Huge Kites Fight it out in the Sky
On May 3, 4, and 5, Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka prefecture holds one of the biggest Japanese festivals, Hamamatsu festival. The local Hamamatsu people fly 3.3 to 16.5 square-meter kites of their towns out of 174 towns for the daytimes, and pull their town’s stalls at nights.
Hamamatsu festival, which is Hamamatsu Matsuri in Japanese, is the festival for celebrating the first children of families. It is said that the festival has started when the owner of the Hikuma castle (current Hamamatsu castle) flew a kite for his first child about 450 years ago. Compared to the other festivals in Japan, Hamamatsu festival is a little different in terms of that it is a festival for the “people”, neither for Buddha nor for God.
At Nakatajima beach in daytime on May 3, people fly kites for their first children in families. On May 4 and 5 at the same beach, they fly the kites to fight against each other’s kite by cutting its strings in the sky. Those kites are so big that they need five to ten men to hold the kites, and need dozens of people to fly the kites. When a kite finally flies in the sky, it looks like the wishes for the kid is coming true. As the beach wind pushes up kites higher, the kites’ fight gets more and more competitive, which is the festival’s highlight.
At every night after flying the kites, stalls will be pulled mainly at the center of Hamamatsu city. Surrounded by a bunch of food wagons, local people pull the stalls of their towns, while the town’s children play traditional Japanese music “ohayashi” on the stall. Each town has different designs of the stalls and the uniforms, and different ohayashi songs too. Checking out those differences among towns is one of the enjoyable activities to do for audiences.
Those children who play ohayashi on the stalls start practicing the Japanese traditional instruments for Ohayashi from March each year. They are mostly eight to 12 year old girls, and they learn ohayashi from a music teacher in the town meeting, the older children teach younger children later on. Many boys instead join the trumpet team; playing for the most popular march in the Hamamatsu festival. Adults also take part in the march by stomping and yelling “yoisho” or “yaiso”, which raises the festival’s fun atmosphere to the extreme.
A Japanese traditional music teacher, Akiko Uchiyama, has taught ohayashi music for about 30 years since she was 16 years old. She says the current children are busy for cram schools and other private lessons. “They don’t have so much time to recall the music phrases at home as we had before, now it’s the age that children carry heavy burden,” Uchiyama said.
Eleven-year-old girl, Kanaha Furuhashi, enjoys practicing ohayashi under Uchiyama in Shijimizuka town meetings. According to the girl, since ohayashi is not individually played, she can make friends and meet teacher through ohayashi, which makes her look forward to going to the meeting. With a shyly smile she said, “On the demonstration days, town’s adults put me makeup and tie my hair up, I feel like I can be more mature.”