Fresh Air and Old-School Fun

by Rob Goss 

Now that spring is about to give way to early sum­mer there can be no excuses for staying indoors. After all, you will have plenty of time for staring out the window or wiling away the day with a Wii when rainy season hits. So get up, get out, and try something that has been popular in Japan for centuries—kite flying.

Since kites came to Japan from China about 1,500 years ago, they have been used in religious ceremonies, they have seen military action, and they have even been employed as primitive human flying devices, most fa­mously by 16th century thief Kakinoki Kinsuke who had the not-so-clever idea of tying himself to a giant kite to try and get to the gold dolphins atop Nagoya castle. Although Kinsuke botched his crime and ended up being boiled in oil for his troubles, kite flying as a hobby has proven to be far more successful, as shown by the popular­ity of events such as the annual Kasukabe Giant Kite Festival and National Kite Fly in Saitama. The Japan Kite Association’s website ( lists a host of other major events, while the people at the JKA will happily give you advice about local kite festivals and kite clubs, and kite making classes for both kids and adults (tel. 03-3273-0575).

For anyone interested in trying kite flying, buying a cheap, flyable kite is easy. The JKA-run Kite Museum in Nihonbashi, besides housing a collection of 3,000 kites ranging from imitation birds and insects to exquisite portraits and paper canvases retelling mythical tales, sells small kites decorated with highly stylized nishiki-e paint­ings for under ¥1,000 that can be put together without too much cursing and that can fly.

Kite Museum in Nihonbashi

Once you’ve bought yourself a kite and assembled it, all you need is a dry day and enough enthusiasm to run around a park dragging your kite behind you while you wait for a gust of wind to send it soaring. While flying may not be guaranteed, fun most definitely is.