Monday, May 30, 2005


You know how it is when you build a kite that's bigger than your house and weighs about a ton: on the big day you're set to fly it, it rains, right? It's always the way. So you postpone the big day till next week. And because in the case of which I speak your giant kite is made of bamboo and rice paper, watercolored in painstaking detail with symbols of flight and wind and power, you can't just leave it out in the rain, you've got to store it somewhere - somewhere big - but nothing's so big in Japan that's also empty, so you throw a couple dozen tarps over your kite and wait till next week.

And as is also always the way, next week's big day dawns blue and bright, with puffy clouds just hanging there, like popcorn on a string, in the kitist's anathema: still air. That is, air in which the motion of one's own breath is impressive. So when we arrived late in Yokkaichi for the big festival (postponed last week by rain), it didn't matter: at kite takeoff time there was barely enough wind to lift a tiny paper tissue kite above eye level if several folks blew upward.

In quest of a breeze it took a few hours of massively collective waiting and mob-shifting the huge kite from one direction to another and back again in the dry part of the wide riverbed, but at last in the afternoon the big kite took off, to the sound of an immense sigh from the crowd that seemed to lift the kite a bit higher. I've never seen so many kites or kite fanatics in one place before. It's a great thing to know that so many love what I used to misguidedly think of as a kid's toy. It was a pleasure to stand corrected among them and watch them at their art.

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