Japan 1 May - 12 June

Fierce fighting

Etchu Daimon 18 - 21 May

Etchu Daimon is a small town in Toyama prefecture with some 12.000 inhabitants. 8 hours on local trains (with four changes of trains) took me there. Going by train in Japan is easy: Sign boards are in both Japanese and Latin letters, and at a station the station name signboards also tell the name of the next station. At first I thought that train fares in Japan were expensive, but when you see how many and how long tunnels that have been built for the railway you understand the costs better.

At Etchu Daimon railway station they said that there was no hotel in Daimon, so I returned to Takaoka. My arms were now beginning to feel long having carried the heavy luggage from platform to platform, up and down, so many times.

I phoned my friend from the Stockholm '98 Kite festival Mr. Makoto Ohye, kite master and tea ceremony master, and without hesitation he invited me to join the program that was planned for the properly invited kite flyer: Jan Houtermans from Austria, specialist of rotating kites.

Etchu Daimon has no long history of kites and there is no specific "Daimon kite", but nevertheless kites has become a symbol for the town (even the lids to the sewer system are decorated with kites) and the kite festival is an important city concern: it is the industry and agricultural department of the city office that organises the festival.

The next morning mr. Ohye picked me up at the hotel and moved me to a Rijukan (japanese style hotel) before we went to meet the foreign kite flyer at the Toyama airport. A very ambitious program was set for the afternoon: a visit to the dance museum, a vistit to a carriage museum, a visit to a washi factory, a visit to a high mountain and finally a visit to the city office to meet the vice Mayor.

Toyama has a 300 year old tradition of a dance festival 1 - 3 Sept. every year when numerous dancers dance on the streets for good weather condition during the rice harvest period. The video at the museum showed dancers in beautiful clothes dancing a rather simple but beautiful sequence of steps over and over and over again in a suggestive manner.

Washi is the paper that is used for traditional kite making in Japan. It is also used for painting and calligraphy. Washi is made from the bark of mullberry trees, which has long fibres. The paper is handmade and we could see the last stages in this process: the final cleaning of the fibres and actual making of papers, three sheets at a time by dipping a net frame in a "fibre soup" and carefully shaking the frame so the "soup" is evenly distributed and excess water is drawn off.

In the Rijukan my room had windows facing a small lovely Japanese garden with trees, rocks and a pond with carps. The floor was covered with Tatamis, a mat made of reeds. Actually tatami is also used as a square measure, since the size of a Tatami mat is fixed. This also means that all rooms have certain measures, counted in number of tatamis. The bed was a rather thin mattress that was rolled out on the floor for the night, and the doors were sliding door, frames covered with washi, which gives a pleasant light in the room. After the afternoon sightseeing tour it was great to enter the onsen, a hot Japanese bubble bath. The onsen was semi underground and had windows towards the pond, so sitting in the bubble bath you had company of the carps

The dinner that was served in the evening was very memorable: a traditional sitting with "personal" tables in a U-shape and little ladies dressed in kimonos serving the one delicious dish after the other. I can still feel the nearly orgastic sensation of the deep sea oyster! Mmmmm! Mr. Modeig, the vice Mayor and the chairman of the Daimon kite association continuosly filled the cups with hot saké.

To round the day off we went in to Takaoka and a bar that was pracically invisible from the outside. A nice bar with a decent sound level and of course karaoke. I danced both jive and barefoot "tango" with a waitress and sang "Yesterday" to a karaoke video that seemed semi-pornographic. You must maintain a reputation. The guys enjoyed that, especially the video.

But we were here to fly kites?

The first day of the two-day kite festival was for school children. They had made Rokkakus of bamboo and tyvek in school, but unfortunately the wind was far to strong. Instead of having a hexagonal shape in the air the kites that managed to fly looked like hour glasses.

I tried the Uptions, but again the longeron spar of the red arrow broke. I must fix that design error!

After a box lunch in the congress house it started to rain, and Jan and his companion Gerhard prepared the work shop: painting and assembling sled kites of tyvek.

By this time kite flyers from other cities had started to arrive, and in time for the outdoors welcome party the rained had stopped. Sushi, scewers, roast beef, sardines and a lot of other goodies, not to mention beer and saké. A tall beauty slim entertained with singing, and at the end of the party there was an auction of kites that the kite flyers had submitted. Many good kites to good prices!

This party turned out to be part one, and part two followed immediately at a sports hall nearby.

Sun was shining the next day, but the wind the was still very strong, and many kite flyers had difficulties getting the kite up and stay there. There was no point in trying the more delicate kites, so it was mostly Edo type kites that flied. Some of them were made of tyvek instead of washi, which of course make the kite more durable, but it also takes away some of the lustre in the color, especially when the kite flies towards the sun.

The line of an Edo on the loose came down on my Uptions line and cut it. My kite sailed away over the river before it landed in a tree top on a small island. It was retrieved by our drivers, but some spars were lost and there was a long tear in the red arrow. Gerhard gave me tape to repair it.

I had assembled the Sueño de Barrilete at the Rujikan and got help to launch it. Soon the line to the first kite broke, and off sailed the dream. It didn't go as far as the river, and I had no problem in retrieving the kite, but I lost the line spool.

All this was before noon so I was a bit put off. I spent the afternoon watching other kites.

After a new delicious dinner (where we were asked if we preferred japanse, chinese, thai or whatever women) we were taken to "Adonis International Club" in Takaoka. Girls from different countries joined us in the long U-shaped sofa, and poured us "brandy". It was 5 mm brandy in a tall glass and the rest water and ice, and as soon as you had taken a sip the girl wiped the glass an filled it up with water. My filipino girl knew a little english, and I sang a bad karaoke. Now and then a girl was called away, presumably to some more lucrative business. Interesting experience.

As if the hospitality and generosity had not been enough so far we were on Monday taken for more sight seeing: Zuirjuji, a combined temple and castle, where Mr. Ohye introduced us to a tea ceremony: First a couple of sweet biscuits, then you take the tea bowl with both hands and turn it clockwise twice with the right hand to get the face of the bowl right. When you have finished the tea you put the bowl on the tatami and turn it twice again.

After a sushi lunch the invited kite flyers took of to the airport and the self-invited returned to Takaoka.

Welcome party

Kite with a touch of tango

Kite field on river bank

Kite field

Master Ohye's kite ready for launch

Master Ohye's kite air borne

Traditional Edo kite


Samuraj Edo

Two Edo Kites

Two Edo Kites

Cleaning mulberry bark fibres

Making three sheets of washi

Piling up the three new sheets

Sled workshop

Hamamatsu 3 - 5 May

Kyoto 8 - 14 May

Tango 15 - 16 May

Yokaichi 24 - 28 May

Sanjo 1 - 3 June

Mitsuke 4 June

Shirone 7 - 12 June