as well as groups of people under the shade of tents, with big kites propped up outside. They had many different designs, all following the tradition of having two animal figures and a Kanji. These kites always form a sort of word pun.

Shika Kite

Jorie and I managed to find the forest nearby and go inside for awhile. It was really lovely and we wanted to stay, but we didn’t get to explore for long. We heard music and followed a path that ended in a small area with people selling goods. Okaa-san was there and flagged us down- she and Oba-sensei were having some takenoko that was grilled with miso. We got to try some, but there was no time for us to eat our own- we had to go back to see the giant kite.

Forest Trail

Our classmates helped pull the kite, but Jorie and I just wanted to watch and take pictures and video. It was a little difficult because of the crowds. On the first try, the kite was off the ground for less than a minute, then came back down. Half an hour later (oh, that hot sun!) they tried again, and it crashed before it even lifted off fully. On the third try, they got the kite up for 40 seconds- slightly better but still not ideal.

They decided they might try again later in the afternoon after that, but we were finally allowed to leave, and, being way too hot and thirsty, we took the opportunity. We left with Okaa-san and went to the supermarket to get some lunch and some snacks for the flight home. Once in the supermarket, we all noticed we had some pretty mean sunburn despite our best efforts to keep covered up. After getting home and eating, we all promptly fell asleep for some time.

Later on, Jorie and I tried to visit the local shrine again, but the crows were still there and immediately found us and started cawing and following us around. Eventually, we spotted a broken eggshell on the ground and we assumed this area has their nest in it, so we left again. We’ve been wanting to go to the forest really badly, but every time we almost get a chance, it doesn’t work out. The shrine was the next best thing, but the crows just didn't want us there. We are determined to return to Japan someday to see the forest.


Later in the day, we heard that the kite finally flew very high in the sky and for about eight minutes!

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