/

Flights of fancy at the Kitano Kite Festival

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

The first record of kites in Japan — found in dictionaries dating back to 981 — referred to them with the kanji for “kami” (paper) and “tobi” (hawk). Originally imported from China, kites became a significant cultural aspect of Japan, with kite-makers developing their own local styles.

This Sunday, high above the town of Meiwa in Mie Prefecture, numerous handmade kites will be flown and twirled for the 36th New Year’s Kitano Kite Festival. Visitors are invited to bring their own kites (though only handmade ones can take part) and take advantage of the area’s strong winter winds in a communal flight of paper.

If you are kiteless, there are also demonstrations from 9 a.m. including one by elementary school children and another by the Kitano Kids, a local association. You can also enjoy taiko drumming and dance performances and try bowls of kitano-jiru, a specialty dish prepared with locally grown vegetables, or udon noodles with soup and local hijiki seaweed. Stalls offering other local delicacies will also be featured.

New Year’s Kitano Kite Festival takes place on Jan. 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the square in front of Meiwa Fire Station in Mie Prefecture. Admission is free. The venue is a 20-min. walk from Saiku Station on the Kintetsu Yamada Line. For more information, call 0596-52-0055 or visit www.kankomie.or.jp/event/detail_18461.html.