Yokaichi 24 - 28 May
Travelling by train is easy in Japan if you only know where you are going.
From Takaoka I bought a ticket to Yokaichi, but when I had to change train
in Nagoya I became a little suspiscios. Since it was raining I could not
check the sun for the direction the train was moving in, but at a station
stop I became aware of the error: I had been given a ticket to Yokkaichi in
Mie prefectory instead of Yokaichi in Shiga prefectory. The difference in
pronounciation is little but evident. As the crow flies the distance between
the cities is not very big, but the railway was around the mountains. Five
hours later than first planned I checked in at Yokaichi Grand Hotel.
At the beautiful Yokaichi kite museum I was very cordially received, and mr. Yukio and Mr. Torii both arranged with a better hotel for me and planned some interesting sight seeing for the following days.
In Yokaichi they fly one of the worlds biggest kites, which, in my opinion, is also one of the most beautiful kites. It is a giant kite which measures 12 x 13 meters and weighs 700 kg including line. (This is the 100 tatami size. 18 years ago they made a 200 tatami kite.) The Yokaichi Odako (simply means the giant kite from Yokaichi) is very simple in colours: the top is a black-and-white symmetric picture of ususally an animal and the bottom is Japanese writing in red. A unique feature is the kirinuki, the sail is latticed which adds to the beauty of the kite.
The Yokaichi Odako was brought to the Dieppe Kite festival in 1998, the year when the weather was terrible: Storms and heavy rain most every day. At that time the crew tried several times to rig the kite, but a shower of rain always interrupted the assembling. The very last day a launch was finally tried, but unfortunately the odako made a turn half way up in the air and crashed heavily.
A new giant kite is made every third year by members of the city kite club, and it is flied only at the kite festival. The bridle is enormous, and the crew for launching is divieded into several sections with well defined tasks. At least 50 people are required for launching and the timing for each section is important. However, it seems that only in 2 years out of 10 there is enough wind for a succesful flight...
Mr. Yukio took me for a round trip to some old temples, and I appreciated these more than in Kyoto: Here there was peace and tranquillity whereas in Kyoto it was crowded and school children constantly asking for a school project interview.
The Hyakuzai temple has a beautiful garden with a pond full of carps and a long worn stone staircase windling between huge cypress trees to the temple at the top.
In the Kongo rinjo temple there are some 1800 statuettes, odijo, with a piece of cloth on. Women who came to temple after a miscarriage put the cloth for their unborn babies as a prayer.
The 800 year old Samyzo pagoda is on the inside covered with fading paintings, one of them partially restored to show the origninal beauty.
All the temples were on mountain or hill tops, and mr. Yukio the next day had a comment about aching thighs.
At the welcome party the evening before the kite festival the four wind princesses were presented: They have the task of creating wind for the odako using big fans. Yumi and Yukimi were two of them. The party ended with a traditional dance where everybody little by little joined in. The dance was not too difficult to learn: a sequence of eight steps in a rather moderate tempo. A small orchestra was playing and a man sung the lead, much like Swedish 'jojk'. Quite enjoyable.
Sunday morning came with a bit of a drizzle but absolutely no wind. The big roll of the odako was carried down to the Aichi river bank and the longeron spars were attached. There was a blessing ceremony with offerings for the odako on the river bank, and then there was waiting for wind.
On the festival program there was three launcehes scheduled. In time for the first the drizzle had ceased, but there was still not very much wind. The bridle was carefully rolled out and the full length of line was pulled out. The crew assigned to the bridle took their position. For the outer part of the line anyone could volonteer: You got a pair of cotton gloves marked "Line" with the instruction: "At command pull and run until someone shouts release". I volonteered for the line and waited patiently while the odako was raised into launch position on bamboo poles. And waited for wind. Finally the command RUN was given. It was not to easy to run pulling the line and simultaneously watch down to avoid stumbling on the stony river bed and watch up to see the behaviour of the odako. This time the launch failed completely.
Also the next launch failed, but the third got the odako flying for 10 seconds. So this was one of the eight years, but worse than usual.
There was also a competition for local teams who hade created small size Yokaichi odakos: 38 teams presented odakos in sizes 8 - 20 tatamis.
Even though the odako rarely flies Yokaichi is a big kite city: not only the sign board for the city has an odako, but you see odakos everwhere: sculptures, shop doors, sewer lids and even the shade at a petrol station had the shape of a 100 tatami odako. A great city, I would like to return there next time they try a 200 tatami odako.
The kite museum has mostly Yokaichi odakos on display with history, but there is also e large section for other Japanse kites and a smaller section for world kites. Since there was no Swedish kite there, I in a small gesture of my appreciation gave my beloved Go fly a kite, Charlie Brown to the museum.