Kyoto 8 - 14 May
Simultaneously as the Hamamatsu festival there had been an international
kite festival in Uchinada, where among others the very skilled and talented
prize winner of Dieppe 2000, Anna Rubin, participated. By staying on in
Hamamatsu the final night I missed the farewell party for the international
kite flyers in Tokyo. I went to Tokyo anyway the next, hoping to see Anna. She
had already left for Kyoto, but mr. Masaaki Modegi took well care of me.
Mr. Modegi is the chairman of the Japan Kite Association (founded by his father) and he is also running the famous restaurant Taimeiken in downtown Tokyo. Actually it is not one restaurant but four: ground floor is a lunch restaurant, first floor is a high class international restaurant, next floor even more exclusive and so on. On the fifth floor there is a well packed kite museum! Mr. Modegi, beeing an excellent cook himself, has also issued a number of cookery books. Anyway, the evening I arrived in Tokyo mr. Modegi had just returned from the golf course where he and his country club had played golf all day. They now came to the third floor for dinner, and I was invited to join them.
It still feels a bit unreal that I (a nobody kite flyer from Sweden) had dinner with these distinguished members of the Tokyo society: The dishes that were served were absolutely delicious, and I was sitting next to the Mayor of this particular Tokyo district (the next day I saw several election campaign posters with his picture on the streets).
My original plan had been to go to the Yaeyama kite festival next, but when I found out that Yaeyama was located in the far south Okinawa islands, I decided to skip this festival. I stayed on one day in Tokyo, walking the streets of this big city. In the evening Mr. Modegi took me out for a sushi dinner (where we were again joined by the Mayor). Oh, sushi and hot saké is a treat for your tongue! I really came to love this combination. And mr. Modeig of course knew to select the first class sushi.
Instead of going to Okinawa I followed mr. Modegi's advice and went to Kyoto, to join Anna. Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan, and full of history old temples and shrines. There a hundreds of beautiful temples and gardens, and I visited a few, but the two most memorable days were those when Anna and I first spent one day with the kite master mr. Yoshizumi and then a day bicycling to a bamboo museum.
Mr. Yoshizumi builds both big kites and small kites. He has several times won the Miniature Kite Contest arranged by the Drachen Foundation. Now he taught us about bamboo for kite making: The Japanse kite makers prefer bamboo of the species Madake, which should preferably grow on the northern side of a mountain, the more steep the slope the better. The bamboo should be cut in the autumn and then left to dry for 2 - 3 years, but preferably 7 years, the older the better. What is in high demand by the kite makers is the bamboo that comes from old houses that have been pulled down: the bamboo used in the ceiling can be up to 200 years old, is brown from all the smoke from the indoor fireplace, and it is very hard which also makes it easy to split.
On small bicycles, rented from the Youth Hostel, Anna and I one day set out for the bamboo museum, more or less in the other end of the city. Following the not too detailed map we once got a bit lost, but this turned out to be good, becuse we ended up in a bamboo forest. It is a strange thing with bamboo that the sprout comes out of the ground in the full circumference of the grown up plant, i.e. the plant does not really grow any thicker, only taller. And the speed of the growth is enormous: it has been recorded that a plant grew 1.21 meter in 24 hours! So in 2 - 3 months the plant has reached it's full lenght. The sprout is so cute: it has a kind of fur, so it is nice to pat!
In the Rakusai bamboo garden and museum we saw many kinds of bamboo: black bamboo, marbled bamboo (yellow with streaks of green), bamboo that grows in zig-zag and even squarely shaped bamboo (the square shape created manually by applying a 'mould' consisting of boards around the growing plant).
It is said that there nowadays are only 300 geishas left in Kyoto. They work in five districts, one of them beeing the old quarters of Gion. You can only catch sight of a geisha as she walks from her home to her reception room at around 18.00 hrs. She's a beautiful sight.
Tango 15 - 16 May
In Kyoto Yoshizumi-san had told me that there was a penisula called Tango in the Kyoto prefecture. I could of course not resist the
temptation to go there. Wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said that the easiest way to get rid of a temptation is to give in to it?
The Tango district is most famous for Amanohashidate, a narrow but more than 2 km long sandbar across the bay of Asokai. It is said to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan. It is also said that when you look at it upside-down (bent forward between your legs, Mata-nosoki, it looks like a bridge to heaven.
At the very nice Youth Hostel in Amanohashidate I rented a bicycle and toured round the bay. The first mission was of course to fly a kite in Tango, so I rigged the Uptions on the sandbar. First a longeron spar broke in a sudden gust while I was still rigging, but with a bit of MacGyverism this could be fixed. I anchord the line round a pole and started to taking pictures when suddenly the line snapped at the pole. The lenght of the line made the kite blow quite a distance, across the sandbar before it dropped into the lake, barely visible from the shore. Luckily the lake was shallow and I could wade out and rescue the kite.
I found a local museum, and in the ceiling of a preserved traditional house I found an original Tango Kite. The interesting thing with this seemed to be that the diagonal spars did not start from the corners of the leading edge, but half way to the middle.
Tango is also famous for Chirimen, a fabric of kimono. When you walk along the narrow streets you hear the rytmic rattle of power looms from many houses. Some looms have up to 8 bobbins for the weft. The pattern is controlled by a punch hole slip. Chiremen weaving is an important family business in Tango.
The next day I took a bus around the peninsula. The nice people at the Youth Hostel had suggested two stops and given me a detailed bus schedule. First stop was Kyogamisaki lighthouse. The road there was narrow, windling and steep, sometimes on the edge of cliffs. When we met another bus our bus had to back upwards several hundred meters around sharp corners before a wide passage was found.
This was the last stop for this bus and the waiting time for the bus for the next leg was 55 minutes. The lighthouse itself was 1.5 km away, so there would be enough time to go there and come back again. I set my watch timer to 22 minutes and started a fast upphill walk and reached the lighthouse just as the timer alarm beeped. Just a few minutes to admire the grand view of steep cliffs, and then I took a chance and took a different return route. This turned out to be much shorter (and it was downhill!) so I caught the bus with margin (but soaking wet!).
Next stop was Taiza, Tango city, and I first visited the Ancient Tango Village, where they among other things had a storage house much the same as the Swedish "härbre", i.e. the foundations were logs that lifted up the house 1 meter above the ground.
The day was sunny and warm (as it had been for the last 10 days), and as I was walking towards the village a car drove up at my side and a young woman asked where I was heading. She then gave two bottles of fruit juice and a piece of cloth to protect my head. Very nice.
And of course I had to fly kites also here. The wind was pretty strong and there was no problem get the Uptions air borne. I anchored the line, lay down on the beach and had a Tango beer (brewery established 1998) and enjoyed the sight of kites over the partly clouded Tango mountains.
The rest of the day I strolled the narrow and hilly streets of Taiza, listening to the rattle of power looms.
The note in my Visor diary says "A number 1 day".