In May, when spring is warming up and summer is around the corner, you’ll see many kites being flown in the air in the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. The city is a flat plain with some mountainous and beach areas having strong winds ideal for a kite event popularly known as Takoage-Gassen. This is the largest annual kite-flying festival in Japan participated in by local people and observed by locals and visitors alike. It is held on the 3rd-5th.
In the 16th century, large kites were flown into the air in celebration of the birth of the Lord of Hamamatsu Castle’s son. This is to wish the child a successful life in the future. Flying kits when a baby is born is still practiced in Hamamatsu today. Some people even put the child’s name on the kite so it can be seen in the sky.
This extremely exciting event, where over 160 large kites are flown in the sky with the sound of trumpets, is held in one of Japan’s three largest sand dunes, Nakatajima Sand Dunes. It is located in the southern part of Hamamatsu which is also a popular spot for viewing the New Year’s sunrise. In modern times, Takoage-Gassen heralds the start of summer in Japan. The kites being flown are of giant size, measuring 3.5 x 3.5 meters. The participants do not only display the kites in the air but they do a “Kite Battle.” Once the trumpet makes a sound, the battle begins. Each kite-flier has the goal of cutting their opponents’ strings by friction. This causes the strings to burn which can be very exciting for those watching the event. Everyone has their own techniques in catching the opponents’ strings.
If you have finished the kite battle and are looking to continue your day with more matsuri fun, the Hamamatsu has other things for visitors to enjoy! For example, at night, there are several floats parading through the center of the city. The floats carry bands of people playing instruments like flutes and lutes. There is also plenty of entertainment near the station and throughout the city.
If you’re traveling to Japan this May, why not enjoy the festivities and, of course, the kite battle!